HISTORY is a very serious thing, but sometimes it can be a bit po-faced. There must have been humour back in Scotland ’s day, but it’s not very often recorded.

So this Sunday’s column is going to break the mould by marking not just a momentous day in modern Scottish cultural history but also by trying to make you laugh.

That’s because the subject of this column is the late, great Chic Murray, the centenary of whose birth takes place this week. A true original and arguably the most influential Scottish comedian of the 20th century before Billy Connolly – and Connolly called him his hero – Chic’s unique blend of humorous storytelling and witty one-liners made him a legend among fans and comedians alike. Indeed, he was named The Comedian’s Comedian in 2005, 20 years after his death.

Let’s get the prosaic facts out of the road first: Charles Thomas McKinnon Murray was born in Greenock on November 6, 1919. Prosaic? Nah! He would tell his kids he was born on November 5 and the fireworks and bonfires were to celebrate his birthday.

Chic began his working life as an apprentice in the local Kincaid Shipyard but he was already trying to break into showbusiness, playing piano in amateur and semi-professional groups, one of which was called Chic And His Chicks. By that time his future wife Maidie Dickson was already a seasoned professional having worked on stage since the age of four.

She was a glamorous and very fine accordion player who had appeared on the same bills as Will Fyfe and Sir Harry Lauder in the heyday of the music hall scene.

In 1944 Maidie was due on stage for eight weeks at the Greenock Empire, but she couldn’t find digs until she was taken in by Chic’s mother Isabella, who was the local welfare officer.

Maidie often said it was love at first sight and the couple were married at St Giles Cathedral in Maidie’s native city of Edinburgh in 1945. They would have two children, Annabelle and Douglas.

As she was the star, Maidie led the way in creating a double act which was dubbed “The Tall Droll With The Small Moll” – he was 6ft 3ins, she was 4ft 11ins. The act basically consisted of Maidie singing and playing the accordion and Chic interrupting with jokes and patter, his contribution growing as they worked the variety circuit for the next 25 years, gradually becoming top-of-the-bill acts at some of the most prestigious theatres and music halls in the UK.

The pinnacle of their careers would have been the Royal Variety Show of 1956 for which they were selected only for the event to be cancelled due to the Suez Crisis. They appeared on television and radio and their summer seasons around England were always successful.

After Maidie retired in the late 1960s – she would stay as his manager and go on to run the Chic Murray Hotel in Bruntsfield in Edinburgh – the Tall Droll carried on without the Small Doll and always topped by his famous bunnet, he developed a routine that was replete with surreal wit and a fine sense of the absurd.

He appeared in films such as the James Bond spoof Casino Royale and Gregory’s Girl in which he played the piano as the head teacher – “off you go you small boys”.

He memorably played alongside Dame Judi Dench in the acclaimed TV film Saigon: Year Of The Cat in 1983, and made several appearances on chat shows, though we will draw a kind veil over his disastrous Hogmanay first footing appearance.

His stage career took another turn when he played the legendary Bill Shankly in the musical play You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Chic was as funny in real life as he was on stage. He did have a dubious relationship with alcohol, and could be a bit grumpy at times, but never for long. He had many friends in showbusiness and plenty off stage, including Catholic priest Father Joe Mills.

Chic and Maidie divorced in 1972 but remained firm friends until his death from a perforated ulcer at the age of 65 on January 29, 1985. He had tried to get home to Maidie but didn’t arrive till late and not wanting to wake her he was let in by a neighbour. It was later discovered that he had died in the room adjacent to Maidie’s bedroom.

Thanks to Vale of Leven Bowling Club who have a page dedicated to Chic on their website, we can recall some of his best lines… “My father was a simple man. My mother was a simple woman. You see the result standing in front of you, a simpleton.”

“I met this cowboy with a brown paper hat, paper waistcoat and paper trousers. He was wanted for rustling.”

“She had been married so often she bought a drip-dry wedding dress.”

“My wife went to a beauty parlour and got a mud pack. For two days she looked nice, then the mud fell off. She’s a classy girl though, at least all her tattoos are spelt right.”

“I knocked and the woman opened the door in her night dress. I thought to myself at the time what a strange place to have a door.”

“The police stopped me when I was out in my car. They told me it was a spot check. I admitted to two pimples and a boil.”

And so many more.

The poet Norman McCaig once suggested that the death of his friend Hugh MacDiarmid should be marked not by two minutes’ silence, but two minutes’ pandemonium. On Wednesday to mark Chic Murray’s centenary we should all award ourselves two minutes’ laughter in his memory.