Sean Connery: How ‘Mr Oddjob’ became 007

Life study of Sean Connery, 1952 by Richard Demarco, with thanks to Giclee UK.

Life study of Sean Connery, 1952 by Richard Demarco, with thanks to Giclee UK.

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THOMAS Sean Connery had more jobs in his early days than you could shake a martini at.

As everybody knows, Sean Connery once delivered milk on the streets of Auld Reekie. It’s just one of those well-known facts and the records are there to prove it.

Sean Connery as a life model. Oil painting by Al Fairweather. PIcture: The University of Edinburgh.

Sean Connery as a life model. Oil painting by Al Fairweather. PIcture: The University of Edinburgh.

Connery was employed on and off by the famous St Cuthbert’s Co-op in his native Fountainbridge for six years up until 1950, but the future screen star was far more versatile than you may have bargained for.

Many can still recall the days Sir Sean, or Tam if you will, saved young dudes and damsels in distress as a lifeguard at Porty Pool, or the nights he kept Fountainbridge’s Palais de Danse lout-free as a doorman.

And lots of folk have heard all about his days driving lorries, his time as an anti-aircraft gunner with the Royal Navy, and (rather bizarrely), his job polishing coffins for J&T Scott!

Lesser known, however, was Tam’s three-month stint at the Edinburgh College of Art as a life model in early 1952. It wasn’t exactly an earner, but it would turn out to be the role which changed Connery’s life forever.

As an artist’s model he was the perfect example of a young Greek God

Richard Demarco

As chance would have it, Richard Demarco, one of Scotland’s most celebrated artists and cultural figures of the 20th century, was at art college studying life drawing the very same year 21-year-old Connery was a life model. Demarco produced several oil paintings of a semi-naked Connery - a fine example of one accompanies this article.

Now, it may sound like a remarkable coincidence that two of the nation’s most successful individuals of the last 100 years could cross paths in such a way - and it was - but the pair were no strangers, as Mr Demarco explains: “I’d known Tommy, as I called him, for years. He was a childhood friend and I used to see him a lot at my father’s coffee shop near Fountainbridge.

“I was a student at the art college at the same time he was a life model. He inspired me.

“You weren’t supposed to talk to the artist’s models, but I got away with it because I knew him. He and I used to spend lunch breaks together.

Life study of Sean Connery, 1952 by Richard Demarco.

Life study of Sean Connery, 1952 by Richard Demarco.

“He was down on his luck having left the navy due to problems with his ulcers - but as an artist’s model he was the perfect example of a young Greek God.

Then, one day, Demarco made a suggestion to Connery, one which would prove pivotal in the young man’s life.

“I told him he could be earning three times as much money standing still - not for one hour - but for just ten minutes.

“There was a production on at the King’s in Edinburgh, ‘Sixty Glorious Years’ starring Anna Nagle, and they were looking for tall, young guys to be guardsmen with the classic red uniform and busby hat for a scene set outside Buckingham Palace. Sean was 6 feet tall and I thought he’d be a great fit.

“The show took him the full length of Britain, and led to him later being handed the role in South Pacific.”

Richard Demarco’s suggestion resulted in Sean Connery’s first paid acting job. Ten years later Dr No was released, and the rest, ‘ash they shay’, is history.

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