Billy Connolly joins campaign to raise money for Nelson Mandela statue

Billy Connolly
Billy Connolly

Sir Billy Connolly, a Freeman of the City of Glasgow, is backing the charity campaign to raise public money for a statue in memory of the late South African President, Nelson Mandela.

He joins a trio of prominent Glaswegians, similarly honoured by the city, who have signed up as patrons of the Nelson Mandela Scottish Memorial Foundation (NMSMF) – Sir Alex Ferguson CBE, Kenny Dalglish MBE and Lord MacFarlane of Bearsden.

The charitable foundation aims to mark the centenary of the late South African President’s birth, by raising £250 000 to commission a memorial in Glasgow and deliver associated educational programmes.

Planning permission is already in place for a statue at the city’s Nelson Mandela Place.

Imprisoned for 27 years for his resistance to apartheid, the iconic South African leader was made a Freeman of the City of Glasgow in 1981, while still in jail.

Later that year Glasgow’s Lord Provost Michael Kelly launched a world-wide Lord Mayors petition calling for the release of Nelson Mandela at the United Nations in New York. The petition was signed by thousands of Mayors, contributing to the global movement to secure his freedom.

Mandela was finally released from jail on Sunday 11 February 1990. This weekend marks the 28th anniversary of that historic moment.

In 1993 Mandela famously collected his honour from Glasgow and 8 other UK cities in person addressing an enthusiastic crowd of 15,000 in George Square.

Sir Billy Connolly CBE, said:

“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.”

Nelson Mandela Billy Connolly letter
Download a PDF of the letter Nelson Mandela sent to mark Billy Connolly being given the Freedom of Glasgow

The foundation was launched on 9 October last year to coincide with the 24th anniversary of Mandela’s visit to Glasgow by patrons Sir Alex Ferguson and Lord Provost Eva Bolander alongside Brian Filling, Chair of the Nelson Mandela Scottish Memorial Foundation and Honorary Consul for South Africa.

Professor Denis Goldberg, a political prisoner who spent 22 years jailed as a co-accused in the same trial as Mandela, is another prominent patron.

The Lord Provost said: “Naturally, I’m thrilled that Sir Billy is supporting the foundation. It’s wonderful to have him on board. I’m incredibly proud of Glasgow’s brave history of condemnation of the cruel incarceration of the late, great Nelson Mandela and its steadfast and principled stand against apartheid.

“Apartheid ended in 1994 with South Africa’s historic and memorable first free and democratic elections – sweeping Mandela to power as the first President of a free and democratic country.”

Mandela was among those who congratulated Sir Billy Connolly when he was made a Freeman in 2010.

He wrote to the city welcoming one of its “….most beloved sons … to a very special club.” And shared fond memories stating: “In Glasgow I was met with such a warm and heartfelt welcome, I can never forget it. On that most memorable day I saw that Freedom, Brotherhood and Justice are the ideals that make up the bedrock of your great City.”

Billy Connolly, in footage accompanying the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, paid tribute to Nelson Mandela and acknowledged his pride in Glasgow’s pivotal role helping secure his liberty.

Remarking on the irony that, the city’s former St George’s Place – then the location of the apartheid-supporting South African Consulate – was in 1986 renamed Nelson Mandela Place, in honour of the regime’s most famous political prisoner.

Brian Filling said: “I’m delighted to welcome Sir Billy Connolly, a Freeman of the City of Glasgow, as the latest patron of the Nelson Mandela Scottish Memorial Foundation. He joins a list of celebrated Glaswegians, who have received that honour, lending their support to our cause.

“Our plan to erect a memorial for Nelson Mandela in Nelson Mandela Place will complete a piece of Glasgow’s history of support for progressive and noble causes and serve as a permanent reminder of South Africa and Glasgow’s important and shared history”

Further information about the foundation and how to donate can be found here:

Letter from Nelson Mandela to Lord Provost of Glasgow July 2010 (click here or on graphic above)

Footage from Commonwealth Games – Billy Connolly + Nelson Mandela

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