Billy Connolly removed from school records over '˜blasphemy'

Billy Connolly was scratched from his old school's records and branded blasphemous by its teachers when he became famous, a new TV tribute to the star has revealed.

An ITV tribute to Billy Connolly's career will be broadcast this week. Picture: Contributed
An ITV tribute to Billy Connolly's career will be broadcast this week. Picture: Contributed

The Glasgow-born comedy icon has revealed he was “purged from the records” of his old primary school because his material was considered so offensive to its staff.

Connolly, who has famously mocked religion in his routines, tells a new ITV programme on his career that he was treated as a “non-person” by his old school because of the nature of the material he was performing.

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The one-hour special, broadcast tomorrow, reveals how teachers at St Peter’s Boys School in Partick even banned pupils from listening to his albums.

In an interview for the programme, comedy writer Armando Iannucci, who attended St Peter’s after Connolly, said the star’s material was regarded as “blasphemous filth”.

A host of big-name stars, including Dame Judi Dench, Sir Elton John, David Tennant, Peter Kay and Andy Murray, pay tribute to Connolly in the programme.

It also features a new in-depth interview with the comic, who has continued to perform despite battling Parkinson’s disease in recent years.

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In the programme, Connolly recalls being mocked in the classroom. He said: “I remember the teacher going round the class asking everybody what they wanted to be. They all wanted to be marine engineers. He came to me and I said comedian. They all exploded, of course. But I was kind of determined to do it.”

Connolly, who first made his name in the folk outfit The Humblebums, started performing stand-up comedy in the early 1970s, but gained notoriety with his “Last Supper” routine, which relocated events from the Bible to the Gallowgate in Glasgow.

He said that what started out as a quick-fire joke about Jesus walked into a pub in Glasgow gradually became an entire routine and “the biggest thing of my career”.

He said: “They say you should never talk about politics and religion. I say talk about them all the time. You just get this great reaction.”

Recalling how his old school had reacted to his material on religion, Connolly said: “They took me out of the register. I was a non-person. I was purged from the records.

“That was the first thing you saw was a crucifix with Jesus hanging on it. It was like ‘God’s dead and it’s your fault’.”

Iannucci tells the programme: “When I was there Billy was just beginning to become famous in Scotland. We had cassette copies of his albums and were all circulating them and listening to them. But I remember the head mistress sat us down and told us it was bordering on mortal sin to listen to Billy Connolly because at the time it was full of blasphemous filth. Then he became famous and was invited back to the school.

“I remember thinking: ‘Hang on a minute – you told us that this was sinful.’ So, thank you Billy, for introducing me to establishment hypocrisy for the first time.”