Comedian Frank Carson, best known for his catchphrase ‘It’s a cracker’, has died and ‘set off for his final gig’, his family has said.

The Belfast-born stand-up, 85, who had suffered from stomach cancer and was in poor health, died at home surrounded by his family in Blackpool, Lancashire.

In a statement, his family said Carson was a ‘husband, father, Gaga and comedian’ who had ‘set off for his final gig today’.

“He went peacefully at his home in Blackpool surrounded by his greatest fans – his extended family. We will be taking him home to Belfast to lay him to rest and celebrate his joyful life. It’s quieter down here now. God help them up there!”

The comic rose to fame in the 1960s after winning talent show Opportunity Knocks three times. He went on to appear in The Comedians and Tiswas.

Frank had undergone a successful operation for stomach cancer last year.

Born in Belfast on 6 November 1926 to a family of Italian descent, the son of a binman grew up in the Little Italy area of the city and worked as a plasterer and electrician before joining the Parachute Regiment. He served three years in the Middle East in the 1950s before turning to showbusiness.

Spotted for his stand-up work, he was a popular performer on Irish television before moving to England.

Former chat show host Sir Michael Parkinson said: “We had him on the show a couple of times and I met him playing golf. He was a good comic and great company. He was a good man – you’re always smiling with people like Frank around.”

Sir Bruce Forsyth told ITV News: “The only trouble with Frank, as far as I’m concerned, is that he made me laugh too much. He’ll be remembered as the one and only Frank Carson – the man who loved to make people laugh.”