Billy Connolly and the city where he was born and raised have been tightly interwoven throughout his eight decades. To paraphrase the famous song, while the Big Yin may “belong to Glasgow”, Glasgow most certainly belongs to him and, as he prepares to celebrate his 80th birthday on November 24, he stands as one of Glasgow’s most recognisable sons and a symbol of the city.

“I consider myself a citizen of the world,” said Connolly in an interview, “but I was born and raised in Glasgow. It is where my first children were born – where I learnt to play the banjo – where I served my apprenticeship as a welder, and where I first performed in public. My heart beats to the rhythm of Glasgow – it is in my blood.”

Walking around the city today you don’t have to look far for traces of the comedian’s life, his jokes, his distinctly Glaswegian one-liners. Those places make for an unofficial Billy Connolly Trail, one which not only tells the Big Yin’s tale but that of Glasgow, its people and its past.


69 Dover Street, Anderston

The tenement flat where Billy was born “on the linoleum, three floors up, at six o’clock in the evening” has long been demolished. Connolly actually charts the dramatic changes that occurred in the Anderston and Finnieston areas in his song, I Wish I Was in Glasgow, and laments the decline of his city.

Of his old house he says: “I’d take you there and show you, but they’ve pulled the old place down. And when I think about it, it always makes me frown. They bulldozed it all to make a road.”

He does, however, end on a positive note – one that highlights his enduring love of the city: “Glasgow gave me more than she ever took away. She prepared me for life on the road.”


Kinfauns Drive, Drumchapel

Billy was 14 years old when his family, along with thousands of other city-dwelling Glaswegians, were shipped out to the new “schemes”. The Connollys’ destination was Drumchapel, “a desert wi’ windaes”.

The move did allow the family to flit to a larger home and, having shared two rooms in Anderston, they now lived in a two-storey house with separate bedrooms, a bathroom and kitchen. His wife, Pamela Stevenson, would later tell in her book about Billy that it was at this time that the ongoing sexual abuse by his father would end – “presumably due to the lack of opportunity”.


The Steel Mural, Anderston

Fitted on the side of new flats which look down on the Clyde and the site of the old yards where Connolly first worked, this 20ft by 16ft steel mural immediately catches the eye of those crossing the Kingston Bridge, visiting the SEC or Hydro or driving along the Clydeside Expressway. It was designed and created by artist Andy Scott, who drew giant sketches on the wall of his studio, which were then approved by Connolly. The finished work shows him in his element during the Humblebum days, banjo in hand. Scott, who counts Falkirk’s Kelpies and Glasgow’s statue of Charles Rennie Mackintosh among his works, unveiled the mural in November 2011 and said: “It’s been interesting capturing a living legend but Mr Connolly never interfered and very quickly gave the finished artwork his blessing.”


St Gerard’s Roman Catholic Secondary School, Govan

Located on Vicarfield Street, this well known school closed in 1998 in a round of cost-cutting measures from Glasgow City Council. Connolly preferred St Gerry’s to St Peter’s, which he described as “violent and abusive”, “a Dickensian hangover”. During his formative years he would often turn to his big sister Flo for protection and she duly doled out beatings to any would-be bullies.

Connolly was one of several famous pupils at his secondary school, which boasted two members of Celtic’s all-conquering Lisbon Lions team of 1967, Jim Craig and Joe McBride. And another of Scotland’s great entertainers, Johnny Beattie, also attended there in the 1940s.


The Fairfield Museum, Govan

Most of the sprawling Clydeside yards have been lost to redevelopments but the community-run Fairfield Museum in Govan offers the best insight into the life Connolly led in the shipyards. This was where the Big Yin’s sense of humour was formed – and where he learned how to deal with hecklers and critics. Starting at the yards aged 15 as an apprentice welder he also learned how to be imaginative in his approach to work: “I was the tea boy and my job was to make welding noises. I would have the welding gear in one hand and a piece of steel in the other hitting the wall so they would look busy while they played cards.”


The Clutha Vaults and Scotia Bar, Glasgow city centre

A favourite haunt of Connolly and a place where he played regularly as part of the Humblebums with Gerry Rafferty. The Clutha, like the Scotia just up the road, was a hub for the city’s thriving folk music scene and continues to provide a stage for local live acts today. When the former was engulfed in tragedy and an emergency helicopter crash-landed on the roof, killing 10, Connolly paid his respects personally, appearing unannounced to lay a wreath among the other tributes.


The Sparkle Horse Bar, Partick

This west end bar enjoys a link which stretches back to the days when it was known as the Dowanhill Bar. This was Connolly’s father’s favourite pub and the one place in the world where “the Big Yin” was known as “the wee yin”. Billy’s father, William Sr, enjoyed seniority in this establishment.


Cafe D’Jaconelli, Maryhill Road

A relic of Glasgow’s past. Several such cafes were run by members of Glasgow’s large Italian community and had a reputation for producing some of the best ice cream in the country. Many have closed but Jaconelli’s is still going strong. Stepping inside today is like entering a time capsule, with the original fixtures and fittings in place. Connolly made a surprise visit there several years ago with his grandchildren to sample the ice cream that the Jaconelli family named in his honour.


The Aragon Bar, Byres Road

Like the Scotia and Clutha, the Aragon is still going strong and stands as one of the stalwarts in Glasgow’s ever-changing west end. This pub is where Connolly penned his first professional contract – a one-year recording deal with his fellow Humblebums for Transatlantic Records. He and Tam Harvey were the original members and were later joined by Gerry Rafferty. The trio would later go their separate ways with Rafferty’s leading to Baker Street and a successful career in music.

Connolly, with his monologues between songs growing in length and raising increasingly bigger laughs, was bound for another stage.


The Pavilion, Glasgow

The venue where Connolly established himself as a star in Scotland – one capable of selling out larger venues. This was where he enjoyed his first big run, selling out for an entire week in January/February 1974. The Pavilion remains one of the great Scottish theatres.

Meanwhile, across the road, stands a new building which was once the location of the legendary Apollo, where Connolly set a record with 16 sold-out shows over 12 days.


Hyndland Road and Redlands Road, Glasgow’s west end

Where Connolly lived when he was starting to establish himself as a musician and comedian.

The Big Yin may now spend much of his time at his other home in Florida, but he spent many of those early years in the west end, not far from where he grew up.

The latter address, a town house just off of Great Western Road was his last home in the city before he moved out to a house in Drymen, near Loch Lomond.


The Saracen Head

Or, as it is better known to locals, “The Sarry Heid”, is the scene of what is arguably Connolly’s greatest comedic sketch.

Taking Jesus and his disciples from the Holy Land and parachuting them into a drunken night out in Glasgow, The Crucifixion remains just as brilliant today, decades on from when it was first told on stage. The sketch led to protests outside his gigs.

Connolly would delight in raising the blood pressure of evangelical pastor, Jack Glass, but it also showed his exceptional talent as a storyteller, setting the template for many modern day stand-ups.

You’ll find it on YouTube and on various compilations today.

Dig it out, sit back and marvel at 15 minutes of comedy genius.


Celtic Park, Glasgow

One constant in Connolly’s life is his love of Celtic Football Club and he has been a firm friend of managers, players and fans dating back to the 1960s.

He enjoyed a particularly close friendship with the late Bertie Auld and once led the Lisbon Lions out for a testimonial match against Rangers dressed in a half Celtic/half Rangers kit, hamming up the part of “guest referee” and revelling in the boos before stepping aside for the real ref ahead of kick-off.

Supporting Fergus McCann’s takeover of the club in the 1990s, he was rewarded with a “seat for life” at Celtic Park – next to the one belonging to another famous Bhoy, Rod Stewart.


The People’s Palace, Glasgow Green

The museum dedicated to Glasgow’s people and city life is a fitting place for Connolly’s famous banana boots and several other items of memorabilia to reside.

The museum has suffered from several closures in recent years, its famous Winter Gardens lie withered and shut, but it has re-opened to visitors and is a place where Connolly’s life and works, which so often reflect city life, form a part of a bigger and very Glaswegian story.


The Billy Connolly Mural Trail

Three specially commissioned portraits by three of his favourite artists: this was Glasgow’s gift to the Big Yin dotted around the city.

The first sits just off St Enoch Square, looking down to Clyde Street and the south side.

Painted by Jack Vettriano and showing

the Big Yin reaching for the sky, it is titled Dr Connolly, I Presume? Near the Barras and its famous ballroom, stands The Big Yin.

Painted by Rachel Maclean it shows him clad in an absurd, kilted outfit, standing outside the Blue Lagoon chip shop in Dumbarton Road, not far from where he grew up in Partick.

The final part of the triptych, designed by John Byrne, is best seen from Osborne Street in the city centre.

Each artist worked on their design individually, before they were painted and installed by prolific Glaswegian street artist,

Rogue One.