I'm glad I didn't know she had cancer: Royle Family's Ricky Tomlinson on Caroline Aherne

Ricky Tomlinson has said he is “glad” he was unaware that Caroline Aherne had cancer because it would have been “painful” for him to see.

The actor, who starred in classic British sitcom The Royle Family with Aherne, who died in July aged 52, added that he will “love her forever”.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support, Tomlinson said losing her was “absolutely awful”.

He said: “I’m so glad I didn’t know she had it. I never knew until the morning she died and I got a phone call off a newspaper reporter and I’m so glad I didn’t know as it would have been painful to work with her and to see her.

“I watched my own father die with cancer, 40-odd, maybe 50 years ago, and then there was no support like Caroline had with Macmillan nurses and stuff like that and that was bad enough.”

The 77-year-old added: “She was fabulous. Her skills of watching people and making a joke out of it was unbelievable.

“But there was nothing sacred, there was no sort of boundaries that she wouldn’t have a go at, and now and again I do little speeches and little talks and I tell some stories about Caroline which I couldn’t repeat on your programme this morning because they’re very rude, but they’re very funny.

“She was a wonderful person and very generous… I will love her forever.”

Aherne’s brother, Patrick, spoke for the first time about her during the ITV morning programme.

He said: “It just seems so unfair that somebody can get cancer three times. At first I thought she was going to get through with it all and she would be OK. I will never forget… when she told me she had three months to 12 months – it was just a horrible, horrible day in my life.

“You’ve got to really understand what an impressive person she was to deal with things like this, she had so many problems in her life. She made me laugh purely by being herself. She was such a funny person, such a clever person.”

Aherne was best known for starring in The Royle Family and her riotous chat show The Mrs Merton Show, and more recently she narrated Channel 4′s Gogglebox.

She had been suffering from lung cancer and had previously been treated for bladder and eye cancer.

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