Belfast funny man Frank Carson blazed a comedy trail for over fifty years. His quick-fire gags and infectious laugh delighted audiences in variety shows, on telly and in clubs across the land. When Carson’s son Tony met Dan Gordon at a show Gordon had written about his own father, The Boat Factory, Tony asked Gordon if he’d write a show about his father, Frank Carson.
I caught up with Dan Gordon earlier this week to hear all about that initial ‘no’ to how a lifetime of Carson has totally blown Gordon away with his discoveries.
Gordon told Tony Carson ‘no’ straight away. But afterwards he said, “I thought about it and thought Yes, why not.”
“I’d played Frank Carson before,” Gordon told me, “and I thought I’d known him. Once I started researching the man, the comedian, the soldier, I realised I didn’t know him at all.”
“Carson”, Gordon said, “was an 85 year old comedian. Most comedians are in fact tragic clowns – wild affairs, gambling and more in their background and life. Carson had none of this. He loved life and he lived life.”
“Did you know Carson worked in the Shipyard as a plasterer?” Gordon asked me. Course I didn’t!! “He was a master plasterer. He was also in the military. He was wounded (a wound he carried on his body through life) and he killed a man. This was something Frank took with him throughout his life, and he never forgot it.”
I asked Gordon if he was looking forward to bringing the show to Derry. His reply was passionate. “I’m very looking forward to it. Frank Carson loved Derry. Back in the 60’s he played the St. Columbs Hall parish Sunday night show for Father Daly. Fr, Daly ran these Sunday shows from 1962 – 1969. He even almost booked the Beatles once. That’s a fact. Carson and Daly became lifelong friends.”
I’d known that Carson had moved to England, so why so if he loved his beloved Northern Ireland and Derry? “His move to Blackpool was purely for work reasons. England had the work and it was there he went.”
Frank Carson rarely talked about the politics of Northern Ireland in his shows. Was there a reason for this? “Frank’s regiment were policing in Derry on Bloody Sunday. It was such a conflict for Frank. It’s ironic too that his friend Fr. Daly was right there helping people on that fateful day. Frank therefore never talked about the troubles and instead choose to go down the ‘filth‘ road as it was controversial. Frank Carson was a very smart man.”
Gordon continued telling me so much about the life of Frank Carson. About how he had an abusive childhood and a poor one. He had scars from beatings on his body. His brother died in a tragic accident when Frank was just 14 and he never got over this loss. Frank Carson raised millions for charity. “And I mean millions,” Dan Gordon said. He was knighted by the Pope, taught Pope Paul II to say ‘It’s a cracker’ and he gave the Pope a waterford crystal vase as a gift – unknown to the pope (unless he looks at the bottom of it), the vase is engraved, ‘stolen from Frank Carson.’ Such was the wit of this charismatic comedian.
Gordon says he brings as much as he can about the life of Frank Carson into this show. But speaking to Gordon for 25 minutes myself, I couldn’t possibly write the information he was telling me, hence I understand why the show is as much as is possible in the timeframe.
Prior to my chat I had no particular interest in the life of Frank Carson. As I hung up the phone that day, I was intrigued, I was mesmerized, and I was inspired. Carson certainly was one of the good guys, and one we really never got to know apart from his stage presence.
Dan Gordon brings more, much more, of the life of Frank Carson alive in his show, Frank Carson: Rebel Without A Pause.
Showing at Derry’s Millennium Forum on Thursday 7 February ’19, it really will be one to see.
Contact www.millenniumforum.co.uk or the box office on 02871264455 and book your tickets now.