Fulton as painted by Thomas Kluge in 1997
|Born||Robert Kerr Fulton
15 April 1924
|Died||27 January 2004
|Spouse(s)||Ethel Scott (1949–1968)
Kate Matheson (1969; his death)
Robert Kerr "Rikki" Fulton, OBE (15 April 1924 – 27 January 2004) was a Scottish comedian and actor best remembered for writing and performing in the long-running BBC Scotland sketch show, Scotch and Wry. He was also known for his appearances as one half of the double act, Francie and Josie, alongside Jack Milroy. Suffering from Alzheimer's disease in his later years, Fulton died in 2004, aged 79 years.
The youngest of three brothers, Robert Kerr Fulton was born into a non-theatrical family at 46 Appin Road, Dennistoun, Glasgow. Fulton's mother, who was 40 at the time of his birth, developed severe postpartum depression. Due to this, Fulton grew up a "solitary child" and developed a "voracious reading habit" throughout his childhood. His father was a master locksmith who changed professions, purchasing a newsagent and stationery shop at 28 Roebank Street, Dennistoun. At the age of three, Fulton and his family moved to Riddrie, another district of Glasgow. There he attended the local primary school, but later returned to Dennistoun, for his secondary education, at Whitehill Secondary School.
Fulton completed his education in 1939 deciding to enter the world of acting, after a backstage visit at the Glasgow Pavilion Theatre. In 1941, aged seventeen, Fulton joined the Royal Navy. The following year, he was posted to HMS Ibis but that November, the sloop was sunk in the Bay of Algiers. Fulton spent five hours in the water before being rescued. He later joined the Coastal Forces for D-Day, travelling back and forth between Gosport and Arromanches with vital supplies. In 1945, four years after signing up, Fulton was invalided out of the Navy due to blackouts, leaving with the rank of sub-lieutenant.
Fulton began his professional acting career as a straight actor, mostly appearing in repertory theatre and BBC Radio, including The Gowrie Conspiracy in 1947. He also maintained a secondary job in the stationery business with his brothers. However, when the bank pulled money from their enterprise, Fulton gave his full attention to his acting career. In the early 1950s, Fulton moved to London and became the compère of The Show Band Show, working alongside the likes of singer Frank Sinatra. After a short period, Fulton returned to Scotland to perform for Howard & Wyndham Ltd in pantomime from 1956 at the Alhambra Theatre, Glasgow with Jimmy Logan and Kenneth McKellar followed by the Five Past Eight summer revues with Stanley Baxter and Fay Lenore. In 1960 he headlined in the new Scottish pantomime A Wish for Jamie, with Kenneth McKellar and Fay Lenore premiered at the Alhambra Theatre Glasgow, and in its sequel A Love for Jamie which ran for three consecutive winters.  He starred in pantomime and Five Past Eight in Edinburgh and Aberdeen. While working at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh, Fulton met comedian Jack Milroy. Together, they created a stage double act named "Francie and Josie", two teddy boys from Glasgow. In one of his first forays into television, Fulton brought the act to television in 1962's Scottish Television series, The Adventures of Francie and Josie. The series established both Fulton and Milroy as household names in their native country. In 1970 and 1989, Fulton and Milroy were named Scotland's "Light Entertainers of the Year".
Fulton continued to perform regularly in pantomime and in straight theatre, mostly notably with the Royal Lyceum Company in Edinburgh and the Scottish Theatre Company based in Glasgow. However, it was the comedy sketch show, Scotch and Wry, that became an institution at Hogmanay. The series featured one of Fulton's most remembered characters, the Reverend IM Jolly, a dour minister prone to inappropriate television conversations. The series began in 1978 and continued for 15 years, shown only once throughout the United Kingdom in 1983. Fulton was named Scottish Television Personality of the Year in 1963 and 1979.
In 1982, Fulton made an appearance in the film, Gorky Park, where he played a KGB officer. Director Michael Apted chose Fulton for the role, because "he [Apted] had never seen such cruel eyes". He also performed in Bill Forsyth's Local Hero and Comfort and Joy. In 1985, under the pseudonym "Rabaith", Fulton, along with Denise Coffey, adapted the French playwright Molière's, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme as A Wee Touch o' Class. He performed in the lead role at that year's Edinburgh Fringe; the Festival rebooked it for the following year and it went on tour throughout Scotland.
Fulton made several guest appearances in other BBC Scotland programmes. Alongside his Scotch and Wry co-stars, Gregor Fisher and Tony Roper, Fulton made two appearances in Rab C. Nesbitt; once in 1988 and ten years later in 1998. In 1992, Fulton was awarded the Order of the British Empire and a year later, the Lifetime Achievement award from BAFTA Scotland. In 1994, he again appeared alongside Fisher as Dan McPhail, The Vital Spark's engineer, in The Tales of Para Handy. In 1996, after 36 years of performing as Francie and Josie, Fulton and Milroy appeared in their "Final Farewell" at the King's Theatre, Glasgow. Milroy later died in 2001, aged 85 years. Fulton's last full performance on television came in 1998, his second appearance in Rab C. Nesbitt. Although he would reprise his famous Rev I.M Jolly character one last time for a short skit  on New Year's Eve 1999 as part of the "Millennium" celebrations. After saying his final goodbye to television, Fulton wrote and published his autobiography, Is It That Time Already?. In 1994, Fulton was awarded an honorary Doctor of Arts from Abertay University, Dundee, in 1995 an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Strathclyde and in 2000, another honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of St Andrews.
Fulton was first married to actress Ethel Scott, with whom he appeared on The Rikki Fulton Show in 1960 and 1961. While separated from their respective partners, Fulton met Audrey Matheson Craig-Brown (known as Kate Matheson), an actress 13 years his junior. Matheson saw Fulton perform in a production of Noël Coward's Hay Fever, but it would be 17 years before they met in person. After one day together, Fulton proposed; the couple marrying in 1969. In 1976, Matheson became pregnant but later lost the baby.
In 1998, Fulton began to display symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. In 2004, his wife Kate recalled "he [Fulton] returned home, and, devastated, told her, "I can't remember lines any more." In 2002, after being diagnosed with the disease, Fulton remained at his own home and fronted that year's Alzheimer Scotland Christmas appeal. However, he grew to depend on his wife more and more. It was decided that Fulton would go into care and was moved into the Quayside nursing home. In 2003, after breaking his hip in a fall, he was admitted to the Western Infirmary and then to Gartnavel Royal Hospital for assessment. After contracting the superbug MRSA, and returning to the Quayside home, Fulton died peacefully in 2004, aged 79 years.
Fulton's death sparked numerous dedications in his memory. The then-BBC Scotland Controller, John McCormick, said "he [Fulton] was a legend for people across the whole country." Fulton's funeral took place 6 days after his death. In tribute to his Scotch and Wry character, Supercop (a police traffic officer), police motorcyclists escorted the funeral cortège as it made its way to Clydebank Crematorium. The Reverend Alastair Symington, who was a close friend of Fulton, led the service, which also featured tributes from Fulton's wife and Tony Roper. Symington had previously collaborated with Fulton on the book, For God's Sake, Ask!. Fulton's widow, Kate Matheson, died in 2005 after completing a book about her relationship with Fulton, entitled Rikki & Me. For her funeral in Glasgow, Matheson requested no black ties should be worn, because "we [she and Fulton] [were] together again". Both Rikki and his wife Kate were both strong supporters of the Scottish SPCA, of which received a financial donation following Fultons funeral. A Scottish SPCA Inspector attended his funeral as a representative of the Animal Wefare Organisation.
- As per birth and death, recorded on ScotlandsPeople
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