Carson in 2007
Hugh Francis Carson|
6 November 1926
Belfast, Northern Ireland
22 February 2012 (aged 85)|
Blackpool, Lancashire, England
Hugh Francis Carson KSG (6 November 1926 – 22 February 2012) was a Northern Irish comedian and actor from Belfast, best known on television in series such as The Comedians and Tiswas. He was a member of the entertainment charity the Grand Order of Water Rats.
Carson was one of six children born to a working-class Catholic family from the inner-city Belfast locality known as the "Half Bap" (now called "Cathedral Quarter"). He attended St Patrick's Elementary School. The family later moved to 94 Corporation St in the "Little Italy" area, close to Sailortown. Carson worked as an electrician and later a plasterer in the building trade. Carson's family were of Italian descent, with his grandmother hailing from Sicily.. In his early days Carson was a choirboy at St Patrick's Catholic church on Donegall Street.
Carson spent three years in the British Army's Parachute Regiment, mainly in the Middle East in the late 1940s. During his service he shot dead an armed Zionist terrorist. He himself was shot in the leg and on another occasion narrowly escaped death when a bomb went off outside a cinema. The seven RAF men he was with were all killed. He also assisted with the clear up after the King David Hotel bombing in Jerusalem and made 40 parachute descents.
Carson became a popular performer on Irish television, before moving to England to work as a stand-up club comedian. He had success on the long-running television music-hall revival show, The Good Old Days. He then went on to win the peak-viewing national favourite talent show Opportunity Knocks, presented by Hughie Green, three times. He was one of the more prominent acts on The Comedians alongside the likes of Charlie Williams, Bernard Manning, Mike Reid and Jim Bowen. The show consisted of 30 minutes of non-stop stand-up comedy from several comedians in each show, became a ratings hit in Britain and helped establish Carson's career.
Granada Television's The Comedians led to similar shows, such as The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club, which was an attempt to bring the northern English working man's club show to television. Carson was a regular on television for a number of years after The Comedians, whilst also working as a stage entertainer and appearing before the Royal Family in shows. In 1975, Carson took the part of Paddy O'Brien, described as "an Irish Republican landlord and coalman", in The Melting Pot, a sitcom written by Spike Milligan and Neil Shand, which was cancelled by the BBC after just one episode had been broadcast.
He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1985 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at Heathrow Airport after the two had flown over together from Dublin.
When he had heart surgery in 1976 it was suggested this meant he would retire. However, he continued working and became a regular on the ATV children's series Tiswas. He began making acting appearances on television as well as in two cinema films in the 1990s. In 1998, he was the opening act for Mary Black's musical concert at the English Village in Dubai.
Carson was still working, making live appearances, in cabaret, pantomime and the summer season throughout the UK. He spent much of his time helping the needy which included raising £130,000 for the Royal Victoria Hospital Children's Cancer Ward in 1986. He was also a supporter of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).
In 1987 his dedication to charity was recognised by the Roman Catholic Church when he was awarded a papal knighthood of the Order of St. Gregory by Pope John Paul II.
On 2 September 2009, aged 82, Carson returned to the stage appearing at the North Pier Theatre midweek season run of The Comedians in Blackpool, where he lived. On 30 October 2009, he appeared at the Velvet Hall in Paphos, Cyprus.
Carson was a Roman Catholic. Although he stayed out of Northern Irish politics, he openly supported UKIP in later life. He lived in Layton, Blackpool, where he attended Blackpool F.C. matches at Bloomfield Road. He was a director of Staffordshire club Chasetown F.C. and in the 1970s and 1980s he was appointed a Director and Vice-President of Newport County football club in South Wales to raise the profile of the club.
In 2009 Carson took part in the TV show Cash in the Celebrity Attic to raise money for a local hospice, raising over £900 in the process. Carson lived for many years in Balbriggan in the north of County Dublin, and served two terms as mayor of the town.
A routine hernia operation left Carson, who had a heart pacemaker, seriously ill and he underwent a knee replacement operation in July 2009. Subsequent x-rays, 14 days after being discharged from hospital, showed that he had a previously undetected cracked rib, which may have been the cause of the hernia. In August 2011, Carson had an operation to remove a malignant tumour from his stomach.
Carson died on 22 February 2012, aged 85, at his Blackpool home. He was survived by his wife, Ruth, whom he married on 21 January 1950 and who died in 2015, aged 87, his daughter Majella, and his sons Tony and Aidan, in addition to numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His funeral was held on 3 March 2012 at St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, Belfast, where he had married his wife Ruth over 60 years earlier. Mourners included Stan Boardman, Dennis Taylor, Eamonn Holmes, Martin McGuinness, Lenny Henry, Dana, Roy Walker and a large crowd of fans.
Dressing room incident
A theft from Carson's dressing room in Blackpool in 1995 caused ill feeling between entertainers Jim Davidson and Linda Nolan and this was revived in 2014 during an episode of Celebrity Big Brother.
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