Late comic described as ‘prime minister of fun’ during service attended by Lenny Henry and Dennis Taylor among others

Henry McDonald
3 Mar 2012

Frank Carson’s son Tony and brother Paddy help carry the coffin of the late comedian through Belfast. (Photograph: Press Eye Ltd / Rex Features)

Hundreds of people lined the streets of central Belfast to pay tribute to the late comedian Frank Carson who was buried on Saturday.

The 85-year-old comic, who died last week after a long illness, was described at the funeral in St Patrick’s Church as the “prime minister of fun” by the retired bishop of Derry Edward Daly.

Daly, a long-time friend of Carson, told mourners that making people laugh was the comedian’s “mission in life”.

“In his live performances, he could light up an audience and make them laugh and laugh. That is surely a great service to humanity,” he told the congregation.

Among the mourners were comedians Lenny Henry and Roy Walker as well as sport stars such as the former World Snooker champion Dennis Taylor and the former boxer Barry McGuigan.

Following a requiem mass, the funeral cortege moved down Donegall Street to St Anne’s Cathedral where Carson was given a blessing on the steps of the city’s main Protestant church. In life Carson was a unifying figure across Northern Ireland even during the worst years of the Troubles.

In the 1950s he had served in the Parachute Regiment before breaking into showbiz where he became a household name following three wins on the television show Opportunity Knocks.

After the blessing the funeral procession moved towards Sailortown, the Belfast docks are known as “Little Italy” where Carson grew up in a family of Italian descent. He was later buried at the city’s Milltown cemetery.

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