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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Billy Connolly gets knighted

Big Yin heads to Buckingham Palace today

Billy Connolly is to receive his knighthood today, just a few weeks before turning 75.

He was recognised for services to entertainment and charity in the Queen's birthday honours list in June.

At the time he said he still thought of himself as a ‘hairy rebel’  and told the BBC: 'It always feels strange to be welcomed into the establishment. It is not a place I relish. But… it’s an honour and I'll accept it honourably.’

And he insisted it wouldn’t change him - but ‘it may change the way other people think of me’.

His appointment at Buckingham Palace today is Connolly’s second big event in London this week.

Yesterday, he was at a Downing Street reception hosted by Theresa May marking 200 years since Dr James Parkinson recognised the ‘shaking palsy’ that now bears his name.

In 2013, the comic announced he was being treated for the initial symptoms of Parkinson's disease, admitting he had started to forget his lines during his stand-up shows.

He turns 75 on November 24.

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Published: 31 Oct 2017

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