3:00am Thursday 23rd February 2012
© Press Association 2013
The showbusiness world has been celebrating the life of comic "legend" Frank Carson following his death at the age of 85.
Immortalised as one of the "jolly jesters" of British comedy, the Belfast-born stand-up, who had suffered from stomach cancer and was in poor health, died at his home in Blackpool, Lancashire, on Wednesday.
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."
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: "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."
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". And 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."
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."
He 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.
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