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8:16pm UK, Saturday March 03, 2012
The funeral of much-loved comedian Frank Carson has been held in his home city of Belfast, where he was celebrated as the “prime minister of fun”.
Mourners lined the city streets for his funeral procession following a ceremony at St Patrick’s Church, where Carson married his wife Ruth more than 60 years ago.
The comic’s “final gig”, as his family called it, was officiated by Bishop Edward Daly, the retired Bishop of Derry.
Crowds outside the church applauded as Carson’s coffin was brought out following the requiem mass, and one of his songs ‘The Cracker’ was played over the loud speakers.
Dr Daly, a close personal friend of Carson, first met him in the early 1960s. He told mourners inside the church: “Frank made millions of people smile and laugh.
“He brightened up their lives. He was a prime minister of fun. That was his mission in life.”
Sky’s Eamonn Holmes was at the funeral and before the service began said: “He worked very hard on his gags. Laughter was his religion really. He united Northern Ireland through laughter.”
Carson’s coffin is carried from his funeral mass at St Patrick’s Church in Belfast
Former boxer Barry McGuigan, who was a good friend of Carson’s, said he entertained people during a very difficult time.
“He was the most incredible man, full of life, full of enthusiasm. He woke up every morning with a smile on his face,” he told Sky News.
“(He was) generous, kind… he was just a fantastic fella. And what’s more, he lived every second of those 85 years. He filled his life with entertainment.”
Following the mass, the coffin was taken down Donegall St to the Protestant St Anne’s Cathedral, where there was a short tribute and prayer from the Dean.
The Catholic mass and Protestant blessing were a unique double.
The procession was a celebration of the Belfast-born comic’s life, who died at the age of 85.
Carson was a plasterer, then electrician before serving three years in the Parachute Regiment.
But the quick fire comic became a household name by winning the talent show, Opportunity Knocks.
There was much more to him than comedy – charity work earned him a papal knighthood.
He briefly swapped north Belfast for politics in north Dublin and was twice elected Mayor of Balbriggan.
Speaking to the Derry Journal, Carson’s son Tony said he thought his father should be buried in Belfast.
“We have to take him home,” he said.
“That’s where he came from and that’s where he gets the roots of his humour – that sort of Belfast dry wit, no respect for anything or everybody but respect at the same time.
“So we’ve got to take him back there and celebrate the great life that he had.”
The front of the order of service for the St Patrick’s mass
The much-loved comic’s open coffin had been displayed in a funeral parlour in the area where he grew up in north Belfast.
Carson died in his adopted home of Blackpool, Lancashire, last week after fighting stomach cancer.
“He was a very well-loved person for all the things he did,” said Carson’s nephew Breen Carson, 37.
“He never said a bad word about anybody. That’s something to cherish – to live to 85 and to be liked all round is really something.”
Carson’s brother Paddy, who emigrated to Canada in the 1970s, said the comedian was most proud that, as a Catholic, he was able to attract many Protestant fans during the Troubles.
“He always strived to build bridges,” he said.
“He would do anything for anybody. He got involved with charitable groups at the drop of a hat.”
The comic is survived by his wife, three children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.