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KIRSTY STRICKLAND: Billy Connolly reminds us to tell people we love them while we still can

The outpouring of love for Billy Connolly at the BAFTA ceremony makes Kirsty wish she'd had more time to tell her dad how much he meant to her. Billy Connolly photo: Sarah Dunn/BAFTA/PA Wire.
The outpouring of love for Billy Connolly at the BAFTA ceremony makes Kirsty wish she'd had more time to tell her dad how much he meant to her. Billy Connolly photo: Sarah Dunn/BAFTA/PA Wire.

I’m sure there were more than a few tears shed across Scotland last night, as Billy Connolly appeared on the big screen to accept a BAFTA Fellowship award.

It’s the highest accolade the Academy can bestow on an artist, and it is hard to think of anybody more deserving than the Big Yin.

Introducing the award, Richard Ayoade described Billy Connolly perfectly, as a man of ‘’unimaginable magnificence’’.

And so he is.

He appeared via video link to accept the award, still as handsome and mischievous as ever, and joked: “It’s made me such a happy man, getting these good attendance medals, noo that ma career is oot the window.”

Billy Connolly was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013.

And in his video to the Academy, he spoke about how his wife has to dress him in the morning and undress him at night, before adding wryly “It’s a jolly life, I’ve got no complaints.’’

Billy Connolly knows how much we love him

It’s impossible to overstate the affection that Billy Connolly is held in, both in Scotland and across the world.

And for good reason.

His wit and warmth made his comedy feel so familiar and intimate.

He didn’t need to shock or provoke in his performances because he was, and is, a naturally, wonderfully funny man.

What a tonic it is to re-watch some of his old performances now, in an age where some comedians think the more outrageous and hateful they are then the more ground-breaking their performance must be.

While it is always bittersweet to see the Billy Connolly these days – as the effects of his illness become ever more apparent in his speech and movements – there is comfort in the fact that he knows how much he means to his many millions of fans.

In 2017, three giant murals were created in Glasgow in honour of his 75th birthday.

At the time he said he was surprised at what a profound affect the tribute had on him.

‘”You know, people going to that length for me, it’s just taken my breath away’’ he said.

We should get into the habit of celebrating those people we love while they are still with us.

Billy Connolly in front of John Byrne’s mural in Glasgow’s Osborne Street. Photo: BBC Scotland/Martin Shields.

Wouldn’t the world be a much nicer place if we did?

And I’m not just talking about celebrities and artists.

If the great Billy Connolly can still, after decades as a national treasure, be moved by the affection of others, then so can your mum, your friend and the person who wrote that book you loved.

Loss of my dad makes me value my mum more

When my dad died in a car crash in 2015, one of my biggest regrets was all the love and thanks I had for him that I had stored away and not given out.

He was only 49 when he died – I thought I had years to tell him how much he meant to me.

Kirsty’s late father, who died seven years ago.

These days, I try to say it as soon as I feel it.

Shamefully, I don’t remember many occasions when I actually told my dad I loved him.

Now I make sure I tell my mum I love her every time I speak to her.

I thank her for everything she has done for me.

And I make sure she knows how much I appreciate and value everything she has taught me and all the sacrifices she made for me and my siblings growing up.

We’re really good at recognising what we love about others when they are no longer with us.

But wouldn’t it be much better if we were a bit more demonstrative about it on a day-to-day basis?

Kirsty and her mum.

For no other reason than it’s nice to be nice.

Love definitely makes the world more enjoyable

In another life, I’m certain my daughter was the Patron Saint of Affection.

She’s always been incredibly loving. For as long as she’s been old enough to talk she has been telling everybody around her how great they are.

Strangers, too.

We’ll be walking down the street and she’ll suddenly shout out: “WOW, mum, did you see that lady’s dress? SO BEAUTIFUL!’’

She writes me (and her friends, and the neighbours) wee love letters from time to time, just because.

She wrote a lengthy poem for her teacher to thank him for letting her tell jokes in class.

And she drew the lollipop man a picture at Christmas with “I love you!!’’ scrawled down the side.

I’m not suggesting we all get out the biros and start posting declarations of love to one another (though I’ll readily accept any that people might want to send my way).

But we could start small and work our way up from there.

Whether it’s the astonishing body of work produced by a cultural icon like Billy Connolly, or the support a pal offered you the last time you had your heart broken, all those acts of kindness and significance deserve to be appreciated in the moment.

I don’t know if love does the make the world go round but it definitely makes the ride a lot more enjoyable.


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