Tributes pour in for ‘jolly jester’ Frank Carson
THE showbusiness world was today celebrating the life of comic "legend" Frank Carson following his death at the age of 85.
Immortalised as one of the "jolly jesters" of comedy, the Belfast-born stand-up, who had suffered from stomach cancer and was in poor health, died at his home in Blackpool, Lancashire, yesterday.
Carson's grieving family described him as a "husband, father, Gaga and comedian" who had "set off for his final gig", while some of the biggest names in showbusiness lined up to pay tribute to the much-loved personality, who coined the famous catchphrase "It's a cracker".
The comic rose to fame in the 1960s after winning talent show Opportunity Knocks three times. He went on to appear in The Comedians and Tiswas.
His friend and television presenter Eamonn Holmes said: "The term legend is often overused - but Frank Carson was a legend and we will never ever see his likes again.
"I knew him since I was a child because he was a friend of my father. I was just with him recently and I spoke to him throughout his illness.
"He was just a complete bundle of energy and at 85 he was still going and still cracking jokes.
"He immortalised the phrase we will all remember him for - it's a cracker."
Comedian Ken Dodd described his "good friend" as a "jolly jester" who had the "fantastic gift of making people happy".
Dodd, who worked with Carson on the BBC Radio 2 show Pull The Other One in the 1980s, said: "It is very, very sad news.
"He was a wonderful comedian, a fabulous jolly jester and had a fantastic gift of making people feel happy. His humour was always mainstream - he didn't do dirty or obscene comedy."
Speaking of their working relationship, the Liverpudlian, who first met Carson in the 1960s added: "He had a big, warm personality and was a wonderful man who was a joy to work with.
"He made you feel very happy every time you spoke to him and had a joke for everything - a wonderful imagination.
"He was a great humorist and very much a family entertainer. You would feel quite safe taking you mum or gran to see him. He was also very much a family man and was very proud of his sons and daughters."
Carson, who had undergone an operation for stomach cancer last year, died surrounded by his family.
They said in a statement: "He went peacefully at his home in Blackpool surrounded by his greatest fans - his extended family.
"We will be taking him home to Belfast to lay him to rest and celebrate his joyful life.
"It's quieter down here now. God help them up there!"
Other stars of the entertainment industry also paid their respects to the comedy veteran.
Former chat show host Sir Michael Parkinson said Carson represented "front-of-cloth comedy".
"It's a different genre from the kind of comedy that we have today, where younger and smarter comedians play big halls - he was a club comic," he said.
"People's sense of humour has changed, this generation laugh at different things. At that time, comedians could talk about fat women and people with bow legs, I doubt whether he'd enjoy going on TV today, with all the strictures that are put on people.
"He was a good man - you're always smiling with people like Frank around."
Chris Tarrant, who appeared alongside Carson on Tiswas, told BBC Radio 5 Live: "He was the funniest man I have met in my life and would tell jokes relentlessly - there was not anyone like him."
Actor Simon Pegg tweeted: "Thanks very much and goodnight to Frank Carson. It was the way he told them. Funny man."
Sir Bruce Forsyth told ITV News: "The only trouble with Frank, as far as I'm concerned, is that he made me laugh too much.
"He'll be remembered as the one and only Frank Carson - the man who loved to make people laugh."
His agent Ashley Yeates said Carson was one of the "nicest people in showbiz".
He said: "His audience and friends alike will remember him as a genuine, kind-hearted and generous man who was also very funny because of 'the way he told 'em'."
Born in Belfast on 6 November 1926 to a family of Italian descent, the son of a binman grew up in the Little Italy area of the city and worked as a plasterer and electrician before joining the Parachute Regiment.
He served three years in the Middle East in the 1950s before turning to showbusiness.
Spotted for his stand-up work, he was a popular performer on Irish television before moving to England.
Celebrity friends who died before him included Eric Morecambe, Bernard Manning, Tommy Cooper, Spike Milligan and Norman Wisdom.
He also worked ceaselessly for charity and was made a Knight of St Gregory by Pope John Paul II in 1987.
He dedicated much of his life to looking after his wife Ruth, who had serious eyesight problems, with his sons Tony and Aidan and daughter Majella, despite his own heart problems. They also put a huge effort into bringing the two sides of the community in Northern Ireland together through education.
He continued to perform his stand-up show until December last year. One of his final performances was for the Duke of Edinburgh.