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Much-loved Scottish comedian and actor, Billy Connolly (b. 1942), was in an institution and kinship care as a child. 

Billy Connolly was born in Glasgow. In 1945, his mother, Mamie, walked out of their small flat and never returned. Billy was three years old and his sister was four. The children’s father, William, was away with the Royal Air Force in Burma and it was the neighbours who responded to the children’s cries.

Initially the children were taken to be cared for by nuns, “in a place of polished wooden benches, stained glass and whispering” (Stephenson). 

Even though the children’s grandmother wanted to care for the children, in the end it was William’s sisters, Margaret and Mona, who took them in. His aunt Mona was violent from the outset, beating him daily.

“Whacking his legs, hitting him with wet cloths, kicking him, and pounding him on the head with high-heeled shoes. She would usually wait until they were alone, then corner and thrash him four or five times a week for years on end” (Stephenson). 

At one point, Mamie returned, having regretted her decision. But Mona prevented her from seeing the children.

There was a fracas. Mamie floored Mona with a punch and stalked off (Stephenson). 

The children did not see their mother again while they were growing up.  Mamie ended up living about 119 km away from Glasgow. There she remarried and raised another family. 

After the war, William returned home and moved in with the family. Billy shared a bed with his father who sexually assaulted him for five years. 

Billy Connolly left school when he was fifteen. He worked in a series of entry-level jobs to support himself. He later gave up welding in the hopes of having a career as a folk singer. He was twenty-eight when he shifted to stand-up comedy and the violence he endured in childhood became “the core of his performance.” 

Billy Connolly has been entertaining international audiences with his stand-up comedy and acting performances for over forty years, including in films such as Mrs Brown (1997), Open Season (2006), and Brave (2012). 

He has received numerous awards, including a BAFTA Lifetime Achievement Award (2003) and honorary doctorates from the University of Glasgow (2001), Nottingham Trent University (2010) and Strathclyde (2017). 

In 2017, Billy Connolly was knighted “for services to entertainment and charity. 


Adams, Tim. “Connolly on the couch”. The Guardian, 23 September 2001. 

Billy Connolly receives knighthood at Buckingham Palace.” BBC News, 31 October 2017. 

Lahr, John. “Chasing the Witch Profiles.” The New Yorker, vol.79, no.35, 17 November 2003. 
Stephenson, Pamela. Billy. London: Harper Collins Entertainment, 2002. 

Image available here.