Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

I didn't know what Frank Carson would say, but as usual he made a joke of it

Frank Carson

I didn't know what to expect when I telephoned my old mate Frank Carson.

I knew he was at home convalescing from his serious cancer operation.

Was this the right time for him to be hearing from me even though I was deeply concerned about his welfare?

Sure I needn't have worried. Frank greeted me with a laugh and an assurance that he was going to be around to send me a Christmas card.

"It's my liver the doctors are worried about now - I've given it a bashing down the years," he chuckled.

Then, as usual, he came at me with a batch of yarns.

I've known the man since he was playing the pubs and concert halls back here in Belfast.

I remember how he got his inspiration from a chance meeting one afternoon in a barber's shop in York Street with Laurel and Hardy, who had dropped in for a shave.

"That was a special day," he says now when I remind him of the occasion.

"I loved the pair of them and their wit and charm."

What I've always liked about Frank is that he is a 24-hour comic.

He doesn't switch off with the television camera or the microphone.

He's a natural born funnyman dedicated to his wife Ruth, who suffers from a serious eye complaint.

When I start to check up on his age and family he says: "Here McIlwaine - you're not writing an obituary yet."

But I landed him in the soup once with Ruth when the couple lived down in Balbriggan, where he was the mayor for a while.

Frank, against my advice, starred in a video, on the cover of which he appeared dressed in a bikini. Next day I phoned the Carson home and when Ruth answered, I asked her what she thought of the video and to my horror discovered she knew nothing about it. It wasn't available in the Republic.

"I got a real going over and you're to blame," Frank told me the next day.

As always he forgave me and we are still best friends.

He asked me to get Belfast folk to pray for him in his ordeal. I know they are doing so.

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