Tuesday 17 September 2013

Britain is still a country for an old, brave Scots comedian called Billy Connolly

When 70-year-old Billy underwent an operation for prostate cancer in the US which was ‘a total success’, doctors spotted signs of Parkinson's disease which affects 127,000, mostly old Britons and whose symptoms include tremors, rigidity of muscles, slowness of movement, unsteady balance and memory loss. This chimes with the fact that fans were concerned earlier this year when he started to forget his lines during performances and a show at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast in April was interrupted by moments when he asked the audience what he was talking about and said :
" This is terrifying. I feel like I’m going out of my mind."

Despite all this, the old Scot is determined to soldier on, keeping commitments to start filming a TV series in the near future, as well as undertaking an extensive theatrical tour of New Zealand next year.
Apparently, about 5 in 1,000 old men and women in their 60s, and about 40 in 1,000 very old men and women people in their 80s in Britain have the condition for which there is no cure and no known cause.
TV chat show presenter, 78 year old Michael Parkinson, who is also battling prostate cancer himself and helped launch Billy's career said :
"I spoke to Billy before his surgery to wish my old friend well, and I’m pleased it has all gone well. I’m looking forward to seeing Billy back doing what he does best – making us all laugh."
Bob Geldof said his ‘great friend’,  married to psychologist and actress Pamela Stephenson, would not be deterred by his illness :
"He’s helped me lots in my endeavours. Pam and Bill are great mates. He’s as strong as an ox mentally from everything he’s been through as a kid, so I don’t think this will deter him from being that individual that we know."

When Bob refers to 'everything he’s been through as a kid' he might have been referring to the fact that Billy :

was born at home in Anderston, Glasgow where his mother abandoned him and the other children when he was barely four years old and when his father was still away in the Army.

* was brought up with his elder sister by two aunts who resented them for the fact that they had to sacrifice their young lives in order to look after them and Billy himself suffered physical and sexual abuse by his father, which began when he was ten and lasted until he was about fifteen.

* in his teens, joined the part-time Territorial Army Reserve Parachute Regiment and later recalled his experiences in the 'Weekend Soldier' :

* in 1966, after completing his five-year boiler maker apprenticeship in the Glasgow shipyards, accepted a ten-week job building an oil platform in Nigeria and on return to Scotland, focused increasingly on being a folk singer and worked with Gerry Rafferty (left).

After the rocky beginnings went on to enjoy fame as a circuit comedian and :

* at the age of 33 appeared on the 'Parkinson Show' :

* at 38, in 1980, made Angie Dickinson convulse with laughter :

* at 54, as John Brown in the 1996 film 'Mrs Brown' with Judi Dench as Queen Victoria :

Steve Ford, Chief Executive at 'Parkinson’s UK', said:

"One person every hour will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s in Britain, despite this, it remains a little understood condition and we salute Billy’s bravery in speaking out about his condition at this difficult time. Many people, with the right medication, continue to live a full and active live with Parkinson's, but for some, it can be life changing and it is vital that Billy gets the support he needs to live with this complex condition. We wish Billy and his family all the best as they come to terms with this upsetting diagnosis." 

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