Jimmy Boyle (artist)

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James Boyle (born 17 May 1944) is a Scottish gangster and convicted murderer who became a sculptor and novelist after his release from prison.


In 1967, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of another gangland figure, William "Babs" Rooney, but released after 14 years. He has always denied killing Rooney but has acknowledged having been a violent and sometimes ruthless moneylender from the Gorbals, one of the roughest areas of Glasgow. During his incarceration in the special unit of Barlinnie Prison, he turned to art and wrote an autobiography, A Sense of Freedom (1977), which has since been filmed and starred David Hayman as Jimmy.[1] Boyle always maintained his innocence.[2]

Upon his release from prison on 26 October 1981 he moved to Edinburgh to continue his artistic career. He designed the largest concrete sculpture in Europe called "Gulliver" for the Craigmillar Festival Society in 1976.[3]

In 1983, Boyle set up the Gateway Exchange with his wife, Sarah, and artist Evlynn Smith; a charitable organisation offering art therapy workshops to recovering drug addicts and ex-convicts. Though the project secured funding from private sources (including Sean Connery, Billy Connolly and John Paul Getty) it lasted only a few years.[4]

Boyle has published Pain of Confinement: Prison Diaries (1984), and a novel, Hero of the Underworld (1999). The latter was adapted for a French film, La Rage et le Rêve des Condamnés (The Anger and Dreams of the Condemned), and won the best documentary prize at the Fifa Montreal awards in 2002. He also wrote a novel, A Stolen Smile, which is about the theft of the Mona Lisa and how it ends up hidden on a Scottish housing estate. It was rumoured that Disney bought the film rights but Boyle has denied that.[5][6][7]

In 1998, he was named as a financial donor of the Labour Party.[8]

The character Nicky Dryden in the 1999 film The Debt Collector is reportedly loosely based on Boyle.[9]

He lives between France and Morocco with his second wife, Kate Fenwick, a British actress.[10][11] They married in Marrakech, Morocco on 27 October 2007.


  1. ^ McGlone, Jackie (26 September 1992). "Stop the world, I want to change it". The Herald. Glasgow. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  2. ^ "Jimmy Boyle's life less ordinary". BBC News. 27 August 1999. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  3. ^ Laughlan, Kim (10 July 2010). "Boyle sculpture expected to fetch £20,000 at auction". The Herald. Glasgow. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  4. ^ "Obituary: Evlynn Smith". Archived from the original on 24 June 2007. Retrieved 22 April 2017., Daily Telegraph; accessed 19 October 2007.
  5. ^ "Scotland on Sunday". Scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com. Archived from the original on 6 May 2005. Retrieved 31 July 2010.
  6. ^ Cramb, Auslan (10 November 2003). "Disney in £2m deal for novel by Jimmy Boyle". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  7. ^ "French fall for Glasgow hardman". BBC News. 17 November 2002. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  8. ^ "'Luvvies' for Labour". BBC News. 30 August 1998. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
  9. ^ Kelly, Richard. "The Debt Collector". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  10. ^ Sherwood, Seth (21 October 2007). "In Marrakesh, Homes Among the Palm Groves". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  11. ^ Harrison, Anthony (16 February 2007). "Je ne regrette riad". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 July 2014.

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