The Belfast-born comedian Frank Carson has died. He was 85 and had been seriously ill for a number of months. He will be remembered not only for his career in show business but also for his charity work, which earned him an honorary title from Pope John Paul II. Frank Carson never lost touch with his roots in the Great Patrick Street area near Belfast city centre, where he was born in 1926. He had a varied career as an electrician, a plasterer and then in the Parachute Regiment at a time when he says jobs in Belfast for Catholics were scarce. His big opportunity came in the 1960s when he won ITV's Opportunity Knocks talent show, and the comedy career which followed brought him fame and wealth.
He moved his family from the New Lodge Road to Liverpool in 1969 and later set up home in Blackpool.
He also spent some time in Balbriggan near Dublin where he was mayor. The comedian John Linehan, better known as May McFettridge, said, as a Belfast comic who made it to British stages and network television, he led the way for others. "He put the landmark down for the Belfast comedians who followed him to England," he said. "He was a massive plus for Belfast, a class act. He was the top, number one."
Frank Carson appeared all over the world and said his aim was to be loved as a performer by all sides of the community and people of all politics.
Award from Pope
He dabbled in politics at one stage and became a member of UKIP, the UK Independence Party.
One of his proudest achievements was an award from the Vatican: becoming a Knight of St Gregory for his charity work. A major cause was the integrated education fund. Baroness May Blood said he generously helped many charities. "We really will miss Frank. He was always there for us," she said.
"If we had a new idea and he could help us financially or by opening a door, he was there."
Frank Carson had suffered serious illness since 2009, but kept active until a few months ago.
He is survived by his wife, Ruth, three children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
It is understood he will be buried in Belfast from the city centre church where he was married.