Edinburgh steps and pathway named in honour of Muriel Spark

Dame Muriel Spark, Edinburgh's best-known female novelist, is to be honoured in her home city to coincide with the 100th anniversary of her birth.

The Vennel in Edinburgh will have a commemorative plaque. Photograph: Steven Scott Taylor

A pathway in Bruntsfield and a flight of steps off the Grassmarket will be named after the author and her most famous character, Jean Brodie.

Council chiefs have agreed to recognise the author next week as part of a year of celebrations to mark the centenary of her birth in the city.

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The National Library has already played host to a exhibition charting the life and legacy of Spark, who died 12 years ago.

The Vennel in Edinburgh will have a commemorative plaque. Photograph: Steven Scott Taylor

Born in Edinburgh as Muriel Camberg, she lived on Bruntsfield Place and attended the then James Gillespie’s High School for Girls, where one of her teachers, Christina Kay, was to provide the inspiration for her best-known novel, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie.

Pupils from the existing primary and high school are being invited to attend a picnic on Bruntsfield Links on Friday to celebrate the official unveiling of Muriel Spark Walk.

The pathway, which links Bruntsfield Terrace and Whitehouse Loan, will pass close to the site of Spark’s high school.

The previous day the council will be erecting signs for the Miss Jean Brodie steps and a commemorative plaque at the Vennel, which connects Keir Street and the Grassmarket.

Maggie Smith stars in the 1969 movie The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie. Picture: 20th Century Fox/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

The site is one of several prominent locations used for the filming of the 1969 big-screen adaption of The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, which featured Dame Maggie Smith in the titular role.

Melanie Main, who represents Bruntsfield, said: “The city hasn’t named anything at all after Muriel Spark so far. Bruntsfield is where she lived and where she walked to school.

“Everyone in the area knows that she was one of the local residents. People are very happy to claim her and celebrate her. I think there is maybe a generation that is a bit lost on her.”

Claire Miller, who represents the Grassmarket, added: “This idea has apparently been suggested for the steps before over the years, but has never really picked up traction. It just seemed a really obvious time to do it as we are celebrating Muriel Spark this year.

Muriel Spark was born in Edinburgh and attended James Gillespie's High School for Girls. Picture: Sipa Press/REX/Shutterstock

“I’m quite keen to see more of our amazing women recognised in our streets.”

Spark left the city aged 19 when she met and married Sydney Oswald Spark, and the couple moved to Southern Rhodesia. She moved to London in 1944 when the marriage broke up shortly after the birth of their son, Robin.

Determined to carve out a writing career, Spark took a job with the British intelligence service, producing what she later described as “a tangled mixture of damaging lies, flattering and plausible truths.”

Her experience of crafting effective propaganda for MI6 is thought to have heavily influenced some of her books.