Curator James Wylie installing Billy Connolly's 2019 Grand Marshall Kilt in the Tartan Exhibition

Sir Billy Connolly lends kilt to Tartan exhibition in Dundee

For immediate release: 13 October 2023


Sir Billy Connolly has sent his famous Tartan Day kilt to Dundee to be added to the People’s Tartan collection at V&A Dundee.


The kilt, worn by Sir Billy in 2019 when he led a procession of 3000 people through New York for the annual Tartan Day parade, will go on display from today, (Friday 13 October) until 14 January as part of V&A Dundee’s blockbuster Tartan exhibition.


Labelled in the exhibition as, “The Big Yin’s Grand Marshal kilt”, it’s the latest object to be added to the People’s Tartan, a collection of objects displayed throughout the Tartan exhibition following a public appeal asking people to donate their tartan treasures to represent the personal stories of people from Scotland and beyond.


The kilt designed and made for Sir Billy by Edinburgh-based kilt-maker, Howie Nicholsby is made with the McLean of Duart tartan - which was Sir Billy’s mother’s tartan – with a contrasting Smoking Skulls lining.


Sir Billy Connolly said, "I like to wear my mother’s tartan. It is McLean of Duart and I love this pinky, weathered one.


"For the occasion when I led the Tartan Parade in New York, a Scottish kilt-maker called Howie Nicolsby made me a fantastic kilt. He's at the head of the movement to make the kilt a Windswept and Interesting alternative to trousers all over the world. I love that!


“When I was a boy in Glasgow, people who wore kilts were thought of as weird. When we saw someone in a kilt we used to follow them, singing: “Kilty, kilty cold bum!” But when the Boy Scouts started to wear kilts the idea of kilt wearing took a leap forward as far as we were concerned.


“Over the years it has become very popular, so now it’s the done thing to wear a kilt at your wedding. On the other hand, when I got married to Pamela it was in Fiji and I had a Fijian sarong painted like a tartan kilt…well, in that heat a woollen one would have been nightmarish!

“There’s more nonsense talked about the kilt than anything else in Scotland. People say, you can’t wear your mother’s tartan, and you can’t do this or wear that tartan. They’re just speaking out of a hole in their head.” “I love the way the kilt is going. I love the new styles of the jackets and the plaids and so on. Leather kilts and all sorts of fabrics.”


James Wylie, curator at V&A Dundee (pictured) said, "Billy is arguably the most famous Scot around today, so to include his kilt in the exhibition along with his thoughts on tartan is a rare chance. His identity starts as a Scot but it really doesn't end there, and I think that parallels where we find tartan today - now it really is a global textile."


Howie Nicholsby of 21st Century Kilts in Edinburgh said, “Fitting Sir Billy for his Grand Marshal NYC Tartan Day Parade with his MacLean Tartan KiltSuit was an honour that will live with me forever. I’m so pleased Billy’s kilt is now going on display at V&A Dundee for people to see. Thank you Billy and Pamela for always being epic!”


The People’s Tartan is a collection of 20 objects displayed throughout the exhibition and includes a 1976 Hillman Imp Caledonian car with tartan interior submitted by Paul Coulter; Sheena Hall’s father’s Tartan Army scarf from 1978; a necktie made with the first Jewish registered tartan in Scotland submitted by Joe Goldblatt, alongside athlete Eilish McColgan’s kilt worn at the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony in Birmingham in 2022.


Along with Sir Billy Connolly’s kilt, two additional objects will also be added to the People’s Tartan in October. A kilt featuring the Spirit of Ukraine tartan from Scottish charity, Siobhan’s Trust and a tartan outfit designed for drag performer and visual artist, Cheddar Gorgeous.  The outfit for Cheddar Gorgeous was designed by East-Lothian born designer Owen Edward Snaith and made by Alloa-based weaver Taffled Threads. Cheddar Gorgeous, who competed in the fourth series of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK recently wore the bespoke tartan outfit as part of a photo shoot on HMS Unicorn in Dundee in August 2023.