FRANK Carson will have a last audience in Blackpool – the most poignant one of all.
Friends and fans of the legendary comic have been invited to pay tribute in person at a public visitation on Saturday.
His casket will be in place – between 12.15pm and 4pm – at his local parish church, St Kentigern’s RC on Newton Drive, not far from his home where he died on Wednesday morning, aged 85.
Frank’s youngest son Aidan told The Gazette: “We would like people to be able to visit dad and pay their own tributes, perhaps have a chat, and sign the book of condolence. We are very mindful of the fact other people need to grieve, and express that grief, which is why we have decided on a public visitation.”
Floral tributes were left on Blackpool’s new Comedy Carpet yesterday.
They were placed on Frank’s legendary “It’s The Way I Tell ‘Em” catchphrase, which features on the attraction.
Frank’s funeral is to be held on March 3, at 11.30pm, in his native Belfast. The service is at St Patrick’s Church where he married wife Ruth. The service will be followed by burial at Milltown Cemetery.
There have been many heartfelt tributes from the world of entertainment since the comedy star lost his brave battle with stomach cancer, and they have clearly touched Frank’s family.
Aidan added: “We know that many people have been hit hard by the news.
“It’s so hard to think of a world without my father in it. We keep expecting to hear his voice. He was such a fighter.He’s at peace now. It’s hard for those of us left behind.”
Frank leaves widow, Ruth – his wife of 63 years – three children Majella, Tony and Aidan, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
He had suffered ill health for several years but his battle against heart problems was followed by the shock diagnosis of stomach cancer – a fact he kept secret from all but closest friends.
“Dad was not a moaner, he got on with life,” adds Aidan. “He was a fighter. If you think about his life, he had tough times in Northern Ireland, born in 1927 when you had to fight your corner. He was a paratrooper - he managed to get his old medals and used to wear his beret which would upset mum, Then he came over from Belfast to play the working men’s clubs and it was a case of go out and batter the crowd verbally.
“We even managed to get to Spain last year, and late last year he did a spot for the Duke of Edinburgh for his 90th birthday. Dad didn’t want to give up, right to the end, he was still funny.
“But it became very hard. He took a turn for the worst on Christmas Day, spent it in hospital – that was a terrible time for us all.
“We wanted him home. He wanted to be here. He had raised so much money for hospices but he wanted to be at home with his family at the last – and he and we got that wish.
“The entire family has been here for him. He has had people with him day and night. We have also counted on the kindness and compassion of care workers who assisted dad and Marie Curie nurses. He stayed his old self – watching war films and Laurel and Hardy – and just seemed to carry on defying the medical odds.”
Moments before his father’s death Aidan emerged from his room to tell the rest of the family: “That guy is going nowhere. He’s not giving up.”
Aidan added: “It was one of the care workers who broke the news. They said ‘I think he’s stopped breathing’.”
Friend and show producer Tony Jo who toured with Frank last year has offered to arrange a memorial service in Blackpool to enable local fans and friends to pay their respects.
“It’s an idea we will entertain – but it’s early days yet,” Aidan concluded.