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 and decided to enter the world of acting after a backstage visit at the Glasgow Pavilion Theatre. In 1941, aged 17, 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. When the bank pulled money from their enterprise, however, 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, which 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 Scotland.
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 I.M. Jolly, a dour minister prone to inappropriate television conversations. The series began in 1978 and continued for 15 years, and was 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 re-booked 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 10 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, who appeared with him 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 and they married 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 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. He grew to depend on Kate more and more until, eventually, it was decided he move 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 Quayside, Fulton died peacefully on 27 January 2004, aged 79 years.
Fulton's funeral took place six 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 featured tributes from Fulton's widow Kate Matheson and Tony Roper. Symington had previously collaborated with Fulton on the book, For God's Sake, Ask!. Both Rikki and his Kate were strong supporters of the Scottish SPCA, which received a financial donation following Fulton's funeral. A Scottish SPCA inspector represented the animal welfare organisation at the service.
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".
Supercop a frequently dimwitted traffic cop who rides a motorbike, his trademark is how he removes his goggles (pings off and flies off camera), is often getting into more trouble than those he stops. Carries a small pocket sized notepad and pencil.
Rev. I.M Jolly a very downtrodden and pessimistic minister of the Church of Scotland, presents a fictional show "Last Call" where he has a heart to heart with the audience where he tells them what he has been up to that week. his tone is always low-key and down beat.
Dickie Dandruff owner of "The Fourways Café" also goes by the moniker "The Gallowgate Gourmet" and presents a cooking segment called "Dirty Dick's Delicat'messen" where he prepares food in comedic style from his filthy café kitchen in the Gallowgate area of Glasgow.
- As per birth and death, recorded on ScotlandsPeople
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- Fulton, Kate (2004). Rikki & Me. Black and White Publishings. p. 256. ISBN 1-84502-003-0.