Billy Connolly reveals how he’s given up alcohol for cups of tea

Sir Billy Connolly has revealed how he has given up alcohol for tea. Picture: John Devlin
Sir Billy Connolly has revealed how he has given up alcohol for tea. Picture: John Devlin
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SIR BILLY Connolly has revealed how he gave up alcohol when drinking stopped being fun, and swapped booze for tea.

The “Big Yin”, 76, said he now thinks tea is “the best substance in the world”, but he still loves pubs.

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Speaking in a new BBC Scotland two-part documentary, “Billy Connolly, Made in Scotland”, the Glasgow comedian said: “I enjoyed drinking but it’s a thing of the past.

“It was lovely when I was doing it and then the fun went away and I stopped it. There’s a sign to watch for, when the fun disappears.

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“But tea is the best substance in the world. I love tea. It makes me feel good, it makes me feel jolly - tea is the substance.

“I may not drink anymore but I still love the culture that goes in to a pub - the noise, the unspoken rules, the language of the crowd, it was all music to me.”

Connolly said he also misses a time when pubs were largely male domains.

He said: “Everybody speaks about the male only thing as if there was something wrong it with, but it was a lovely thing, mixing with the guys.

“There’s a thing about male company that I like very much, and it isn’t just dirty jokes and talking about football. There’s a mixture of things that men like to talk about to each other. It was a lovely bit of my life and I kind of miss it.

“Politics, books, films, family, football, religion -- everything was on the table to talk, argue and take the piss out of each other with.”

The first part of the two-hour-long documentary, to be shown on BBC Two on Friday December 28, provides a unique insight in to the early influences and motivations that made the comedy legend the man he is today.

Connolly famously started his career as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards in the early 1960s.

Lamenting their demise on a visit to a former Clyde shipyard, he says: “It was rough and there was a lot of swearing. The gate was closed and it was all guys and the jokes were furious and the language was strong.

“The Clyde is almost unrecognisable now. The quiet is almost overwhelming to my memories of once relentless noise and in these sheds nobody tells jokes any more, there’s just dead machinery lying about and the wind whistling through.

“It’s a constant puzzle to me; where did all these thousands of men go?”

He added: “I loved calling myself a welder, being part of something bigger than me. It was comforting, especially when you’re young still trying yourself out for size and finding your voice.

“All the same, like every other man there, come Friday, I couldn’t wait for the weekend to begin. We were all running towards the drink, the dance and the football.”

He recalls how he gave it up to follow his ambition to be a folk musician after advice from a fellow welder, Willie McInnes.

He added: “It was Willie who made me quit the shipyards. He said, ‘what are you doing?’ and I said ‘I’m going to be a folk singer and I’m going to quit at the holidays’.

“He said ‘if you were really keen on it you would do it now’.

“The most important thing he said to me was ‘you don’t want to be sitting here as an old man knowing you could have got out - I’ve known guys like that and it destroys their whole life telling themselves they could have done better but didn’t take the chance’. He said ‘you’ve got the chance, go and do it’. So I did it - I was off being a hairy banjo player, touring the world.”

Connolly, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2013, also speaks of his pride in his background.

He added: “When I was nominated for a knighthood, the woman interviewing me said, very nicely, ‘it will be strange for you having a knighthood, coming from nothing’.

“I said, ‘I don’t come from nothing, I come from something’.”

“Billy Connolly, Made in Scotland” ep1, is on BBC Two, Friday December 28 at 9-10pm.