How Scottish is James Bond, asks new documentary

JUST how deep do James Bond’s Scottish roots go, asks Emma O’Neill as a new documentary searches out the answer

Sean Connery as James Bond. Picture: Getty Images/AFP
Sean Connery as James Bond. Picture: Getty Images/AFP

ON TODAY’S BBC Radio Scotland, Scottish actor Robbie Coltrane asks: how Scottish is fictional spy hero James Bond? 007’s enigmatic past is often debated among Bond fans. While typically portrayed as an English gentleman, one actor’s portrayal tends to stick in people’s mind: Sean Connery.

Coltrane’s documentary recalls how Ian Fleming’s childhood was spent travelling to his Scottish grandfather’s mini-estate in Arnestdale in the Highlands even after his father was killed during WWI (his mother thought it was important to retain their Scottish links).

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Fleming started working as Admiral John Godfrey’s assistant in the 1930s, and during WWII came into contact with many men in the intelligence services.

Scottish MP Sir Fitzroy Maclean in February 1990. It was suggested his friend Ian Fleming used him as the model for James Bond

Many believe that the character of Bond was based on Sir Fitzroy Maclean, a Scottish soldier, writer and politician. Outgoing and charismatic, he embodied many of Bond’s better qualities.

Another argument made is that Bond is a projection of Fleming’s foiled ambition. Vexed by not being allowed to join the front line during WWII, some argue that the creation of Bond was wish-fufillment.

Both Bond and Fleming started their teen years without a father, both with Scottish heritage in the family – Fleming’s third Bond novel asserts that 007’s father was a Scot.

But Fleming himself disputed both of these claims, insisting that he was just an amalgamation of all the spies he had met.

That said, he was fascinated by one weapons expert living in Scotland, who wrote to Fleming and told him James Bond was “using a ladies’ gun”. Geoffrey Boothroyd made such an impression on Fleming that in Dr No, a character named after the major appeared (Q is his nearest equivalent in the film adaptations).

The documentary concludes, somewhat gingerly, that James Bond is as Scottish as Ian Fleming is Scottish.

Listen to the radio show and make up your own mind.