|I Couldn't Ask For
Sunday Post June 2004
In spite of a troubled childhood, actress and singer Lorraine McIntosh has found true happiness through her own family. And here she tells Margaret Clayton why she’ll never take that for granted.
LORRAINE McINTOSH has a summer of high drama ahead of her. Not strictly Lorraine though, but her alter ego Alice in the BBC Scotland soap River City.
Alice, a single mum and recovering alcoholic, never has anything easy in life — it’s one crisis after another as her past comes back to bite her and the problems pile up.
“I work on River City five days a week from 7 am till 7 pm,” Lorraine explains. “It’s hard work but the crew have such fun together. There’s a real buzz about working on a soap.
“When I get the script I devour it to see what’s happening to Alice now. I love her character. She got on the wrong side of the tracks but she’s a feisty woman and she believes in fighting back.”
The character is a world removed from the pleasant life of 39-year-old Lorraine, singer, actress, wife and mum who lives in a beautiful stone villa on the south side of Glasgow with Ricky Ross of ’80s pop group Deacon Blue.
Ricky is, according to Lorraine, ‘the perfect husband’. She says happiness crept up on her when she was least expecting it and she sometimes has to pinch herself because she can’t believe her luck.
But Lorraine, who grew up with her brothers John and David in the east end of Glasgow, has been touched by tragedy in the past. Her mum Sarah Gallagher came from Donegal and her dad David was a Glasgow man. When her father took a job in the pits in Ayrshire, the family moved there, but tragedy struck when Sarah died of leukaemia. Lorraine was only 11.
“We were all devastated. Dad didn’t want me to have to take on the duties of a mum, but he was working shifts, so being the only girl I had a lot of housework and cooking to do. I became ‘the carer’ to the family and looked after my brothers and made sure the school shirts were washed and ironed,” she explains. “You don’t realise until you’re older that you’ve missed out on a childhood.
“I left school not knowing what I wanted to do. My school career wasn’t glittering — I didn’t concentrate or study for exams. I came to Glasgow when I was 18 with an idea that I wanted to sing or act, and for a time I was busking in the streets of Glasgow and doing some session singing.”
She continues, “That’s how I met Ricky. When he asked me to sing with Deacon Blue it was like a dream come true.”
Two years later in 1990 they were married in a romantic ceremony at Loch Lomond with their family and friends around them. Deacon Blue — who are probably best remembered for their rousing hit Dignity — were at the height of their success. There were tours to Australia, America, Japan and all over Europe.
“It was hard work,” Lorraine remembers, “but we’d do mad stuff like fly to Milan for an afternoon to do an interview.”
Five albums of Deacon Blue songs were produced and three of them got to Number One in the charts. There were lots of appearances on Top Of The Pops and Lorraine and Ricky couldn’t go shopping without being asked for autographs.
“But all bands have their time. You reach a peak, then it’s downhill. After eight years of huge success, hard work, touring and living in each other’s pockets, there were some tensions in the band and we decided to do our own thing.”
Ricky is still involved in the music business, has written songs for Ronan Keating and is working on the first album of a new singer Johna, who, he reckons, will go far.
Ricky and Lorraine have three children: Emer (11), Georgia (9) and Seamus (3). Ricky also has a 16-year-old daughter Caitlin.
“He is the most wonderful dad. He’s a caring, sharing man and he does more fathering than I do mothering,” Lorraine admits. “Our kids go to local schools and when I’m acting Ricky does the school run. He writes songs at home and we’ve really got the perfect work/life balance.
“I got into acting by chance. I was offered a part in the Ken Loach film My Name Is Joe. I’ve done a Danish/Scottish film called Wilbur, some Taggart and then I became Alice in River City.”
She continues, “It means I have a structured week. I get four scripts a fortnight and I know my working hours and I can still be home with the family in the evenings.
“I love cleaning and doing housework. I love normality. I enjoy cooking and doing stuff with the kids. But I couldn’t exist without the stimulation of work — I need that too. So I really do have the best of both worlds.”
For five years Deacon Blue did nothing as a band then they got together to do a charity gig and it was such a success they’ve done a few more. On the back of that Lorraine has been working with Enable Scotland, a charity for people with learning difficulties.
“I’d never known anyone with learning disabilities. I was blown away by how much they’re ignored and discounted in our society,” she says. “I made up my mind to help raise awareness of their needs. Our band did a gig for Enable’s 50th anniversary gala concert last month and other Scottish bands took part.”
Lorraine McIntosh is a woman who has it all but she doesn’t take her good fortune for granted.
“I want to get involved with working with asylum seekers,” she explains. “I went to a church drop-in centre and met an 18-year-old girl with her three-year-old child. They’d just arrived from Uganda and had nothing. How scary to be in a foreign country with no family or friends.
“Now she comes to our house often — her daughter calls me auntie and my children love playing with her. One of the great things I’ve learned as a mum is that women and children the world over have the same attitudes, concerns and interests. Because I lost my own mother at the age of 11 I’ve always felt a sense of loss. In some ways I felt I lost out on a carefree childhood. But being a mum is a chance to parent yourself. A chance to give the love you didn’t get.
“And I’ve been blessed with a husband and children who make me feel wanted and needed. That’s the best security a woman can have.” Margaret Clayton