Bishop hails "Prime Minister of fun" Frank Carson
Gagsmith Frank Carson was celebrated as the "Prime Minister of fun" by one of his oldest friends today.
In a touching homily, Bishop Edward Daly, recounted telling Carson a joke only to be told he'd never make a comic.
The bishop promised not to make jokes or try to be witty but just remember the 85-year-old as he was.
"Frank made millions of people smile and laugh," he said.
"He brightened up their lives.
"He was a Prime Minister of fun.
"That was his 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.
"I have known Frank for 50 years, since 1962.
"I have always valued that friendship. He was a good friend to have.
"Each one of us has his or her own story to tell about Frank.
"He touched the lives of so many people.
"On the day after he died, radio stations here in the North were full of Frank's yarns and gags and stories.
"People swapped Frank stories.
"Everyone laughed and smiled.
"That was the measure of the man."
As well as having a generous spirit and giving sense of humour, the bishop told the congregation of Carson's charitable nature.
"Much has been written and said about Frank since his death on Ash Wednesday," said the bishop.
"Many people have spoken about his generosity to various charities.
"I can vouch for that myself.
"He was extraordinarily generous to those whom he considered worthy of support.
"He was a very compassionate man. He often talked to me about colleagues in his profession who were going through a rough patch for health or other reasons - he asked me to pray for them.
"He had a paternal care for friends and colleagues, especially those in difficulties."
Bishop Daly poked fun at those who have who "almost canonised" Carson since his death, saying the funnyman would be mildly amused by it.
"He would be the first to admit that he was not a saint," he said.
"He loved acting the rascal.
"He loved being brash and very loud and naughty and mischievous, at times.
"It was just the way he was and he was all the more loveable for it.
"Frank was very committed to his religious faith.
"Whilst it meant a lot to him, it was a private matter for him.
"I cannot recall him ever speaking about it publicly.
"He did speak of it to me privately on many occasions over the years.
"He had many friends who were priests and was kind to them.
"He sent me a telegram when I was appointed bishop in 1974 saying 'Congratulations on reaching top of the bill'.
"Frank thought about his faith.
"He always had questions, challenging questions.
"In the last few years, he talked to me about his illness and mortality. He did not fear death - he was just so sad at parting with Ruth and his family and many friends and frustrated that he was no longer able to get up and go and get about his normal hectic round of life and gigs.
"He had no need to fear death. He had a long life. He loved and enjoyed his life.
"He lived that life to the full and lived it well and generously and he was like a ray of sunshine in a sometimes dark world.
"His long life on earth has now come to an end.
"It has been a great journey from Little Italy to being a household name associated with catchphrases that everyone knows. His life began here in Belfast.
"Whilst he travelled and performed far and wide, Frank never really left Belfast; he was always Belfast. And his earthly remains will rest here in this city with which he will always be associated.
"Today we entrust Frank to the Lord whom he loved and served. We say farewell to a superb entertainer and a great human being.
"It was wonderful to have known him. We are all the poorer for his passing. May he rest in peace."