Entertainment Celebrity ‘My life is slipping away’: Billy Connolly talks mortality and Parkinson’s disease

‘My life is slipping away’: Billy Connolly talks mortality and Parkinson’s disease

Billy Connolly University of Strathclyde
Billy Connolly receives an honorary degree from Glasgow's University of Strathclyde on June 22, 2017. Photo: Getty
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Five years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Sir Billy Connolly says he is “near the end” but that it is “an adventure” rather than anything he fears.

“My Parkinson’s is not going to go away and it’s going to get worse,” the comedian said in the second part of his BBC documentary series Made in Scotland, according to The Times and multiple other media outlets.

The episode will air in the UK on Friday night.

“My life, it’s slipping away and I can feel it and I should. I’m near the end. I’m a damn sight nearer the end than I am the beginning,” the 76-year-old said.

“But it doesn’t frighten me. It’s an adventure and it is quite interesting to see myself slipping away.

“As bits slip off and leave me, talents leave and attributes leave. I don’t have the balance I used to have, I don’t have the energy I used to have.

“I can’t hear the way I used to hear, I can’t see as good as I used to. I can’t remember the way I used to remember. And they all came one at a time and they just slipped away, thank you.”

Reportedly in a “reflective” mood, the father of five said one skill he has lost is his ability to work his left hand on the banjo.

“It is as if I am being prepared for something. Some other adventure, which is over the hill.

“I have got all this stuff to lose first and then I will be the shadowy side of the hill, doing the next episode in the spirit world.”

Still, Connolly said he can laugh at his fate.

“It is harsh, but you can either break down and complain about how miserable your life is or have a go at it and survive.”

Billy Connolly Pamela Stephenson
Connolly and wife Pamela Stephenson in London in September 2016. Photo: Getty

The Scotsman, who was knighted by Prince William in October 2017, admitted that with the progression of his Parkinson’s disease,  his “yesteryears mean more than the yesterday

“Because it is back there in my childhood and youth when I go to all those things that made me that live keenest in my memory now.”

The former Glasgow welder became famous as a comedian after a 1975 turn on the BBC’s Parkinson talk show.

He toured his High Horse stand up show for four years after his diagnosis, but his disease meant he had to change his stage manner: “I got kind of rooted to the spot and became afraid to move.”

Sitting on a rock talking to camera in one scene in Made in Scotland, his hand visibly shakes, according to The Mirror.

“It takes a certain calm to deal with, and I sometimes don’t have it,” Connolly said of his progressing condition.

“I sometimes get angry with it, but that doesn’t last long, I just collapse in laughter.

“The good things are there, the love we have for people is still there, and with a bit of luck the love they have for you is still there.”

Connolly has son Jamie, 50, and daughter Cara, 46, with his late first wife, interior designer Iris Pressagh.

He and his Australian psychologist wife Pamela Stephenson, 69, who he wed in 1989, have daughters Daisy, 35, Amy, 32, and Scarlett, 30.

Billy Connolly daughters
The comedian with daughters (from left) Scarlett, Cara and Amy in 2016. Photo: Getty

In October, he said in his new book, also called Made in Scotland, that he’s written to scientists at Harvard University to say he’s willing to be a “guinea pig” in a bid to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease through stem cell research.

The same month, he slammed his old friend Michael Parkinson for saying Connolly’s Parkinson’s disease meant he no longer recognized some of his old friends.

“I would recognize Parky if he was standing behind me – in a diving suit,” Connolly said.

Despite his candid assessment of his health and age, Connolly said “there’s still time to go yet” in the show.

“There’s still places to go, new friends to make, maybe new songs to write and sing and jokes to tell.”

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