Renowned cartoonist known for his association with Billy Connolly

Born: June 24, 1943;

Died: April 14, 2019

MALKY McCormick, who has died aged 75, was one of Scotland’s most renowned cartoonists. He was also known for his friendship with the comedian Sir Billy Connolly, with whom he created a popular newspaper strip which documented the funny side of Scottish life.

McCormick may have been small in stature, but he was a man of immense talent whose cartoons appeared in local and national newspapers over four decades.

Born in Glasgow close to Hampden Park, the young McCormick showed his talent from an early age, having a cartoon published in his local paper, the Glasgow Mercury and Advertiser, when he was aged just 13.

“The thrill I got from seeing that cartoon published in the paper was brilliant and it really inspired me,” he said.

On leaving school he trained as a commercial artist in a Glasgow studio, but left in 1965 to work as an illustrator for DC Thomson in Dundee, mainly “ghosting” other artists by re-creating their style.

Three years later he returned to Glasgow where he spent three years working as a graphic artist and designer for Scottish Television. Then, in 1970, he went to work for the Sunday Mail as a freelance cartoonist.

McCormick was also an extremely talented banjo player, and along with fellow musicians Danny Kyle, Tich Frier, Mike Whelan and Bill Nolan, formed The Vindscreen Vipers, a 1970s folk band.

It was through his music connections that he met and became friendly with Billy Connolly, and in the mid-1970s they got together to devise The Big Yin strip cartoon for the Sunday Mail. The strip was immensely popular, with a compilation selling 40,000 copies.

It was McCormick who was responsible for Connolly’s nickname, something that Malky was very proud of.

Recalled Malky: “I was trying to think of a name for the strip we were working on together. At that time Billy was doing a routine called The Crucifixion, based on the idea that The Last Supper took place in the Glasgow Gallowgate, not Galilee.

“In the piece, Billy referred to Jesus as The Big Yin and one day I thought, ‘that’s a good name’. So, in the cartoon, Billy became The Big Yin and I became his sidekick, Wee Man!”

McCormick’s works have appeared in numerous Scottish and UK national newspapers including The Sun, Daily Record, Daily Express, Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph.

When he moved to the tiny village of Waterside on the outskirts of Kilmarnock, he approached the local newspaper, The Kilmarnock Standard, and offered his services. The staff there could hardly believe their luck that they had such a prestigious cartoonist contributing a weekly topical cartoon based on an article in that week’s edition.

He was also a regular at Rugby Park for Killie’s home matches and contributed regularly to the programme.

The highlight of his footballing memories came in 1997 when Kilmarnock beat Falkirk 1-0 in the final of the Scottish Cup at Hampden. He was certainly Killie’s most colourful fan, sporting a blue-and-white suit made out of a hotel’s toilet towel.

Journalist Alex Milligan recalled how the idea of the suit came to Malky.

“He couldn’t source the right colour until he went for a pee in his local, the Fenwick Hotel,” he said. “And there it was slap bang in front of him, the perfect blue and white material on the hotel’s roller towel. He did a deal with the hotel owner and it was soon on its way to Peggy McMaster, a talented local dressmaker.”

For ten years McCormick was the resident cartoonist on the ITV quiz show, Win, Lose or Draw. He also published a couple of books of his cartoons and produced comic postcards.

His work had international appeal too with invitations to attend corporate events in Jamaica, Canada, Croatia, Romania, Germany, Kuwait and Russia.

He was also a key player in organising the national cartoon festival which was held annually in Ayr between 1998 and 2002.

Malky McCormick’s quick wit and expertise with his felt-tip pens also made him a popular figure on the after-dinner circuit, with his eagle eye picking out the most suitable ‘targets’ for sketching.

Caricatures of Scotland’s football managers from the 1970s are also on display in the Scottish Football Museum.

A verse from the preface of one of his cartoon books perhaps sums up everything about a talented guy who will be sorely missed: “So sit yiz doon an’ huvva laugh/Wee Malky’s done yiz proud/Wan thing’s fur sure, at any ‘oor/His work will draw a crowd.”

Malky McCormick, who was diagnosed with vascular dementia two years ago, had been living in an Ayrshire care home since losing his devoted wife Ann to cancer.

He is survived by his daughter, Jane, and sons Sean and Dominic.