Remembering Sir Sean Connery: Film studio and awards among proposed memorials

A film studio, memorial at his Fountainbridge birthplace and pictorial tribute at the Edinburgh theatre where he worked as a bouncer have been proposed to commemorate the life of Sir Sean Connery.

Sir Sean Connery unveiling a plaque to mark the site of his birthplace in 2010. Picture: Jane Barlow
Sir Sean Connery unveiling a plaque to mark the site of his birthplace in 2010. Picture: Jane Barlow

Sir Sean’s close association with the Scottish capital – where he received the Freedom of the City in 1991 and was knighted by the Queen in 2000 – has prompted calls for a permanent reminder of his legacy.

Other ideas included an award for young actors and a bursary for writers about the nation’s heritage, while the Edinburgh International Film Festival is planning tribute screenings to its former patron in cinemas next year.

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Richard Demarco, an Edinburgh-based artist and friend of Sir Sean’s since childhood, said a film studio would be the most appropriate memorial.

The Empire Theatre in 1961 where Sir Sean worked as a bouncer.

Sir Sean’s son Jason, an actor and director himself, is already developing a film and TV studio in a former factory complex in Leith.

Mr Demarco said: “There should be a memorial and it should be in the form of a film studio – it would be the best possible memorial.”

He said it would help repay Sir Sean’s past generosity in supporting the arts in his homeland, such as his establishment of the Scottish International Education Trust in the early 1970s.

It continues to support students showing “exceptional ability and promise”.

Sir Sean Connery after being knighted by the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in 2000. Picture: David Cheskin/PA.

Mr Demarco said: “It has helped the lives of young Scots so they don’t have to leave Scotland.“

The artist is also planning an online exhibition chronicling where Sir Sean and his lives touched, from playing football together in Portobello and the actor posing as a life model for him at Edinburgh College of Art.

Filmmaker Murray Grigor, who worked on several documentaries with Sir Sean, said the film studio should be named after him.

He said: “He [Jason] might be embarrassed, but I think it should be – call that the Sir Sean Connery film studio.

"It would be good for fundraising.”

Historian Owen Dudley Edwards said maintaining a memorial where Sir Sean was born was crucial.

Flowers have been left beside a plaque in what is now Melvin Walk, off Fountainbridge, which marks where his childhood home once stood.

Mr Dudley Edwards, a former reader in history at the University of Edinburgh, said: “The important thing is to keep the memorial in Fountainbridge.

"He kept up with it.

"I remember speaking to a working men’s club and they said ‘Big Tam’, as they called him [Thomas was his first name], was always very proud of remembering where he came from, and would foregather with them when he got back to Edinburgh.

"You could also have a series of pictures put up at the Festival Theatre because he was once a bouncer there.

"That would link his Edinburgh and Hollywood associations.”

Mr Dudley Edwards said Sir Sean’s Irish background should also not be forgotten – his great grandparents emigrated to Scotland.

"He was originally ‘Big Tam’ Connery, as he was known to his pals, but taking the name Sean was a reminder that he is a blend of both Ireland and Scotland.

"The mix of Ireland and Scotland is something really worthwhile remembering.”

Professor Sir Tom Devine, the Sir William Fraser Professor emeritus of Scottish history and palaeography at the University of Edinburgh, suggested an award for writers.

He said: “I had a conversation several years ago with Sir Sean at a dinner in Bute House and was impressed by his great interest in his country’s history and culture.

“In my view, a fitting memorial for him would therefore be to launch a fundraising drive to establish a trust to run a scheme of fellowships and bursaries administered by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s national academy of letters and sciences.

"The competitions would be open to writers in any area of the nation’s culture, heritage and history.

"A key element might be that awardees would have to give a public lecture on their work.

Andrew Barrie, chairman of FetLor Youth Club in Edinburgh, which Sir Sean attended in the 1930s and 40s, said an award in his name should be established to boost youngsters’ confidence.

In his 2008 memoir, Being a Scot, Sir Sean recalled that playing football for FetLor Amateurs gave him the “rare luxury of a hot bath”.

Mr Barrie said: “Everyone will long remember Sir Sean as an accomplished actor – a profession which requires the confidence that’s often absent for the young people we come across who are struggling in life.

“We hope that when Sir Sean joined FetLor’s football team, he was given the boost he needed to go on and achieve things beyond his wildest dreams.

“It would be fitting for the city to establish a young people’s award in Sir Sean’s name, one that would help empower Edinburgh’s teenagers and give them the confidence to go on develop the skills and attributes they need to flourish in life.

"This would be a truly fitting remembrance to the energetic young Sean Connery who went on and achieved so much.”

An Edinburgh International Film Festival spokesperson said: “A true cinematic icon, he was one of Edinburgh’s most famous sons.

"Once the cinemas are allowed to reopen, we plan to host a special tribute to Sir Sean Connery and his career.”

Edinburgh City Council said it was likely to discuss a memorial at its next full council meeting.

Lord Provost Frank Ross said: “Edinburgh has lost one of its most world-renowned sons.

“Sir Sean won a huge local fan base for putting Edinburgh firmly on the map and in 1991 he was awarded Freedom of the City, the most prestigious honour bestowed by the council.

“Throughout his extraordinary lifetime, he showed great appreciation for his native city and its people, returning home often, making appearances at our festivals, unveiling a monument to Robert Louis Stevenson and attending the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.”

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