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And what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?

Elderly interviewer Mrs Merton was never backwards in coming forwards with her celebrity guests, ensuring her great success. Of course, Mrs Merton was not an old lady at all but the much younger comedy performer Caroline Aherne, then known as Caroline Hook.

Although never cruel, by adopting the guise of a sweet old lady, Caroline was able to ask much more cutting questions of her guests on the nineties comedy TV chat show, than she might otherwise have got away with. “You’re the Tom Cruise for menopausal women” she told TV sports presenter Des Lynam.

Born in Manchester with a rare cancer of the eye which impaired her vision, Caroline had an exceptionally high IQ and did brilliantly at grammar school, before going on the begin her career as a secretary at the BBC.
Growing up in a working-class Irish home, she’d been the family joker, later honing the characters she created and starting out on the comedy circuit.

She had huge success as the co-star and co-creator of the groundbreaking sitcom, The Royle Family before taking a long period of time away from TV, finding it difficult to cope with the fame her work brought and also struggling with depression.

“Celebrity is just a game,” she said. “It’s a fascinating game and loads of people love playing it. But I can’t be arsed playing it anymore because I’ve decided I’m no good at it,” she said.

Caroline had been treated for bladder cancer and was living close where she’d grown up in Manchester, by the time she quietly announced that she was living with lung cancer.

“My mum told us only special people get cancer. I must be very special because I have had it in my lungs and bladder as well,” she joked.

Her old friend Steve Coogan said that Caroline’s death had been the only time she’d made him cry – without tears of laughter.

“I know when people are dead, people eulogise about them and they say this, that and the other… but I couldn’t put into words what a lovely person she was,” her Royle Family co-star Ricky Tomlinson simply said.