Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Irish Blood, English Heart

The untimely passing of the comedian, actress and scriptwriter Caroline Aherne, who died last week at the age of just 52, led me to reflect once again on a particular aspect of her prodigious talent.

Like many other comedians, musicians and performers who came out of the Manchester area in the 1980's and 1990's, Steve Coogan, Morrissey, Marr and the other members of The Smiths, Noel and Liam Gallagher of Oasis, Terry Christian, Shaun Ryder of The Happy Mondays and Mani of The Stone Roses, Aherne was the child of Irish immigrants. As a Catholic born in Manchester of Irish descent, albeit farther back, I've often wondered what it is about that combination that seems to produce such talents.

I think there are two things. One is that being an outsider allows you to see things more clearly than others and, even if only unconsciously, feel little affinity for or need to respect an Establishment (Protestant, pro-monarchy and Empire) that you're not a part of. The other is that as the child of immigrants you belong to the "other" not just in the country you live in, but also the one your parents left, a "double outsider" if you like.

One of Caroline Aherne's earliest, and funniest, comic creations, the Irish nun Sister Mary Immaculate, must surely have been based on her teachers at the Hollies FCJ Convent Grammar School in Manchester.

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