He was a man out of time in his own time. A long dreep in an M&S suit, topped by a jaggy bunnet, usually tartan, delivering surreal monologues about the mundane, peppered with a torrent of one-liners, eyes rolling, eyebrows rising, with casual nods of the head to emphasise them.

Chic Murray wasn’t just the greatest Scottish comedian – Billy Connolly would back me up on that – he’s above Hancock, Morecambe and Wise, or the procession of lame English comics who were shirricked mercilessly on Friday nights in the second house at the Glasgow Empire.

What distinguished him from them, too, was that he wrote his own material. Not so much wrote as unburdened.

He was born this month in 1919 and he died prematurely, aged 65, of a burst duodenal ulcer. He would have found material in that. In a monologue about visiting the doctor, which gets weirder by the sentence, he asked a woman why she’s there? “It’s my ulcer,” she says. “There’s no need to call me sir,” he answers.

We don’t know why he’s there. The doctor tells him to strip. “Don’t you think we should go out once or twice first?” He goes on to ask where he should put his clothes. “On top of mine,” answers the doc.

He was never blue, never swore on stage. The closest he got to it was in another rant, which would never have got on TV then, or perhaps now, where he has been to the doctor, again for a malady untold, and he’s instructed the only cure is fresh mothers’ breast milk. Fortunately, his mother tells him, the wife upstairs has just given birth and her man’s away at sea, so you can pop up and ask her.

The woman is obliging and clearly enjoys it and says to him in the bedroom: “Is there anything else I could offer you?”

Quick as a flash he replies: “Well, a wee Abernethy biscuit would be very nice.”

In another tale I can’t now trace, but didn’t imagine, it involved him coming home, finding pairs of shoes that aren’t his in the lobby and discovering his wife in bed with two men he knows, and whom he has words with. The punchline is the wife’s. “Are you not going to say hello, then?”

Scent of success

It is, as the old line has it, in the way he told them. His most famous routine was the Long Nose one – “I have nothing against long noses. They run in our family” – which, unlike the vast majority of his material, survives on YouTube.

Chic was born Charles Thomas McKinnon Murray in Greenock on November 6, 1919, the son of a railway goods inspector and mother, Isabella, who was a community worker during the war. After leaving school at15, he served an apprenticeship in marine engineering at the local Kincaid’s shipyard, as did Connolly, who idolised him, with spells on stage from 18 playing several instruments (including piano, organ, banjo, mandolin and guitar), as well as singing, yodelling and cracking jokes.

He met Maidie Dickson, an accordion player and singer well-known on the variety circuit, during the war when she was in digs in his home after mother Isabella’s took her in. She was in an eight-week gig at Greenock’s Empire Theatre. They married in 1945 in St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh and took to the stage together.

At first Chic was the feed to Maidie. She was the experienced one, having trodden the boards from the age of four. They were billed as “The Lank and the Lady”, “The Musicienne and The Madskull” and, best of all, “The Tall Droll with the Small Doll”. He was

6ft 3, she was 4ft 11.

Chic had left the yard, on Maidie’s prompting, and she tutored him on comic timing. He would write down a yarn and she would insert “Ha, Ha”, where he should pause for the laughs. Chic included them in the act, which produced them in the audience.

The more they performed the larger Chic’s part and the smaller Maidie’s as his popularity grew. In 1955, they were signed by the Bernard Delfont agency, performing UK-wide and on TV with their own monthly show Highland Fling.

Cruel blows

IN October 1956, the couple were about to make their big breakthrough when they were booked for the following month’s Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium, alongside Tommy Cooper, Liberace and Laurence Olivier.

Just four hours before the curtain was due to go up, the producer, Val Parnell, stopped it, saying the show had to be scrapped. He had received a message from the Queen saying it was inappropriate to hold it as British boots were landing in Egypt to take the Suez Canal, in what became known as the Suez Crisis. Liberace burst into tears.

Another cruel blow happened a few years later, when a Los Angeles-based agent saw him in a movie cameo role and promised that he was going to transform his career, get him work in America and break him in the States. The agent returned to America and was killed in a car crash a fortnight later.

By the early 1960s, Chic and Maidie had children, Douglas and Annabelle, and she wanted to retire. Chic carried on alone. The Tall Droll sans The Small Doll.

He became his own manager, but wasn’t very good at it. He also had that old Scottish failing, a fierce drouth.

Friendly divorce

IN the 1970s, his health was fading and so was his marriage (“If it weren’t for marriage husbands and wives would have to fight with strangers.”) They divorced in 1972, although they remained close until the end of his


His career drifted and he popped up in occasional TV shows like Celebrity Squares and won small movie parts. He was the piano-playing headmaster in Bill Forsyth’s 1981 film Gregory’s Girl. There was also his stage part in 1984 as Liverpool FC’s Bill Shankly in You’ll Never Walk Alone.

On January 29, 1985, he died from a perforated ulcer. Maidie was then running the Chic Murray Hotel in Bruntsfield in Edinburgh. Presumably suffering from excruciating pain, he tried to get to her. It was late in the evening. A neighbour with a key let him in and he was found dead in bed next morning in the bedroom next to hers.

His funeral at Mortonhall Crematorium in Edinburgh was attended by Scottish comedy nobility, including fellow and established comedy stars like Jack Milroy and Johnny Beattie, and a newer one, Billy Connolly, who had been asked to say a few words. (“I hope there won’t be any swearing,” the undertaker enquired.)

Chic’s tartan bunnet decorated his coffin and as it moved slowly towards the final curtain there was a glitch. It caught on a roller and shook, the bunnet flapped as if signalling goodbye. The mourners spontaneously stood up and applauded.

“Please, please, not too much,” Connolly shouted “the bugger’ll come back and do 20 minutes!.”

Ah, if only.