David Mullen looks back at the life and career of the late, great actor.
We were saddened recently to learn of the passing of one of Scotland’s greatest and most famous exports, the veteran actor Sean Connery. His was a glittering career which brought him global stardom, awards and some of the biggest roles in the business, but it was one which had humble beginnings.
Thomas Sean Connery was born in August, 1930 in Edinburgh into a working-class family. His mother, Euphemia, was a cleaner, and his father, Joseph, a factory worker and descendant of James Connery, an Irish Traveller who had emigrated to Scotland from County Wexford in the nineteenth century.
Thomas grew up in a one-room tenement with a shared toilet and no hot water. During his school days, people began to refer to ‘Tommy’ by his middle name, Sean, though the moniker ‘Big Tam’ was also appropriate considering his 6ft 2in height.
He took his first job as a milkman in Edinburgh around the age of fifteen, and, at sixteen, Connery joined the Royal Navy before being forced to retire at nineteen on medical grounds. The next few years of Connery’s life were eventful, working again as a milkman, coffin polisher and artist’s model as well as a labourer, lorry driver and lifeguard.
The football manager Matt Busby, having seen him play, even offered him a £25 a week contract with Manchester United, a chance he declined.
It was while taking-part in a body-building competition in 1953 that Connery heard about auditions for a touring stage production of South Pacific in which he landed the part of a chorus boy, his first acting role.
He began to develop an interest in theatre and, taking elocution lessons to counter his strong accent, he appeared in several plays in London. His first film appearance was as an extra in the 1954 picture Lilacs in the Spring, though greater success would be some time coming for the young jobbing actor.