Sir Billy Connolly says Parkinson's does not 'dictate' who he is as he accepts Bafta Fellowship honour

Sir Billy Connolly has said he does not let his Parkinson’s disease dictate who he is as he spoke of his honour at being named the recipient of this year’s Bafta Fellowship.

The 79-year-old Scottish comedian, also known as The Big Yin, will be celebrated for a career spanning more than five decades at the Virgin Media Bafta TV Awards on Sunday.

Sir Billy, who was knighted in 2017 for services to entertainment and charity, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013. He retired from live performances five years later, but has continued to record programmes and make TV appearances.

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Sir Billy Connolly. Picture: John Devlin
Sir Billy Connolly. Picture: John Devlin
Sir Billy Connolly. Picture: John Devlin
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Speaking to about the fellowship, which is the highest accolade given to recognise “outstanding and exceptional contribution” in film, games or television across their career, Sir Billy said: “I have a collection of shiny things that I’m very proud of.

“But I never set out to get them or hunt them down. I don’t believe in aiming at it because if you don’t get it for whatever reason you’re all disappointed.

“Just do what you do well and you’ll find yourself a fellow before you know it.”

Sir Billy, who will turn 80 in November, joins a prestigious list of other recipients honoured for their work in the world of television, which includes Sir David Attenborough, Dame Julie Walters, Sir Trevor McDonald, Dame Joanna Lumley, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Jon Snow, Sir Bruce Forsyth, Dame Joan Bakewell and others.

Born in Glasgow in 1942, Sir Billy began his working life as a welder in the Clyde shipyards before embarking on a career as a folk singer and musician alongside Gerry Rafferty in The Humblebums and then developing the stand-up act that made him famous.

The Scottish star, who lives in the US, will not be able to attend the ceremony in person, but a recorded acceptance message will be played.

“It’s really important to work, to draw, to write, to walk silly for your grandchildren,” he told, saying: “Doing the same thing you’ve always done is good for you.

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“I don’t let the Parkinson’s dictate who I am – I just get on with it. I’ve had a very successful career and I have no regrets at all.”

Sir Billy said of the fellowship: “I am deeply honoured. Fifty films and … I can’t remember how many TV shows – as well as my stage comedy – added up to something that’s a joy to look back on – a lovely thing. I have no regrets at all.

“I had no idea the fellowship existed, but I’m told it’s a big deal. It’s lovely to be recognised and to become a jolly good fellow.”

The comedian credited the first of many appearances on Michael Parkinson’s chat show in 1975 with helping him to become a household name.

He said: “It was a huge breakthrough. It made me ten times more famous than I was. I was two-thirds of the way through an English tour at the time, and the venues were half-full. As soon as I went on Parky it sold out, and it stayed sold out for the rest of my career.”

The Virgin Media Bafta TV Awards will be hosted by Richard Ayoade on Sunday on BBC One from 6pm.



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