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 Celebrated Scottish actor, Brian Cox (b. 1946), was in kinship care as a child.

Brian Denis Cox was born in Dundee, Scotland, the youngest of five siblings. Brian’s father was the youngest of thirteen and worked initially in the jute mills. A much older sister then set him up in business, in a grocery shop.  A generous man, Brian’s father extended credit to many customers and when he died (Brian was eight years old), the family was left with considerable debt.

Brian’s mother, Molly, then had a series of nervous breakdowns for which she was institutionalised and received electric shock therapy.

In the absence of both parents, Brian was cared for by his older sisters.

My big sister Betty took care of me, but she was much older and had a family of her own. Irene was the youngest next to me, about 10 years older, and she also had to try to look after me” (cited by Wilson).

When she came home, Molly relied on the Widows Pension for an income. Brian remembers this experience of poverty as informing his politics; he was a member of the Labour Party for many years, although he is now a member of the SNP (Scottish National Party).

Brian started acting as a small boy, doing Al Jolson impersonations on New Year’s Eve to an audience of visitors to his home. Later, he visited his local cinema four times a week. As a teenager, he worked in the local repertory theatre and he went on to study at the London Academy of Music and Drama, from which he graduated in 1965. Cox reflected in 2023 that he, as a “child of the 60s” was fortunate:

...[It] was a period of great social mobility. When I came to London as a 16-year-old and had my first audition, I was welcomed. I also got a grant…All my fees and living expenses were paid. That was the 60s. We’re a lot worse off now, financially…There’s no pathway for the working-class actor (Pelley).

Brian had a successful career in the UK in television for many years. An opportunity to play Hannibal Lecktor in Man Hunter was his first chance to break into Hollywood.

Brian Cox has acted in over one hundred films. In addition to numerous accolades over the years (including an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Dundee and several other Honorary Doctorates), Cox won a Golden Globe in 2020 for his performance as Logan Roy in the acclaimed HBO series, Succession. He and other members of the Succession cast then won a Screen Actors Guild Award “for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series in 2022”  (Britannica).

A portrait of Brian Cox by Scottish artist, Iain Clark, is featured on the National Galleries Scotland website. At the unveiling of the portrait, Cox commented on the colour of his eyes: “he has blue eyes but the portrait has brown eyes: “It is my face with my father’s eyes.


“Brian Cox, actor.” Desert Island Discs, BBC Sounds, 29 March 2020.

Frommer, Fred. “Brian Cox. Scottish Actor.” Britannica, 29 June 2023. 

Pelley, Rich. “Interview. Brian Cox: ‘I think the Succession debate is: is he dead?'” The Guardian, 22 June 2023. 

Wilson, Lorraine. “Brian Cox. Homecoming.” The Scots Magazine, 2015.

Image available here.