Billy Connolly has bravely opened up about how he’s preparing to face death after years of living with his deteriorating health thanks to Parkinson’s disease.
The 75-year-old Scottish funnyman – also known as The Big Yin – opens up about his battle with the incurable condition in his BBC documentary series Made In Scotland, telling viewers that his "life is slipping away".
And he’s revealed how his fading memories keep returning to his childhood, which was marked by brutal violence and sexual abuse from his closest family members.
Billy was just three when his mum abandoned him, walking out of their family home in Glasgow to leave him at the mercy of his paedophile father and aggressive aunt.
He opened up about the abuse he received at their hands in his self-titled 2001 biography penned by his loving wife Pamela Stephenson, who helped him come to terms with his dark childhood.
Between the ages of 10 and 15, Billy’s dad would drunkenly prey on him every night as they shared a sofa in the cramped family home.
"I remember it happening a lot, not every night, but every night you were in a state thinking it was going to happen, that you’d be awakened by it," he said in his book.
"I would pray for the holidays. I couldn’t wait for us to go to the seaside because then we had separate beds."
The hardest part, he admitted, was that some of the abuse was "kind of pleasant, physically" – and when his father died in 1989, Billy struggled with his feelings.
"I have no lack of love for my father. I love his memory now, as much as I loved him when he was alive," he said.
"It was disloyal of him to do that to me, but there were other facets of his character that were great. So you know, you’ve got to get over it, you’ve only one life to do it. But still, I kept thinking, if I’m still troubled by this, if I’m still carrying it around like a big rucksack full of bricks and my father’s dead, I need someone to tell me how to get rid of this great weight."
His abusive aunt made Billy’s life miserable in other ways, frequently lashing out at him, pounding his head with her shoes and even rubbing his soiled pants in his face.
Billy’s harrowing childhood led him to seek out experiences with other men, before realising he was straight.
But it had a lasting impact on his health, leading to the comedian experimenting with booze and cocaine as he made his way up the ranks towards fame.
He would regularly sink pints of wine after stand-up gigs and start drinking at breakfast to drown out his insecurities, which eventually contributed to the collapse of his first marriage to Iris Connolly.
It wasn’t until he met second wife Pamela, the former actress and now sex therapist, that Billy was finally able to confront his demons.
Clinical psychologist Pamela urged the funnyman to speak to a therapist about his childhood sexual abuse and, with professional help, Billy was able to give up drink, drugs and smoking, save a small tumble off the wagon a year into his sobriety.
Billy’s diagnosis in 2012 only brought the couple closer together as she stepped up to take care of him.
"I’m really dependent on her, you know, physically, whereas I used to be the strong guy. Which is kind of pleasant," he said in a 2017 interview.
"It’s a pleasant thing to lose the strong guy. You don’t need it. So it’s nicer."
Billy and Pamela have three daughters together – and he was two older children from his first marriage.
Of his heart-wrenching childhood and subsequent fame and success, Pamela says her husband’s journey "has been one of trying to gain mastery over his abusers".
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