Billy Connolly

Billy Connolly

Date of birth: 24-11-1942

Born in a poor tenement block, Connolly was abandoned by his mother, Mamie, at the age of three and brought up by his aunt, Mona, who used to beat him, and his father, William, who sexually abused him - a background explored in his 2001 biography Billy.

As a teenager, he joined the Clyde shipyards, where he served his apprenticeship as a welder. While working there, he bought a banjo for £2 10s after seeing blues singer Pete Seger on the TV, and started performing on Scotland's folk circuit as part of a band called the Humblebums, which counted Gerry Rafferty among its members.

While performing, Connolly noticed that audiences warmed to the banter between his songs, which built up his confidence. In 1970, the band split up and he started performing solo.

Also during his time at the shipyards, he met his first wife, Iris, with whom he had a son and a daughter.

His big break was on the Parkinson show in 1975, which made him a star and led to his first UK tour: The Big Wee Tour.

He spent many years on the road, the lifestyle taking its toll, and he became a heavy drinker, until he gave up alcohol in 1986.

His reputation grew and grew, and he eventually moved to California to try to break into the US, with varying degrees of success.

In 1989, he married Pamela Stephenson, who he met while recording a sketch for Not The Nine O'Clock News.

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'I’m just flabbergasted...'

Billy Connolly wowed by the giant murals of himself

Billy Connolly has visited the giant murals of himself in Glasgow – and given them the thumbs-up.

They were erected for the BBC Scotland programme, Billy Connolly: Portrait Of A Lifetime to mark his 75th birthday this year.

He said: "I'm truly amazed at the effect these have had on me.   They've just completely stunned me.  I thought I'd be all light-hearted on seeing them and jokey – but they're so big – the effect on me is so profound…

'You know, people going to that length for me… it's just taken my breath away.

'I'm just flabbergasted… overjoyed… it's been a brilliant experience – being painted and otherwise by these genius people taking the time to do it….. it just takes my breath away… I love it…'

The murals are based on original portraits of Billy from top Scottish artists – John Byrne, Jack Vettriano and Rachel Maclean – commissioned by BBC Scotland.

Pictured above is Connolly with the Byrne versioning Osborne Street, simply titled Billy Connolly, while Vettriano's Dr Connolly, I Presume?  is on Dixon Street, below, just yards away from the St Enoch Centre.

big yin

Finally, Maclean's digital print, named Big Yin, is showcased in the Gallowgate close to the Barrowlands:


The veteran comedian came to Glasgow from his home in Florida to see the works in situ.

Pauline Law, executive producer of the programme, said: 'There has been a fantastic reaction to the murals – they have certainly got people talking.

'Taking Billy round the city centre to see them in place, he was greeted at every turn by Glaswegians wishing him well and saying they love him and the murals.

'The feedback has been that it has been a fitting and fun way to mark the achievements of Billy and to celebrate him as he reaches his 75th birthday."

The programme Billy Connolly: Portrait Of A Lifetime will go out on BBC One Scotland on Wednesday at 9pm and then on BBC iPlayer.

After he programme, the original artworks will go on display at the People's Palace museum in Glasgow.

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Published: 11 Jun 2017

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