The Original Glaswegian Legend: The Life & Times of the "Big Yin"
Billy Connolly, regularly voted one of the greatest comedians of all time, starred in Oscar winning movies, but did you know he also had a No1 chart hit in 1975 with D.I.V.O.R.C.E. A parody of the Tammy Wynette song of the same name.
How many of these brilliant facts do you know about the irreplaceable and peerless “Big Yin”.
His nickname stemmed from his dad being called William “Billy” as well, and people getting the two of them mixed up in conversation. William his Dad was soon known as Big Billy, whereas the younger Billy became known as Wee Billy. It went in the local pub as “Aw there’s Billy Connolly walked in”, “which one, Big Billy?” Would come the reply, “Naw Wee Billy”, “Aw right, Wee Billy the Big Yin”. Would come the retort. The nickname became necessary as Billy had grown taller than his Dad.
He has been teetotal for 31 years, and credits his current wife Pamela Stephenson for helping him give up the booze, drugs and accompanying madness. She gave him the ultimatum after watching him drink dozens of glasses of whisky in a single night. She said, “look, if you don’t give up the way you’re living, you’re gonna die. And I don’t want to be there watching it when it happens.”
He credits being 8 years old, falling in a puddle during school and enjoying the subsequent laughter that followed, as the catalyst inspiring him to become a comedian.
Starring as “Billy Bones” in Muppets Treasure Island he claims to be the only person in history to have died in a muppet movie. He said tongue firmly lodged in cheek “I’m a huge film star… but you have to hurry to the movies, because I usually die in the first 15 f***ing minutes. I’m the only guy I know who died in a f****ing Muppet movie.”
Following his Parkinson’s diagnosis, The Big Yin has been forced to give up playing the banjo and guitar because of the degenerative effect the disease has had on his left hand.
Billy Connolly has appeared in dozens of movies, won Baftas, starred in several Oscar winners, and to date his movies have collectively earned more than £2 billion dollars at the worldwide box office.
Blue Nose Billy
Being a staunch Celtic fan (he even has an honourary seat at Celtic Park) a young Billy working in the shipyards played a practical joke on a worker who was of a Rangers persuasion. Unfortunately Billy attempting to make his escape tripped over a bucket and was caught. The p***ed off Rangers fan, painted Billy’s nose blue, forcing Billy to sheepishly walk the full length of the ship yard to the ambulance room and retrieve the turpentine paint remover.
Sometime in the early 1960’s Billy realised ship building wasn’t his kettle of fish and he turned his attention to performing. After attending the Edinburgh Fringe he decided to buy a banjo, and found one for sale in the Barras for £2.10 shillings.
Robin Williams and Billy Connolly were close friends, (Billy Connolly was one of the few people Robin Williams told about being diagnosed with Parkinson’s). Days before Robin Williams ended his own life he phoned up Billy and told him he loved him. Connolly was unsure what to make of the conversation at the time but in light of Robin’s tragic death he is almost certain he was phoning to say goodbye.
Believe it or not Billy Connolly tasted No1 chart success in 1975 with a parody of the Tammy Wynette track D.I.V.O.R.C.E. To date it’s his only No1.
In 2001 the Anderston native received an honourary doctorate from Glasgow University for his services to Scottish art and popular culture. He said at the ceremony. “Education never really featured highly in my life, however I developed a particular theory of homework, I got belted for it every day’, he said, ‘but when I weighed it up I would much rather get the belt than do the homework.”
Lord of the Manor
He decided in 2013 to sell his Aberdeenshire castle after spending less than nine days in three years living in it. Billy said “I just reached the point where I was there maybe nine times in three years. When you’re employing gardeners and all that stuff it just gets stupid and embarrassing.” Buying it for £590,000 pounds in 1998 he eventually sold it for more than £3 million pounds.
He left school at 15, successfully achieving two engineering qualifications, however one was actually achieved through mistaken identity, receiving the award at the expense of another pupil named Connell.
During the 1971, UCS shipyards work, Billy Connolly helped entertain the thousands of protesters at Glasgow Green with an impromptu stand up routine.
There’s only one “Big Yin”, There’s only one Billy Connolly.