Billy Connolly – Freeman of the City of Glasgow

Billy Connolly
Billy Connolly
(Photo by Eva Ronaldi used under CC BY cropped)

Billy Connolly was made a freeman of Glasgow in 2010. He was described at the time by Lord Provost Bob Winter as “the world’s best known Glaswegian” and was deserving of the award for his “outstanding artistic contribution in comedy, film and music as well as his tireless charity work.”

In Billy’s video message about Nelson Mandela to the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, he said: “This was the first city in the world to stand up and make such a public show of support for him and it was a big deal.

“There is a street here that used to be called St George’s Place, but in 1986 the city renamed it Nelson Mandela Place. That doesn’t sound much, but this name change really mattered because the South African consulate general was based in that very street.

“So now its address had to include the name of the country’s most famous political prisoner. I love that.”

At last, in 1990 Mandela walked free and visited Glasgow in 1993. Billy said: “He came here on a rainy day to talk to a huge crowd in George Square and at last he was able to personally accept the Freedom of the City.”

He added: “I am honoured, and delighted to join the impressive line-up of worthy Glaswegians as a patron of the campaign to build a statue to Nelson Mandela in Glasgow. I met Mr. Mandela in Oslo, Norway, where he received the Nobel Peace Prize. He left an impression on me that I will never forget.”

Billy – “The Big Yin” – was brought up in Anderston and Drumchapel, attending school in Govan. In the 1960s he worked as a welder in the shipyards, before taking up a career as a folk singer, initially in the Humblebums alongside Gerry Rafferty and then as a solo artist. In the early 1970s he took the comedy scene by storm winning several awards with his unique observational humour, sense of the bizarre and love of the characters and banter he grew up with.

In 2001 Billy was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Glasgow. He was also awarded his seat at Celtic Park. It is reported that he and Rod Stewart are the only two people who have seats for life at the ground.

Billy has acted in almost 40 films, won a BAFTA Lifetime Achievement Award, a BAFTA Scotland Award for Outstanding Achievement in Television and Film and in 2017 he was knighted as well as receiving an honorary doctorate from Strathclyde University.

See here for the letter from Nelson Mandela to Glasgow’s Lord Provost on the occasion of Billy Connolly being given the Freedom of the City of Glasgow.