billy permit

Watch: Billy Connolly releases new artwork reflecting on Glasgow childhood and friend Robin Williams

Billy Connolly has released new artwork which reflects on his childhood in Glasgow and remembers his friend, Robin Williams.

Sir Billy has launched his Born on a Rainy Day Collection which reflects on his life both in Scotland and his current home in Florida where he created the art.

The Glasgow icon is one of the most popular artists at Castle Fine Art. The new collection sees Billy recalling his Glasgow childhood and living in the Scottish countryside, as well as showcasing an insight into his favourite hobby, fishing, which he enjoys doing near his Florida home.

Through the art he also remembers visiting India for his episode of the TV series Who Do You Think You Are? and a visit to his Scottish home by his close friend, the late Robin Williams.

The pieces are Step We Gaily, Wee Warrior with Targe, Extinct Scottish Cat, Permit From Memory, Baby Flier and The Charmer. Every limited edition piece is signed by Billy himself, priced £1,250 each or as a set of six at £6,250 framed, £4,950 unframed.


This piece sees Billy looking back at his schooldays. ‘It reminds me of a music teacher I used to have called Miss Silver. When I was about 13 or 14, she had musical appreciation days where she would play music and you would have to say what you thought of it,’ he said. 

‘And she played us the Scottish song Mairi’s Wedding. ‘Step we gaily/On we go/Heel for heel and toe for toe/Arm in arm and row on row/All for Mairi’s wedding’.  He’s doing the perfect move for stepping gaily. You can imagine him in little hall in the Highlands, dancing with a few others.

‘There’s a lot of that ‘step we gaily’ time on a Friday night in the Highlands, when there’s people who’ve had too much to drink, dancing with nobody in particular. 

‘There’s a dance I used to love, the Gay Gordons, where you pass a partner to each other. Occasionally you lose your partner and find them dancing with somebody else. It’s not just about dancing, it’s about mixing with each other in a great atmosphere.’



This is Billy’s portrait of a fighter with a Scottish shield, a targe. ‘The Scots discovered if they could use the shield, the thing to do was to belt the enemy away with the targe and strike down with your sword, then come back and with your shield, just shuffle them away and plough your way through the enemy,’ he said. 

‘This guy, though, he’s a jolly kind of fellow.’



In this piece, Billy pays tribute to the Scottish wildcat. ‘They’re a wild animal, not a pussycat. I had a stuffed one, given to me by a man whose wife wouldn’t let him keep it in the house. I put him by the fireplace in the living room,’ he said.

‘Robin Williams was staying with us and started pretending to be the wildcat, talking in a Scottish accent and really getting into character. Someone came into the room and said: ‘What’s that?,’ and Robin made the exact noise of the cat and scared the life out of them. Robin was a genius.’


‘A permit is a fish here in Florida, which haunts the waters where they’re shallow,’ says Billy, who has always loved fishing, particularly alongside his son Jamie.

‘He once caught a monster and I’ve got pictures of him holding it above his head. It was wonderful; it’s lovely to be involved in something like that.

‘Days like that are all part of the joy of going fishing, like drawing is one of the joys of my life. You’re gonna sit down and do a few strokes and make something that never existed before and it’s a joy. It’s good for you and it’s good for everybody.’


‘Baby Flier’ is an angelic baby with wings. ‘The ‘flier’ came second, the wings were an afterthought. He looked a bit lonely with no wings,’ he said. ‘Babies look as if they should fly or float; they have a holiness about them.

‘My Catholic upbringing makes me think of that angelic thing. My childhood was kind of dark, with my parents’ divorce and being brought up by strange aunties, so the church was a release. I always loved it, going to Mass or Benediction. All the candles and people in their long outfits, the smells.’


‘Now, he’s obviously a snake charmer but that’s not what he started out as. He started out to be a guy sitting there and I thought ‘Oh, he’s an Indian snake charmer’ and stuck the snake in and then the snake became a woman,’ Billy said. 

‘It’s all part of spending too much time on your own!” says Billy of the exotic piece which has a personal connection.

‘My great-great-great-grandmother was Indian who married an Irish soldier when she was 12, which I am assured was quite normal at the time.

‘I remember when I was in India, near a barracks up in the hill country. And in the morning, we were awakened by the call to prayer. This guy was doing it and he sounded really great, perfectly in tune, and I thought ‘Oh, I’m home’.’


Billy began his artistic career when he started drawing whilst on tour in Canada in 2007 and picked up paper and pens in a Montreal art store after he’d tired of looking at the animals in the window of a local pet shop.

‘I’d never drawn in my life until this point, but I just started drawing weird islands and carried on drawing,’ he says. ‘I asked my wife to tell me if they were getting better and she said ‘definitely’.

‘My manager sent them to the gallery, and now I make pictures and they’re lovely to me.

‘And the fact that other people like them and want to live with them in their homes blows me sideways. To have somebody who wants a part of your mind in their life – I thought my wife had been the only one to fall for that, but it turns out that she’s not alone.’

His drawings evolved into his debut fine art collection, Born on a Rainy Day, which launched at Castle Fine Art in 2012.

Now living in Florida, Billy creates art in his home studio. Billy’s initial works were in black and white, but in recent years, he has embraced colour, adding: ‘There’s more colour in the collection than before.

‘I was looking at the drawings and sometimes they were crying out for colour and I didn’t know why.’

Billy has also explored sculptures, with six designs now under his belt. Created from Billy’s original drawings, they are cast in metal to reflect his past as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, and each sculpture features a cast of Billy’s signature to signify his approval throughout the design process.

In 2023, Billy’s works were collected into a deluxe coffee table book with a foreword by Pamela Stephenson-Connolly, and commentary on the artworks by Billy himself.