Billy McColl

Last updated 09 January 2020

Billy McColl (1951-2014)
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William Collins

Born: Thursday 15th November 1951
Died: Wednesday 1st January 2014 (age: 62)


Born in Hamilton, Scotland, William Collins was brought up in Fife, attending Leven's Parkhill Primary school and Kirkland High school, before doing a City&Guilds course on mechanics whilst under apprenticeship at Harris Garage  in Leven. He also joined a local acting group and then went on to study acting at Mountview Theatre School between 1973 and 1976. Becoming a professional actor he took on the name Billy McColl as there was already an Equity member with his own name.

His first major role came in theatre playing Phil McCann in John Byrne's The Slab Boys in its original run at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre; he continued the role at other venues including the Edinburgh Festival and London's Royal Court, the latter of which led to a Olivier Award nomination for Most Promising Newcomer of the Year in Theatre. Byrne himself described him as the best actor of his generation.

Though his film and television career encompassed a wide range of drama, including Doctor Who of course, he also appeared in a lot of Scottish-based drama such as TaggartRebus, Hamish McBethRab C Nesbitt, Jute City, and also in the film Soft Top Hard Shoulder, written by and starring Peter Capaldi. He also presented a one-man show on stage, Creative Fire, about Robert Burns.

Outside of acting, he was an expert gardener, setting up Billy Collins Gardening in the early 2000s. He also enjoyed sculpting.

He died on the 1st January 2014, with his funeral taking place on the 18th. He is survived by his daughter Maud.

Biography based upon details provided by his obituary in The Scotsman.