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The new Susan Boyle? Everything you need to know about 'X Factor' star Mary Byrne

14 OCTOBER 2010

From the checkout at Tesco's to nationwide fame on the X Factor – Mary Byrne has had a rollercoaster couple of months.

Now one of the favourites to win, her fairytale rise has unsurprisingly drawn comparison with that of Susan Boyle, the never-been-kissed singer who received international fame after appearing on Britain's Got Talent.

But there are some big differences between Mary and the established Scottish star...

Born to a working class family in Ballyfermot, Ireland as one of five children, Mary left school at 13 and stayed at home to help her deeply religious mother Lilly.

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In keeping with her mum's wishes, Mary went through vocational training at the Church of our Lady of Assumption. But she eventually set her religious aspirations to one side, and at 17 left the family home to work.

It was when she returned to Dublin in her mid-Twenties, having spent a year travelling, that Mary met the father of her daughter. "I was 27 and he was 25," she has said. "But he wasn’t emotionally mature enough to deal with the situation so he ran away."

By the time Mary's only child Deborah, now 23, had arrived, he had met someone else.

After a number of jobs, the bubbly singer joined Tesco, first on the bakery counter and then the tills, and proved to be a big hit with the public.

"She's been working on the same tills for years now," her manager Joanna Barry has said. "All the other tills might be free but there are loads of customers who'll queue up and wait to be served by Mary. It brightens up their day; some bring in presents, that's how fond they are of her."

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It's largely because of her warm nature that Mary is proving so popular on the X Factor. And this is a trait for which she's become known in her hometown.

Recalling a power cut a couple of years ago, one of her colleagues said: "We asked Mary to sing to keep the customers' spirits up and she sang Kiss Me, Honey, Honey, Kiss Me. It was lovely, typical of Mary."

Sadly Mary – said to be "completely devoted" to her late parents – has suffered from crippling arthritis since she was just 27 – many viewers saw her wince in pain during the boot camp stage.

"My knees get very swollen. My weight doesn't help, but I refuse to let it beat me," said the star, who once appeared on Opportunity Knocks.

Her friends are certain there is nothing that can hold Mary back. The supermarket worker - encouraged to go on the show by her friend Tom, who tragically passed away in May – is supported by a number of pals, not least her brother-in-law Liam, who has lung cancer.

"When I watch Liam fight his awful illness, that inspires me," Mary has said. "Every song I sing on that show is with him in mind."

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