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Frank Carson's coffin is carried down Donegall Street, Belfast

Frank Carson's coffin is carried down Donegall Street, Belfast

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness helps carry the coffin of comedian Frank Carson.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness helps carry the coffin of comedian Frank Carson.

Sinclair Seaman's Church, where a wreath was placed opposite where Frank Carson lived and grew up.

Sinclair Seaman's Church, where a wreath was placed opposite where Frank Carson lived and grew up.

Hundreds gathered at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast for comedian Frank Carson's funeral mass.

Hundreds gathered at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast for comedian Frank Carson's funeral mass.

Hundreds gathered at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast for comedian Frank Carson's funeral mass.

Hundreds gathered at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast for comedian Frank Carson's funeral mass.

©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 3rd March 2012 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/presseye.comShowbusiness personalities from Britain and Ireland arrive at Patrick's Church, Donegall Street Belfast for a ceremony to remember the life of Frank Carson, 85, who died last month at his home in Blackpool, Lancashire, had been ill for some time.

©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 3rd March 2012 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/presseye.comShowbusiness personalities from Britain and Ireland arrive at Patrick's Church, Donegall Street Belfast for a ceremony to remember the life of Frank Carson, 85, who died last month at his home in Blackpool, Lancashire, had been ill for some time.

Frank Carson's brother Paddy is comforted at the Sinclair Seaman's Church, where a wreath was placed opposite where Carson lived and grew up.

Frank Carson's brother Paddy is comforted at the Sinclair Seaman's Church, where a wreath was placed opposite where Carson lived and grew up.

Frank's brother stops at the Sinclair Seaman's Church, where a wreath was placed opposite where Frank lived and grew up.

Frank's brother stops at the Sinclair Seaman's Church, where a wreath was placed opposite where Frank lived and grew up.

Frank Carson's nephew Breen helps carry the coffin.

Frank Carson's nephew Breen helps carry the coffin.

©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 3rd March 2012 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/presseye.comShowbusiness personalities from Britain and Ireland arrive at Patrick's Church, Donegall Street Belfast for a ceremony to remember the life of Frank Carson, 85, who died last month at his home in Blackpool, Lancashire, had been ill for some time.

©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 3rd March 2012 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/presseye.comShowbusiness personalities from Britain and Ireland arrive at Patrick's Church, Donegall Street Belfast for a ceremony to remember the life of Frank Carson, 85, who died last month at his home in Blackpool, Lancashire, had been ill for some time.

The funeral of comedian Frank Carson at St. Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast. His funeral mass was led by retired Bishop of Derry, Bishop Edward Daly.

The funeral of comedian Frank Carson at St. Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast. His funeral mass was led by retired Bishop of Derry, Bishop Edward Daly.

Darren Kidd

Memebers of the public watch as Frank Carson's coffin passes in Belfast ciy centre this afternoon

Memebers of the public watch as Frank Carson's coffin passes in Belfast ciy centre this afternoon

The funeral of comedian Frank Carson at St. Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast.

The funeral of comedian Frank Carson at St. Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast.

Darren Kidd

The funeral of comedian Frank Carson at St. Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast. Frank Carson's wife Ruth (centre)

The funeral of comedian Frank Carson at St. Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast. Frank Carson's wife Ruth (centre)

Darren Kidd

Family carry Frank Carson's coffin into St.Patrick's Church, Donegal Street, Belfast.

Family carry Frank Carson's coffin into St.Patrick's Church, Donegal Street, Belfast.

The funeral of comedian Frank Carson at St. Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast.

The funeral of comedian Frank Carson at St. Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast.

Darren Kidd

The funeral of comedian Frank Carson at St. Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast.

The funeral of comedian Frank Carson at St. Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast.

Darren Kidd

Belfast comedian Frank Carson's coffin is blessed at St.Annes Cathedral, Belfast. Thousands of people have lined the city centre streets en-route to Milltown Cemetary where the 85-year-old will be interred.

Belfast comedian Frank Carson's coffin is blessed at St.Annes Cathedral, Belfast. Thousands of people have lined the city centre streets en-route to Milltown Cemetary where the 85-year-old will be interred.

The funeral of legendary Irish comedian, Frank Carson makes it's way along Donegall Street this afternoon after mass at St. Patrick's church, Belfast.

The funeral of legendary Irish comedian, Frank Carson makes it's way along Donegall Street this afternoon after mass at St. Patrick's church, Belfast.

The funeral of legendary Irish comedian, Frank Carson makes its way along Donegall Street this afternoon after mass at St. Patrick's church, Belfast. Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness helps carry yhe coffin.

The funeral of legendary Irish comedian, Frank Carson makes its way along Donegall Street this afternoon after mass at St. Patrick's church, Belfast. Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness helps carry yhe coffin.

John Linehan AKA May McFettridge, Eamonn Holmes and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness as Belfast comedian Frank Carson's coffin is blessed at St.Annes Cathedral, Donegal Street, Belfast.

John Linehan AKA May McFettridge, Eamonn Holmes and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness as Belfast comedian Frank Carson's coffin is blessed at St.Annes Cathedral, Donegal Street, Belfast.

Frank Carson's brother Paddy (centre) and son Tony wit hthe Dean Of St Annes who blessed the  Belfast comedian's coffin at St Annes Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast.

Frank Carson's brother Paddy (centre) and son Tony wit hthe Dean Of St Annes who blessed the Belfast comedian's coffin at St Annes Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast.

Family of Belfast comedian Frank Carson watch as his coffin is blessed at St. Annes Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast.

Family of Belfast comedian Frank Carson watch as his coffin is blessed at St. Annes Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast.

James Mulgrew AKA Jimmy Cricket as Belfast comedian Frank Carson's coffin is blessed at St.Annes Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast.

James Mulgrew AKA Jimmy Cricket as Belfast comedian Frank Carson's coffin is blessed at St.Annes Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast.

The funeral of legendary Irish comedian, Frank Carson makes it's way along Donegall Street this afternoon after mass at St. Patrick's church, Belfast.

The funeral of legendary Irish comedian, Frank Carson makes it's way along Donegall Street this afternoon after mass at St. Patrick's church, Belfast.

Family carry the coffin of Belfast comedian Frank Carson into St.Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast. Thousands of people have lined the city centre streets en-route to Milltown Cemetary where the 85 year old will be interred.

Family carry the coffin of Belfast comedian Frank Carson into St.Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast. Thousands of people have lined the city centre streets en-route to Milltown Cemetary where the 85 year old will be interred.

Comedian Jimmy Cricket.arrives at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast for the funeral mass of Frank Carson.

Comedian Jimmy Cricket.arrives at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast for the funeral mass of Frank Carson.

Family carry Frank Carson's coffin into St.Patrick's Church, Donegal Street, Belfast.

Family carry Frank Carson's coffin into St.Patrick's Church, Donegal Street, Belfast.

Family carry Frank Carson's coffin into St.Patrick's Church, Donegal Street, Belfast.

Family carry Frank Carson's coffin into St.Patrick's Church, Donegal Street, Belfast.

Family carry Frank Carson's coffin into St.Patrick's Church, Donegal Street, Belfast.

Family carry Frank Carson's coffin into St.Patrick's Church, Donegal Street, Belfast.

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland-3rd March 2012 Credit - Picture by Russell Pritchard/Presseye.comFrank Carsons Coffin arrives at St.Annes Cathedral, Belfast©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland-3rd March 2012 Credit - Picture by Russell Pritchard/Presseye.comFrank Carsons Coffin arrives at St.Annes Cathedral, Belfast©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

Family carry Frank Carson's coffin into St.Patrick's Church, Donegal Street, Belfast.

Family carry Frank Carson's coffin into St.Patrick's Church, Donegal Street, Belfast.

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

Family carry Frank Carson's coffin into St.Patrick's Church, Donegal Street, Belfast.

Family carry Frank Carson's coffin into St.Patrick's Church, Donegal Street, Belfast.

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

Frank Carson's funeral mass at St Patrick's Church, Belfast

Frank Carson's funeral mass at St Patrick's Church, Belfast

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

Ruth Carson (centre) follows the coffin of her husband, Belfast comedian Frank Carson into St.Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast.

Ruth Carson (centre) follows the coffin of her husband, Belfast comedian Frank Carson into St.Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast.

Tony Carson follows the coffin of his father, Belfast comedian Frank Carson, into St.Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast.

Tony Carson follows the coffin of his father, Belfast comedian Frank Carson, into St.Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast.

Ruth Carson (centre) follows the coffin of husband, Belfast comedian Frank Carson, into St.Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast.

Ruth Carson (centre) follows the coffin of husband, Belfast comedian Frank Carson, into St.Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast.

The uneral mass of comedian Frank Carson.

The uneral mass of comedian Frank Carson.

Lenny Henry (right) arrives at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street,  Belfast for Frank Carson's funeral mass.

Lenny Henry (right) arrives at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast for Frank Carson's funeral mass.

Mourners arrive at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast for the funeral of Frank Carson.

Mourners arrive at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast for the funeral of Frank Carson.

Frank Carson's wife Ruth (second right) arrives at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast for the comedian's funeral mass.

Frank Carson's wife Ruth (second right) arrives at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast for the comedian's funeral mass.

The funeral of Frank Carson at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast.

The funeral of Frank Carson at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast.

Dennis Taylor arrives at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast for the funeral of Frank Carson, 85, who died last month at his home in Blackpool.

Dennis Taylor arrives at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast for the funeral of Frank Carson, 85, who died last month at his home in Blackpool.

Stan Boardman (left) and Dennis Taylor arrive at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast for the funeral of Frank Carson, 85, who died last month at his home in Blackpool.

Stan Boardman (left) and Dennis Taylor arrive at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast for the funeral of Frank Carson, 85, who died last month at his home in Blackpool.

Stan Boardman (right) speaks to a member of the public outside St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast ahead of the funeral of Frank Carson, 85, who died last month at his home in Blackpool.

Stan Boardman (right) speaks to a member of the public outside St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast ahead of the funeral of Frank Carson, 85, who died last month at his home in Blackpool.

Former boxer Barry McGuigan arrives at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast for the funeral of Frank Carson, 85, who died last month at his home in Blackpool.

Former boxer Barry McGuigan arrives at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast for the funeral of Frank Carson, 85, who died last month at his home in Blackpool.

Ruth Carson (centre) follows the coffin of husband Frank Carson into St.Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast. Thousands of people have lined the city centre streets en-route to Milltown Cemetary where the 85 year old will be interred.

Ruth Carson (centre) follows the coffin of husband Frank Carson into St.Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast. Thousands of people have lined the city centre streets en-route to Milltown Cemetary where the 85 year old will be interred.

Bishop Dr Edward Daly blesses the coffin of Frank Carson into St.Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast. Thousands of people have lined the city centre streets en-route to Milltown Cemetary where the 85 year old will be interred.

Bishop Dr Edward Daly blesses the coffin of Frank Carson into St.Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast. Thousands of people have lined the city centre streets en-route to Milltown Cemetary where the 85 year old will be interred.

Bishop Dr Edward Daly blesses the coffin of Frank Carson into St.Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast. Thousands of people have lined the city centre streets en-route to Milltown Cemetary where the 85 year old will be interred.

Bishop Dr Edward Daly blesses the coffin of Frank Carson into St.Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast. Thousands of people have lined the city centre streets en-route to Milltown Cemetary where the 85 year old will be interred.

Tony Carson (right) follows the coffin of his father Frank Carson into St.Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast. Thousands of people have lined the city centre streets en-route to Milltown Cemetary where the 85 year old will be interred.

Tony Carson (right) follows the coffin of his father Frank Carson into St.Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast. Thousands of people have lined the city centre streets en-route to Milltown Cemetary where the 85 year old will be interred.

Tony Carson (right) with family and friends follows the coffin of his father Frank Carson into St.Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast.

Tony Carson (right) with family and friends follows the coffin of his father Frank Carson into St.Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast.

Eammon Holmes arrives at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street Belfast for the funeral mass of Frank Carson.

Eammon Holmes arrives at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street Belfast for the funeral mass of Frank Carson.

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Frank Carson's coffin is carried down Donegall Street, Belfast

Hundreds of people lined the streets today to pay tribute to "prime minister of fun" Frank Carson at his funeral Mass in Belfast.

^^Click More Pictures to launch gallery^^

Family and friends of the comic, 85, famed for one-liners including "it's a cracker" and beloved to millions who saw him on television packed St Patrick's Catholic Church for the service in the same building where he was married 62 years ago.

Wife Ruth and his three children led mourners from around the world.

Bishop Edward Daly told them: "Frank made millions of people smile and laugh. He brightened up their lives. He was a prime minister of fun. That was his mission in life."

Television presenter Eamonn Holmes said he was at the funeral as a family friend and neighbour from the earliest years.

"He is one of the most famous sons of Ulster, that sums up what he means to everybody in Northern Ireland," he said.

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Comedian Stan Boardman and snooker player Dennis Taylor were among mourners.

Dana, former Irish MEP, comedian Roy Walker and boxer Barry McGuigan were also present.

Boardman said: "Frank was a nice man, whenever he went into the room, even before he came into the room, he was approachable, he would go over and talk to people.

"He was a sort of uncle, everybody used to call him Uncle Frank.

"He did not offend anybody, his gags were brilliant and he was a funny man."

Taylor remembered a flight to Bangkok with Carson and Boardman for charity work.

"Sitting on a flight for 14 hours between Stan Boardman and Frank Carson, that is an experience I will never forget," he said.

The road outside the working-class district where Carson was brought up was closed as the cortege proceeded slowly to the church.

Close family pulled up first, faces drawn, and proceeded solemnly into the church, the children carrying flowers.

Then followed the hearse, white flowers bearing the message GAGA.

The coffin was carried in with green flowers on top.

The church featured a large photo of the comic.

Onlookers gathered in their droves outside and the church, which holds 1,200, was packed.

Carrying symbols of the Knight of St Gregory were his daughter Majella and two granddaughters. These included a sword, medal and hat. The honour was bestowed on Carson by the Pope in recognition of his charity work.

His son Tony did a reading.

Bishop Daly, who met Carson when he was a curate priest in Londonderry in the 1960s and signed him as resident comedian in the church theatre, paid tribute to his late friend.

He said he was extraordinarily generous to charity as well as compassionate, talking to the retired Bishop of Derry about colleagues in poor health.

"He had a paternal care for friends and colleagues, especially those in difficulties," he said.

He spoke of the thick skin required by Ruth and the family.

"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."

When Bishop Daly was appointed, Carson congratulated him on reaching the "top of the bill".

He also thought about his own mortality.

Bishop Daly added: "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."

The cleric said it had been a great journey from Little Italy in Belfast to being a household name.

"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."

Bishop Daly led mourners from the church. The coffin was carried out to the claps of onlookers to the refrain of "it's a cracker", with a recording of Frank singing with some schoolchildren.

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was among those who comforted family as they stood by the side of the road at the head of a crowd of many hundred.

A bell tolled overhead.

Wife Ruth, a diminutive figure in a long black coat with matching hat, talked to Bishop Daly as she, other family members and well-wishers followed the coffin down Donegall Street, carried for a short way then transferred to the hearse.

Crowds shuffled alongside, eager to pay their respects and shops closed while the area was clear of vehicles. Many people had cameras, others recorded the moment on their mobiles.

The sound of a helicopter could be heard in the distance, people talked softly but the area was free from the usual sound of traffic.

Carson, who was a great supporter of integrated education for Catholics and Protestants, was taken to St Anne's Anglican Cathedral a few yards from St Patrick's for a tribute and prayer from Dean the Rev John Mann, read as the cortege paused on the road outside the Cathedral. It was a powerful symbol of the comic's dedication to cross-community relations and prompted more applause.

The dean said: "We are thankful for Frank's humour, for the happiness he spread, for embracing this Cathedral in his concern and for at all times expressing those great qualities of hope and love through word and action, that transcend division and bring people together in common endeavour."

The cortege toured Belfast city centre before making its way to Milltown cemetery, where Carson's son read a eulogy before burial.

The dean gave words of comfort to Ruth and family as they stood at the roadside in early spring sunshine.

Carson, a former member of the Parachute Regiment and plasterer, was known for his part in talent show Opportunity Knocks as well as The Comedians and Tiswas.

He toured Ireland, the UK and abroad and appeared at the Variety Club's celebration of the Duke of Edinburgh's 90th birthday in December after undergoing an operation for stomach cancer last year.

His family recalled: "He did not beat the illness but he had several months after his operation laughing and joking."


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