BOTH made their names in the early-1960s in the gripping world of fictional spycraft.

One was an author whose most famous creation was George Smiley, the wily career British intelligence officer; the other was an actor who portrayed James Bond, the dashing, cruel Secret Service agent who was often called upon to single-handedly save the world.

The author, John le Carre, and the actor, Sir Sean Connery, died within a handful of weeks of each other, late this year; le Carre on December 12, aged 89; Connery, aged 90, on October 31.

As Alan Taylor observed in his Herald obituary of le Carre, Smiley – small, podgy, middle-aged – was the antithesis of James Bond: “Where, for example, Bond draws pulchritudinous women to him like bees to nectar, Smiley is cuckolded by his wife Ann whom he cannot bring himself to abandon.”

Le Carre (real name, David Cornwell) had worked in British Intelligence during the Cold War MI5. His first two novels did respectably enough but it was his third, the superbly atmospheric The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963), that made his reputation. Several reviewers welcomed the novel as an adult antidote to the high-gloss world of Bond, with his guns, girls, wry sense of humour, smart tailoring and sense of invincibility.

Le Carre’s later works, all highly acclaimed, included Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, A Perfect Spy, The Constant Gardener, The Night Manager, and The Russia House, which was turned into a film in 1990, with Sean Connery starring alongside Michelle Pfeiffer.

That film was one of the many that Connery graced in his long post-Bond career: the notable others included The Hill (his personal favourite), The Anderson Tapes, The Offence, Robin and Marian, The Name of the Rose, The Untouchables, Rising Sun, First Knight, The Hunt for Red October and Entrapment.

His Bond movies, though, cast a long shadow, as well they might. From Dr No (1962) to Diamonds are Forever (1971), via From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965) and You Only Live Twice (1967), Connery enthralled audiences worldwide.

It is no surprise that, some half-a-century later, he remains for many people the best James Bond, despite the rugged recent competition from Daniel Craig.

“Everyone knows Connery is the best Bond. Statements to the contrary are only ever made as a means of asserting personality”, as the comedian and TV presenter David Mitchell wrote in The Observer in August. Connery had just topped a Radio Times survey that sought to find the best-ever Bond.

He could easily have rested on his 007 laurels for the rest of his career but even when he was making those films he showed his talents in different directions, not just in The Hill but in Woman of Straw,  in which he plays the devious nephew of a tycoon, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie.

He remained a formidable actor – his performance as the incorruptible, irascible cop Jim Malone underpinned The Untouchables, and he was justly rewarded for it with an Oscar for best supporting actor. Steven Spielberg famously said of him: “There are seven genuine movie stars in the world today, and Sean is one of them.”

“When he died,” his close friend Sir Jackie Stewart wrote recently, “I wished there had been a run of his films on TV to recognise what he did both for Britain and his beloved Scotland.”

The acting world also said farewell to two actresses whose CVs both happened to include roles in Bond films.

Diana Rigg, who died on September 10, aged 82, was a brilliant stage and TV actress.

Her  small-screen credits ranged from Emma Peel in The Avengers to, much later, Game of Thrones. The Bond film credit was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, opposite George Lazenby.

Writing earlier this month, the actor and writer Mark Gatiss expressed the widespread view that “the image of the astonishingly lithe, cat-suited Avenger, gun in hand, could never overshadow what a terrific actor she was”.

She had a long love affair with the theatre. As Andrew McKie wrote in these pages in September: “She joined the Royal Shakespeare Company when barely into her twenties, playing opposite Laurence Olivier in King Lear, and won plaudits for heavyweight roles in classics ancient and modern, such as Medea and Mother Courage, and in new plays by Tom Stoppard, but also took leading roles in musicals, including productions of Follies and My Fair Lady.”

Her many accolades included a Bafta (best TV actress for Mother Love, 1990); a Tony (for Medea on Broadway, 1994), an Emmy (as best supporting actress for Mrs Danvers in Arthur Hopcraft’s adaptation of Rebecca, 1997) and two Evening Standard Theatre Awards for best actress – in 1992, for the London run of Medea and in 1996 for her roles in both Mother Courage and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Honor Blackman, who had a key role in the Bond film Goldfinger, died aged 94, on April 5.

Her Herald obituary, by Brian Pendreigh, said Blackman “helped create a new kind of screen heroine who combined style and grace, with intelligence, sexual allure and violent action, first as Cathy Gale on the television series The Avengers and then as the outrageously-named Pussy Galore in Goldfinger”.

Blackman’s lengthy CV included such films as Jason and the Argonauts and the western Shalako. She continued working in theatre, TV and occasionally film into her eighties, and played a glamorous older woman, the mother of one of the main characters, in 94 episodes of the sitcom The Upper Hand.

Sir Harold Evans, who died at the age of 92 on September 23, was one of the giants of British journalism. As the crusading editor of the Sunday Times he and his team of journalists pulled off a dazzling series of scoops, including the discloser of Kim Philby’s life as a spy and the successful campaign to bring about compensation for children born with the effects of the Thalidomide drug. He later enjoyed a high-profile career in New York as president and publisher of Random House, one of the world’s best-known publishing houses.

Juliette Gréco, who passed away on September 23, aged 93, was a French-born actress and singer, the last of the great French chanteuses and an icon of post-Second World War French bohemianism, Neil Cooper wrote in The Herald.

“Gréco has a million poems in her voice,” said Jean-Paul Sartre, who wrote the songs for her that first made her take the leap onto the stage. “In her mouth, my words become precious stones.”

Little Richard was a hugely influential presence in the story of rock’n’roll. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Elton John were only a few of the musicians who fell under his spell as he sang such compelling hits as Tutti Frutti, Good Golly Miss Molly, Lucille and Long Tall Sally.

“The man who invented It. Elvis popularised it. Chuck Berry was the storyteller. Richard embodied the Spirit of Rock’n’Roll”, musician Steve Van Zandt wrote of Little Richard, who was 87 when he died on May 9.

Dame Vera Lynn had a remarkably long life. The one-time Forces Sweetheart, who did so much to keep up Britons’ spirits during the dark years of the Second World War, was 103 when she died on June 18. Her evergreen songs included We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover. She remained, said the BBC, one of the country’s most potent symbols of resilience and hope.

Caroline Flack was a household

name, hugely popular thanks to her hosting of such programmes as The X Factor and Love Island. She was found dead at her London home on February 15, aged just 40.

A coroner ruled in August that Flack took her own life while she was facing trial accused of assaulting her boyfriend.

Dame Barbara Windsor died on December 10, aged 83. Her husband said she had died peacefully from Alzheimer’s at a London care home.

The former Carry On and EastEnders star had many fans, including the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and Boris Johnson. She was, the latter said, “one of those people that just cheered you up, and cheered everybody up because she had a kind of irrepressible naughtiness that was totally innocent. She did a lot of good work for charity and looking after lonely and vulnerable people. She lit up people’s faces.”

Kirk Douglas, one of the last surviving stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age, died at the age of 103 on February 5. Film fans recalled his greatest movies: Spartacus, Paths of Glory, Ace in the Hole, Champion, and Lust for Life.

Another evergreen Hollywood star, Olivia de Havilland, a two-time Oscar winner who starred in Gone With the Wind, died, aged 104, in July.

Two other showbusiness names we lost in 2020 were Geoffrey Palmer (November 5, aged 93) and Des O’Connor (November 14, aged 88). “Hangdog” and “lugubrious” were words often attached to Palmer, a highly skilled actor whose credits included sitcoms Butterflies, As Time Goes By, and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, and the hit films Mrs Brown and The Madness of King George.

O’Connor was often referred to as the “ultimate entertainer”. He was often the butt of jokes by Morecambe and Wise, but he presented his own prime-time TV shows for 45 years and enjoyed a great deal of success as a singer.

The sporting world said goodbye to Diego Maradona, one of the greatest-ever footballers; to Nobby Stiles and Jack Charlton, two of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad; to basketball legend Kobe Bryant, who died, alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles in January, and to Paolo Rossi, the great Italian footballer. Tom Forsyth, the redoubtable former Motherwell, Rangers and Scotland player, died in August.

Other people we said farewell to during the year were the actor Chadwick Boseman, best-known for playing Black Panther in the hit Marvel superhero franchise; the US Representative John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement in America; and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a widely-admired presence on the US Supreme Court and a champion of gender equality. She was “the demure firebrand who in her 80s became a legal, cultural and feminist icon”, noted one obituary.

Hosni Mubarak, former president of Egypt, who was in power for 30 years before being ousted in 2011, died in February. Christo, the high-profile artist who wrapped the exterior of such notable buildings as the Reichstag, died in June, aged 84.

Fans of Asterix the Gaul – and there were huge numbers of them worldwide – mourned the death, in March, of his creator, Albert Uderzo.

Singer/songwriters Charley Pride, John Prine, Kenny Rogers, Helen Reddy and Bill Withers all died this year. Neil Peart, powerhouse drummer with the rock band Rush, died in January, aged 67.

Eddie Van Halen, the guitarist and co-founder of the bestselling group that bore his name, was just 65 when he died in October. Florian Schneider, co-founder of the influential German electronic group Kraftwerk, died in May, aged 73.

Chuck Yeager, the first person to break the sound barrier, in 1947, passed away earlier this month, at the age of 97.

We also lost actor Derek Fowlds (The Basil Brush Show, Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister); Terry Jones, one of the founders of Monty Python’s Flying Circus; Peter Green, a dazzlingly talented guitarist who co-founded Fleetwood Mac; John Sessions, the brilliant actor and comedian; Glasgow raised actor and Tutti Frutti star Maurice Roeves; comedian Bobby Ball, and Tim Brooke-Taylor, the former Goodie who became such an indispensable part of Radio 4’s much-loved panel show, I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.

Comic actor Fred Willard, whose career included everything from Everybody Loves Raymond to the first live-action character in a Pixar film (WALL-E), died in May, aged 86.

Ennio Morricone, one of the world’s best-known screen composers – The Mission, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Cinema Paradiso – passed away in July, aged 91.

Jan Morris, the prolific journalist, travel writer and historian, died, aged 94, in November. She broke the news, in 1953,

of Edmund Hillary’s conquest of Everest.

“I’ve enjoyed my life very much, and I admire it. I think it has been a very good and interesting life and I’ve made a whole of it, quite deliberately”, she told Michael Palin in 2026.

“I’ve done all of my books to make one big, long autobiography. My life has been one whole self-centred exercise in self-satisfaction!”

The legendary mountaineers and adventurers Hamish MacInnes and Doug Scott (the first Englishman to climb Everest) both died this year, in November and December respectively.

Maria Fyfe, the former Labour MP for Maryhill, and a noted campaigner for women’s rights, passed away at the age of  82 in December.

Bill Jamieson, an award-winning business writer and a former executive editor of The Scotsman, died in November at the age of 75.

Another noted journalist who passed away this year was Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, a former editor of the Sunday Telegraph, who began his career as a sub-editor on The Herald.

Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi and well-known broadcaster, died last month, aged 72.

Two of the architects of the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland died in the course of the year: Seamus Mallon, in January, aged 83, and the Nobel Peace prize winner John Hume, also 83.

The brilliant Elizabeth Wurtzel, troubled author of the startling memoir, Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America, was just 52 when she died of breast cancer in January.

“As a memoirist never frightened to portray herself in an unattractive light,” noted her obituary in The Guardian, “she was at the forefront of a new generation of life-writers whose willingness to reveal themselves delighted publishers who saw their work racing to the top of the bestseller lists”.