Johnny Mac

IN our new stage play Liam Dolan and I play Francie and Josie. I play Josie, Rikki Fulton’s role, while Liam is Francie, which was Jack Milroy’s role.

Many years ago, Liam and I put on a variety show, part of which paid tribute to Francie and Josie – their dancing sketch and their Arbroath gag, a 15-minute routine in which Josie, whom Francie has bigged up as a great joke-teller, tries to tell a joke but keeps getting it wrong, so Francie has to take over.

Fast forward to 2015, and Liam was doing a show in Kilmarnock and said it would be a surprise for the audience if we performed as Francie and Josie. Mary Lee, Jack’s widow, was in the audience and afterwards she told us it was fantastic and we should take it on tour.

The show has gone down well with young and old. The older people remember the original duo and with our careers in panto we bring a younger audience as well.

The wigs and suits are just like Jack and Rikki’s and it helps that Liam and I are of a similar build to them.

Francie and Josie were timeless comedy. They were never smutty. Their word play, which was written by Rikki, is superb. In a live situation we’re hoping to take the more senior audience members down memory lane. You can feel the warmth radiating from them before we’ve even opened our mouths. People who saw them or worked with them have told us how much they appreciate what we’re doing. Mary Lee said it’s as close to the originals as you can get, and that was amazing to hear.

I grew up with Francie and Josie. When my gran came to live with us I would play her tapes of them and re-enact the routines. And I was lucky enough to see them play the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988.

Liam and I would love to do Francie and Josie on television. The tours we have done across Scotland have been to packed theatres, and there’s definitely an audience for it.

Jack and Rikki, of course, are no longer with us; Jack passed away in 2001 and Rikki three years later. To be able to do Francie and Josie’s gallus walk, or the “Are ye dancin’? Are ye askin’?” sketch for two hours is a real honour. It doesn’t feel like work when you are doing that sort of show. The rehearsals are where the hard work is, but when you’re on the stage you feel a sense of responsbility to get it right.

In the show’s second half I also appear as Reverend IM Jolly, Rikki’s legendary minister from the Scotch & Wry Hogmanay shows. When we were researching the rights for Francie and Josie we discovered the rights for a lot of Rikki’s material

had been left with the SSPCA but they were happy to give us the rights for the IM Jolly stuff in return for a donation. I come out and do a sermon, and it goes down brilliantly well.

The Francie and Josie Tribute Show tours from October 4 to 7, visiting Falkirk, Stirling, Rutherglen and East Kilbride