The book cover
Now you might well be wondering why I am doing a blog entry about The Big Yin, or Sir Billy Connolly, the favourite son of Glasgow. He is a revered figure in Glasgow and has even had three giant murals of him installed on the Glasgow Mural Trail. He has been given the Freedom of the City alongside Nelson Mandela and Sir Alec Ferguson, which allows him to fish in the River Clyde, and graze his sheep on Glasgow Green. To say he is revered is an understatement. In 2018 he returned to Scotland to film a two-part TV series called Made in Scotland, which highlighted various parts of the Glasgow that he grew up in. The show was broadcast on the BBC at the beginning of 2019 and has since been broadcast around the globe. A book was published in late 2018 as well.
One of the murals in Glasgow
One of the stories featured in the book and TV show was how it was common for Scottish people of his generation to wear woollen knitted swimwear when they went on their summer holidays to Scottish coastal resorts. We of my swimming friends was contacted by the production company to see if he could organise up to six people who would be interested in appearing in the TV show wearing knitted swimwear. No choice really, swim in a loch close to Glasgow, and meet Billy Connolly, who could pass up that opportunity.
The gang of six post swim, squinting in the sun. Very stylish
Our measurements were forwarded to a group of knitters from the southside of Glasgow, and they sourced old patterns to fashion one bikini, a one piece, and four pairs of trunks. We tried them on the morning of the shoot, and then bussed up to Loch Ard for our afternoon of filming. We based ourselves at one of our favourite cafes on the shores of the loch and spoke with the director on what he wanted us to do.
You may be thinking that swimming in knitted swimwear in a Scottish loch would not allow us much time in the water. Well, we had been blessed with an extended period of warm sunny weather, so despite the shoot taking place in early June, the water was a very pleasant 20c. Of course, we could not predict how the swimwear would keep its shape while we swam.
Getting our instructions from the director
The shoot took place and involved the interview of Billy Connolly while we swam in the background. Several times we were asked to return to the shore, but the water was that warm and we resisted attempts to get us out of the water. We were just having too much fun. However, after about 45 minutes of enjoying the warm water, we reluctantly went ashore. We did manage to leave the great man bent over laughing at the sight of us walking out in those knitted trunks. It was great to hear him laugh and crack jokes.
That is us swimming in Loch Ard
All of this was captured on film, and if you look at episode 2 of the series you will hear an Aussie accent chatting to the Big Yin. Then it was off to the café to get changed and have a well earned coffee and cake. We all managed to get a photo with Sir Billy who was very gracious. I even had a chance to chat to him about Australia, and he had great memories of his trike tour down under in the late 1990s, and even remembered visiting my home town.
Chatting to The Big Yin like old mates
A great day had by all. The only problem we faced was that were unable to put anything on social media until the release of the book in November that year. But the six of us knew what we had done, and it was even better to see ourselves on the TV when it was broadcast in early January 2019. I knew when the show was broadcast in other places like New Zealand, Australia and the USA, as various friends from those countries would tell me that they saw me.
It was a warm day for our shoot at Loch Ard full of laughs
Great article, Greg.
You’ll be a treat of a sight leading the peloton in your wool speedos for the Bondi to Bronte.
Where’s the post-swim photo showing how the knits held up?