BILLY Connolly stunned the world this week when he revealed he was, 'near the end' after a devastating battle with Parkinson's Disease.

But Scotland's best loved comedian delivered the tragic news in typical style, saying even though he can feel his life, 'slipping away' he sometimes 'collapses with laughter' when thinking about his condition.

Billy's smiles mask a dark and difficult past. And that ability to laugh in the face of terrible adversity has been present all through brave Billy's life.

The 76-year-old - who presents BBC 2 documentary Made in Scotland tonight - was abandoned at four by his mum leaving him and his six-year-old sister cold, frightened and hungry in an empty flat.

He was beaten and verbally abused by the two aunts who took him in and forced to share a bed with the drunk and violent father who sexually abused him for five years.

The comic, known as the Big Yin, was born in a two-room flat in the poverty stricken Glasgow tenements on 24 November 1942. He and his older sister Florence slept in a recess off the kitchen and bathed in the kitchen sink because there was no hot water.

Soon after his birth dad William was conscripted into the RAF and sent to Burma to fight, leaving mum Mamie - who had met her husband at 16 - to care for the two children.

Sorely neglected by Mamie, who left three-year-old Florence to care for her baby brother, Billy suffered pneumonia three times before his fourth birthday and social services were once called out after she left them alone in the flat with a blazing open fire.

'She didn't abandon me. I'd have done the same'
Shortly after Billy turned four, Mamie abandoned her children to run off with another man, Willie Adams, leaving them frightened and alone in the flat.

In 2009, on wife Pamela Stephenson’s psychologist chat show Shrink Rap, he said: “I’ve never felt abandoned by her.

“My mother was a teenager. My father was in Burma, fighting a bloody war. The Germans were dropping all kinds of crap on the town.We lived at the docks, so that's where all the bombs were happening. She was a teenager with two kids in a slum.

“A guy comes along and says, 'I love you. Come with me.' Given the choice, I think I'd have gone with him.

“I don't have an ounce of feelings that she abandoned me. She tried to survive.”

Aunt banged his head with high-heeled shoes
Billy’s aunts Mona and Margaret, after being alerted by neighbours to the constant crying in the flat, found the children huddled together in the alcove bed, freezing and hungry.

They agreed to take the children in to live in their house but were cruel guardians, bombarding Billy with verbal abuse and physical abuse, whacking his legs, hitting him with wet towels and banging his head with a high heeled shoe while calling him a “lazy good-for-nothing.”

"My aunts constantly told me I was stupid, which still affects me today pretty badly," he previously told The Herald:

“It's just a belief that I'm not quite as good as anyone else. It gets worse as you get older. I'm a happy man now but I still have the scars of that.”

'My dad hit me so hard I'd fly over the sofa'
Soon after the children moved in with their aunts, his father returned, a stranger to his children.

Billy later said his dad, a devout Catholic, found home life “boring” and he took to going out, coming home drunk to dish out beatings for Billy’s imagined “sins”.

“Sometimes, when father hit me, I flew over the settee backwards in a sitting position,” he said in his biography, Billy, written by Pamela.

Putting a characteristic positive spin on the horrendous situation he added: “It was fabulous. Just like real flying, except you didn't get a cup of tea or a safety belt or anything." -

When Billy was six his unmarried aunt Mona, now 41, gave birth to a son, Michael, who was to be brought up as their "brother" and living space became even tighter, forcing Billy to share a sofabed with his father.

At the age of ten Billy woke up to find he was being “interfered with" by his dad.

The sexual abuse would continue until Billy was 15 and the family moved to a bigger flat, in Drumchapel, where they had separate bed.

“The most awful thing was that it was kind of pleasant, physically, you know,” he said in Billy. “That's why nobody tells. 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.

“I would pray for the holidays. I couldn't wait for us to go to the seaside because then we had separate beds.”

Comedy career began after falling in a puddle
The two bright spots in Billy’s dark childhood were his big sister - his “guardian angel” - and his ability to make people laugh.

Florence was fiercely protective of her little brother and, on Shrink Rap, he revealed: “Guys say, 'God, your sister... We didn't dare beat you up – your sister was a nightmare'. She used to get after them."

At the age of seven, at Glasgow’s St Peter’s primary, Billy found his calling after falling into a puddle in the playground.

He said: "People found it funny. And it wasn't all that uncomfortable, so I stayed in it longer than I normally would because I really enjoyed the laughing.

“My life was very unhappy at the time, and laughter wasn't something I heard all the time, so it was a joy. And I realised quickly that if you can have an audience this way, life was rather pleasant."

The discovery of his comic talent was to shape the rest of his life, as well as giving him the courage to laugh at adversity - including the double health blow he bravely spoke out about this week.

'I wish I'd liked her. And I wish she'd liked me'
Billy left school at 14 and became a welder in the local shipyard where he was dubbed the “wee yin” by fellow workers - meaning "little one" - the precursor to his famous nickname, the “big yin.”

A year later, while visiting his grandparents in Dunoon, he was told where his mother was living and he cycled straight there but was angry and disappointed when, after a brief hug, she turned him away.

Billy’s life took a turn for the better in the early sixties when he bought an old banjo for £2 10 shillings and formed a comedy skiffle group, The Humblebums, with guitarist Tam Harvey.

At one gig in Dunoon, a woman approached him and told him “I’m your mother” and Billy went back to her house.

Still married to Willie, she now had three daughters and a son but sadly the relationship soon fell apart again.

“The sadness is... She was a very nice woman, but we never got along,” he told Shrink Rap. “We both tried to like each other, and I don't think she liked me very much. I don't regret it, but I'm sad about it. I wish I'd liked her. And I wish she'd liked me."

After the Humblebums split, in 1971, Billy's solo career took off and his fame began to spread - culminating in his first legendary appearance on Parkinson.

He went on to appear on The Secret Policeman’s Ball and star in his own TV shows as well as films, including Mrs Brown, with Judi Dench. In 2017, Billy was knighted.

'I am at the point where the yesteryears mean more than the yesterdays'
Twice married Billy divorced first wife Iris Pressagh in 1985, after 16 years of marriage and took custody of their two children, Jamie and Cara.

The couple had already been separated for four years with the breakdown blamed on heavy drinking on on both sides as well as Billy's burgeoning relationship with Pamela.

As fame continued to grow his addictions spiralled, he started drinking at breakfast to drown out his insecurities as well as taking cocaine.

But after several blackouts and episodes of memory loss he kicked the booze and drugs in 1985.

He later said: “That was frightening. I remember thinking, 'Beware, Billy boy. Beware. All is not well. Do something.'"

Billy’s relationship with fellow comedian Pamela Stephenson, who he married in Fiji in 1989, was a turning point in his life.

The Not The Nine O'Clock News star, who has since trained as a psychologist, has helped him battle his demons and deal with his past, writing two books about him - Billy and Bravemouth.

The couple have three grown up children - Amy, Daisy and Scarlett - and Billy also has two grandchildren, Walter and Barbara, from daughter Cara.

In 2013, the Scottish funnyman was dealt a devastating blow when he was diagnosed with both prostate cancer and Parkinson's on the same day.

In a clip filmed for the Made in Scotland documentary which airs tonight, Billy said: “There is no denying it, I am 75, I have got Parkinson’s and I am at the wrong end of the telescope of life.

“I am at the point where the yesteryears mean more than the yesterdays.”

“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.”

It’s a dark past but one that made him into the legendary performer he is.

It also gave brave Billy the courage to laugh in the face of death.