Northern Ireland

Tributes paid to Frank Carson at his funeral in Belfast

The funeral of the comedian Frank Carson has taken place in his home city of Belfast.

Showbusiness personalities from Britain and across the island of Ireland attended the ceremony at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street.

Carson, 85, who died last month at his home in Blackpool, Lancashire, had been ill for some time.

He was a regular on both Irish and British TV during his career.

The broadcaster Eamonn Holmes, comedians Lenny Henry, Stan Boardman and Roy Walker, sportsmen Dennis Taylor, Barry McGuigan and Pat Jennings and the singer Dana were among those attending the funeral mass.

The deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness was also present, as well as other political representatives.

The requiem mass was led by retired Bishop of Derry, Bishop Edward Daly.

Carson's coffin was then taken from the Catholic church to the nearby Protestant St Anne's Cathedral.

This was said to be representative of his wish to be liked by everyone.

Bishop Daly told mourners on Saturday that Carson had made millions of people laugh and described him as a "Prime Minister of Fun".

"That was his mission in life," he added.

"In his live performances, he could light up an audience and make them laugh and laugh.

"That is surely a great service to humanity."

Bishop Daly said he had known Carson for 50 years and valued their friendship.

He described the comedian as an "extraordinarily generous" and compassionate man who had often asked him to pray for colleagues who were ill.

"Frank, I think, would be mildly amused by the manner in which he has been almost canonised in recent days," he said.

"He would be the first to admit that he was not a saint.

"He loved acting the rascal.

"He loved being brash and very loud and naughty and mischievous, at times.

"It was just the way he was and he was all the more lovable for it."

Television presenter Eamonn Holmes paid tribute to a family friend.

"He is one of the most famous sons of Ulster, that sums up what he means to everybody in Northern Ireland," he said.

Comedian Stan Boardman said: "Frank was a nice man, whenever he went into the room, even before he came into the room, he was approachable, he would go over and talk to people.

"He was a sort of uncle, everybody used to call him Uncle Frank.

"He did not offend anybody, his gags were brilliant and he was a funny man."

Carson, the son of a binman, was born in Belfast on 6 November 1926 to a family of Italian descent.

He grew up in the Little Italy area of the city and worked as a plasterer and electrician, and then joined the Parachute Regiment.

After serving with the Parachute Regiment in the 1950s, Carson was spotted for his stand-up work and became a popular performer on Irish television.

He later moved to England and appeared in the TV music hall revival show The Good Old Days, before three victories on talent show Opportunity Knocks propelled him into the mainstream.

During the funeral, the comic was remembered for his charity work, which earned him an honorary title from Pope John Paul II.

He is survived by his wife, Ruth, three children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Following the ceremony, his funeral cortege drove past several locations around Belfast, en route to Milltown Cemetery.

The Dean of St Anne's Cathedral, the Very Reverend John Mann, led a prayer and tribute.

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