Real lives: Bill is set to risk the wrist for festive West End Jam

Bill Barclay will appear on stage next Thursday
Bill Barclay will appear on stage next Thursday
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A VETERAN entertainer and actor is to make a one-off return to the stage to sing his most famous hit.

Bill Barclay, comedian and former Radio Forth presenter, is recovering from a wrist operation and will make his only appearance of the year next Thursday.

The 68-year-old will perform his popular festive song 12 Days of Christmas, a parody of the carol featuring a man receiving increasing amounts of alcohol as he sings through the song.

It reached number one in the Scottish charts in 1974, number 52 overall in the UK, and was later recorded by Jasper Carrott.

He will sing it at the Ghillie Dhu in Rutland Place as part of its “legends” jam night – a free-of-charge event which will also feature Shorty Rogers.

Barnton comic Barclay – who last month underwent surgical treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome – wrote the song as a joke.

“We were always writing wee folk songs like this and it became popular,” he said. “I initially recorded it in a garage in Paisley in 1968 and it’s changed a fair bit over the years.”

Although the trick is to sound increasingly drunk as the song goes on through the 12 days, culminating in 12 Alka Seltzer tablets after a cocktail of “heavy”, gin and whisky, Barclay revealed the real secret to its perfect delivery.

“You have to be completely sober,” he said. “It’s harder to do than it sounds, but it certainly wouldn’t work if you started off drunk.”

His performance of the song at the Reading Festival in the 1970s – in front of 60,000 people – was spotted by Rod Stewart’s producer, who invited him to record an album.

He subsequently toured with and befriended the world-famous crooner.

Acting has also helped boost his profile; he has appeared in the Gangs of New York, Rab C Nesbitt and Taggart.

His return to the Edinburgh live music circuit after 40 years in entertainment is a welcome one. Although the surgery is still recent, he is optimistic he can perform.

“I’m a bit stiff but I’m sure I’ll be okay for one song,” he said.

“I’ve not played all year because of this wrist and it’s mainly the after-dinner speaking I do now – all you have to do for that is tell a few gags and get fed.”

Those behind the West End Jam were delighted to secure him for the rare appearance.

Organiser Sandy Tweeddale said: “The 12 Days Of Christmas is fondly remembered by many as the mark of Christmas, and we are delighted Bill has agreed to come and play it for us live.

“Bill has been recovering from a wrist operation so, all being well this will be the only chance to hear him play his chart-topping song live this festive period.”

The West End Jam is free, and starts at 9pm on December 29 at the Ghillie Dhu’s main bar.