99 Facts About Billy Connolly


Sir William Connolly was born on 24 November 1942 and is a Scottish actor, retired comedian, artist, writer, musician, and television presenter.


Billy Connolly is sometimes known by the Scots nickname the Big Yin.


Billy Connolly first sang in the folk rock band The Humblebums with Gerry Rafferty and Tam Harvey, with whom he stayed until 1974, before beginning singing as a solo artist.


On his 75th birthday in 2017, three portraits of Billy Connolly were made by leading artists Jack Vettriano, John Byrne, and Rachel Maclean.


Billy Connolly announced his retirement from comedy in 2018, and in recent years he has established himself as an artist.


Billy Connolly was born on 24 November 1942 at 69 Dover Street, "on the linoleum, three floors up", in Anderston, Glasgow.


Billy Connolly was born to Catholic parents, William Billy Connolly and Mary McLean, both of whom were of partly Irish descent.


In 1946, when he was four years old, Billy Connolly's mother left her children while their father was serving as an engineer in the Royal Air Force in Burma.


Billy Connolly was a teenager with two kids in a slum.


Billy Connolly's father returned from the war a stranger to his children shortly after the move to Partick.


Billy Connolly never spoke to them about their mother's departure.


Billy Connolly was presented as a brother to Billy and Flo, and nobody questioned it.


Billy Connolly's bedroom had double windows, which directly faced St Peter's Primary School across the street.


At St Peter's, Billy Connolly decided that he wanted to make people laugh.


Billy Connolly's arch-enemy was Geordie Sinclair, who lived around the corner.


Billy Connolly was a Wolf Cub with the 141st Glasgow Scout Group.


Billy Connolly revisits the site of one field trip, Auchengillan scout camp, during his World Tour of Scotland.


At age 12, Billy Connolly decided he wanted to become a comedian but did not think that he fit the mould, feeling he needed to become more "windswept and interesting".


Between the ages of fourteen and twenty, Billy Connolly was brought up on a now-demolished council estate on Kinfauns Drive in the Drumchapel district of Glasgow, and would make the daily journey to St Gerard's Secondary School in Govan, on the southern side of the River Clyde.


Billy Connolly rode the bus to Partick, crossed the water by ferry and walked to 80 Vicarfield Street.


Billy Connolly revisited this tenement in Drumchapel during filming for The South Bank Show in 1992.


Billy Connolly was a year too young to work in the shipyards.


Billy Connolly became a delivery-van driver with Bilslands' Bakery until he was sixteen, when he was deemed overqualified to become an engineer.


Billy Connolly joined the Territorial Army Reserve unit 15th Battalion, the Parachute Regiment.


Billy Connolly later commemorated his experiences in the song "Weekend Soldier".


Billy Connolly was "Big Billy" and I was "Wee Billy".


In 1965, after he had completed a 5-year apprenticeship as a boilermaker, Billy Connolly accepted a ten-week job building an oil platform in Biafra, Nigeria.


Billy Connolly began to tour with the folkie crowd, including regular stints at The Scotia bar, on Stockwell Street, guided by folk singer Danny Kyle.


Billy Connolly formed a folk-pop duo called the Humblebums with Tam Harvey.


Billy Connolly's contributions were primarily straightforward pop-folk with quirky and whimsical lyrics, but he had not especially focused on comedy at this point.


In 1968, a 26-year-old Billy Connolly married Springburn native and interior designer Iris Pressagh, with whom he had two children.


Later that year, Billy Connolly's mother went to meet him backstage after a Humblebums gig in Dunoon, where she was working in the cafeteria at Dunoon General Hospital.


Billy Connolly had been living in the town with her partner, Willie Adams, with whom she had three daughters and a son.


Billy Connolly was a very nice woman, but we never got along.


The head of Transatlantic Records, Nat Joseph, who had signed The Humblebums and had nurtured their career, was concerned that Billy Connolly find a way to develop a distinctive solo career just as his former bandmate, Gerry Rafferty, was doing.


Joseph had nurtured the recording career of another Scottish folk entertainer, Hamish Imlach, and saw potential in Billy Connolly following a similar path.


Billy Connolly suggested to Connolly that he drop the folk-singing and focus primarily on becoming a comedian.


In 1972, Billy Connolly made his theatrical debut, at the Cottage Theatre in Cumbernauld, with a revue called Billy Connolly's Glasgow Flourish.


Billy Connolly played the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with poet Tom Buchan, with whom he had written The Great Northern Welly Boot Show, and in costumes designed by the artist and writer John Byrne, who designed the covers of the Humblebums' records.


In 1975, the rapidity and extent of Billy Connolly's breakthrough was used to secure him a booking on Britain's premier TV chat show, the BBC's Parkinson.


Billy Connolly made the most of the opportunity and, ignoring objections from his manager, told a bawdy joke about a man who had murdered his wife and buried her bottom-up so he'd have somewhere to park his bike.


Billy Connolly's increased profile led to contact with other celebrities; including musicians such as Elton John.


John tried to give Billy Connolly a boost in America by using him as the opening act on his 1976 US tour, but the well-intentioned gesture was a failure.


In 1979, Billy Connolly met Pamela Stephenson, the New Zealand-born comedy actress, for the first time when he made a cameo appearance on the BBC sketch show, Not the Nine O'Clock News, in which she was one of the four regular performers.


Billy Connolly confided in her that he was unhappy and that his current marriage was over.


Billy Connolly was throwing everything away, desperately trying to feel no pain at all.


Also in 1979, Billy Connolly was invited by producer Martin Lewis to join the cast of The Secret Policeman's Ball, the third in the series of The Secret Policeman's Balls fundraising shows for Amnesty International.


Billy Connolly was the first comedic performer in the series who was not an alumnus of the Oxbridge school of middle-class university-educated entertainers and he made the most of his appearance.


In 1981, John Cleese and Martin Lewis invited Billy Connolly to appear in that year's Amnesty show, The Secret Policeman's Other Ball.


En route to begin filming Water in Saint Lucia, Billy Connolly drank an excessive amount of alcohol on the plane.


In July 1985, Billy Connolly performed at Live Aid at Wembley Stadium, immediately preceding Elton John, whom he introduced on stage.


Billy Connolly would take part on its spin-off series Billy.


Billy Connolly joined boxer Frank Bruno and Ozzy Osbourne when singing "The War Song of the Urpneys" in the British animated television series The Dreamstone.


On 4 June 1992, Billy Connolly performed his 25th-anniversary concert in Glasgow.


In early January 1994, Billy Connolly began a 40-date World Tour of Scotland, which would be broadcast by the BBC later in the year as a six-part series.


Also in 1995, Billy Connolly recorded a BBC special, entitled A Scot in the Arctic, in which he spent a week by himself in the Arctic Circle.


Billy Connolly voiced Captain John Smith's shipmate, Ben, in Disney's animated film, Pocahontas.


Billy Connolly was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and a BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Actor, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.


Billy Connolly performed a cover version of the Beatles' song, "Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite" on George Martin's 1998 album, In My Life.


In November 1998, Connolly was the subject of a two-hour retrospective entitled, Billy Connolly: Erect for 30 Years, which included tributes from Dench, Sir Sean Connery, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Eddie Izzard.


In 1999, after forming Tickety-Boo management company with Malcolm Kingsnorth, his tour manager and sound engineer of 25 years, Billy Connolly undertook a four-month, 59-date sellout tour of Australia and New Zealand.


In 2000, Billy Connolly starred in Beautiful Joe alongside Sharon Stone.


Also in his 63rd year, Billy Connolly performed two sold-out benefit concerts at the Oxford New Theatre in memory of Malcolm Kingsnorth.


Billy Connolly has continued to be a much in-demand character actor, appearing in several films such as White Oleander, The Last Samurai, and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.


Billy Connolly has played an eclectic collection of leading roles in recent years, including a lawyer who undertakes a legal case of Biblical proportions in The Man Who Sued God, and a young boy's pet zombie in Fido.


Later in the year, Billy Connolly topped an unscientific poll of "Britain's Favourite Comedian" conducted by the network Five, placing him ahead of performers such as John Cleese, Ronnie Barker, Dawn French, and Peter Cook.


On 30 December 2007, Billy Connolly escaped uninjured from a single-car accident on the A939 near Ballater, Aberdeenshire.


In 2012, Billy Connolly provided the voice of King Fergus in Pixar's Scotland-set animated film Brave, alongside fellow Scottish actors Kelly Macdonald, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, Emma Thompson, and Kevin McKidd.


Billy Connolly appeared as Wilf in Quartet, a 2012 British comedy-drama film based on the play Quartet by Ronald Harwood, directed by Dustin Hoffman.


Billy Connolly stated at the time that he would no longer be touring as a comedian.


Billy Connolly published an autobiography, Windswept and Interesting, in October 2021.


In May 2022, Billy Connolly received a BAFTA Fellowship in celebration of his five-decade long career.


Billy Connolly became a grandfather in 2001, when his daughter Cara gave birth to Walter.


On 30 December 1985, Billy Connolly became teetotal, having been an alcoholic.


Billy Connolly featured in the charity's inaugural live stage show, both as a stand-up and portraying a willing "victim" in his partner Pamela Stephenson's act of sawing a man in half to create two dwarfs.


Billy Connolly's mother died five years later, in 1993, of motor neurone disease.


Billy Connolly believes this was a result of the Catholic Church not allowing his father to divorce after his mother left the family.


In September 2013, Billy Connolly underwent minor surgery for early-stage prostate cancer.


Billy Connolly had acknowledged earlier in 2013 that he had started to forget his lines during performances.


Billy Connolly's father was William Connolly; his mother, Mary "Mamie" McLean, was from the Clan Maclean of Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull on the west coast of Scotland.


Billy Connolly was wounded during the long siege by a severe gunshot to the left shoulder.


Billy Connolly married a local 13-year-old Indian girl called Matilda.


Billy Connolly had previously been a vocal opponent of Scottish independence.


Billy Connolly expressed his belief that the people of Scotland did not need his opinion to make up their minds on the subject.


In October 2018, several media outlets stated that in his book Made in Scotland, released on 10 October, Billy Connolly had voiced his support for independence in light of the 2016 referendum on the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, in which Scotland voted to remain.


Billy Connolly is a patron of the National Association for Bikers with a Disability.


Billy Connolly is a patron of Celtic FC's The Celtic Foundation.


Billy Connolly sang, 'I saw a white man; he was walking a black dog,' and I thought, 'This is different.


In 1965, together with Tam Harvey, Billy Connolly started a group called The Humblebums.


Billy Connolly was just so outstandingly good and getting better, and although I was getting better too, the space between us remained huge.


Billy Connolly was a real musician, he knew and felt music, a bass player, with a lovely sense of harmony, as well as a great guitarist.


Billy Connolly sang, played five-string banjo, guitar, and autoharp, and at live shows entertained the audience with his humorous introductions to the songs.


Frank Bruno and Billy Connolly provided lead vocals on, "The War Song of the Urpneys" from The Dreamstone; although the version heard in the series was largely sung by composer Mike Batt.


Billy Connolly sang the Scottish folk song "Bonnie George Campbell" during the film, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.


Billy Connolly is among the artists featured on Banjoman, a tribute to American folk musician Derroll Adams, released in 2002.


Billy Connolly topped the list on Channel 5's Greatest Stand-Up Comedians, broadcast on New Year's Eve 2013.


Since the 1980s, Billy Connolly has worn a custom-made black T-shirt with a shirt-tail as part of his on-stage attire.


Between 1973 and 1977 Billy Connolly wrote a newspaper gag-a-day comic with cartoonist Malky McCormick, titled The Big Yin.


Billy Connolly's method is similar to that of the Surrealist Automatism movement, whereby the artist allows their hand to move randomly across the paper or canvas without a specific intent.