Great Scots

Sir Sean Connery: James Bond legend and Scottish great

We reflect on Sir Sean Connery’s Scottish roots following his death, aged 90 years old, on 31st October 2020

Born on 25 August 1930 in the Fountainbridge district of Edinburgh, Sir Thomas Sean Connery landed his career-defining role as James Bond in the Sixties. As the original actor to portray Ian Fleming’s protagonist, Bond not only made Connery, but Connery made Bond too.

When first cast, Ian Fleming, author of the fictional spy series, is believed to have said: “I’m looking for Commander Bond and not an overgrown stuntman,” adding that the rugged Scotsman was “unrefined”. However, he was obviously as won over as Connery’s fans eventually, as Fleming later invented Scottish ancestry for the character in his subsequent books. In the more recent Skyfall (2012) film, Daniel Craig’s James Bond travels to Glen Coe to his family estate in the Highlands.

Connery went on to star in seven Bond films between 1962 and 1983: Dr No (1962), From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and Never Say Never Again (1983). Yet his career was further reaching than that, later appearing in Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964), Highlander (1986), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) among many others.

His success was far from cut and dried in the beginning, however. Connery’s paternal great-grandparents had emigrated to Scotland from Ireland in the mid-19th century, and his maternal great-grandparents were native Scottish Gaelic speakers from Fife and Uig on Skye. His father, Joseph Connery, was a lorry driver and factory worker, and his mother, Effie (nee McLean), a cleaner. Sir Sean Connery – known as Tommy’ and ‘Big Tam’ at school – himself was a Jack of all trades to begin with: a former milkman, lorry driver, laborer, artist’s model for the Edinburgh College of Art, coffin polisher and bodybuilder.

Having spent little time in education, at 16 Connery enlisted in the Royal Navy, though he was discharged when he suffered with stomach ulcers after a couple of years. Tattoos from this time read “Mum and Dad” and “Scotland Forever”.

He was still just 23 when he began acting. His first major credit came in the form of 1957 British gangster film No Road Back and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

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