SEAN Connery was the best Bond. Ninety-nine out of 100 women will tell you that. Most men would agree. Maybe he was even the best Scot of recent times. All right, stoap greetin’, all youse who’d nominate someone else and have a grievance about his pro-independence political views.

For no one can deny that, in 2004, Sir Sean was deemed Greatest Living Scot, in a poll for that Sunday Herald. In 2011, a EuroMillions survey found him to be Scotland’s Greatest Living National Treasure. Even after a tragic diagnosis of chronic baldness, People magazine described him as the Sexiest Man Alive – in 1989, when he was 60 – while, in 1999, he was officially found to have been the Sexiest Man of the Century.

So he had something going for him. Some things indeed. For he was not just a body or a coupon. In a handy development, he could also act and, above all, he had presence, which in lesser people is often notable for its absence.

Above all, Connery, who died last year in yonder Bahamas aged 90, showed what Scots from poor backgrounds could achieve – if they worked hard. Born Thomas Sean Connery in 1930 in Edinburgh, he was raised in the city’s Fountainbridge, a place of breweries, meat markets and a rubber works. His boulevard was dubbed “the street of a thousand smells”. In the family’s two-roomed flat, young Thomas slept in a drawer.

READ MORE RAB: Flower of Scotland divides weird country

His father worked in the rubber factory and as a lorry driver, his mother was a laundress. Two of his paternal great-grandparents had emigrated to Scotland from Wexford, Ireland. The rest of his family were from Fife and Skye. His father was of Catholic background, his mother Protestant.

At school, he was known for prowess at mathematics, reading any comic he could get his hands on, and battering any bullies he could get his hands on. Called “Tommy” as a wee boy, that stopped when he reached 6ft 2in and became known as “Big Tam”. He lost his virginity aged 14 to a woman wearing an Auxiliary Territorial Service uniform.

His first job, aged 14, was as a milkman with St Cuthbert’s Co-operative Society (just like my grandad, whose horse booted him in the napper and killed him). Like most Edinburgh men, my dad claimed to have known Tam, at least by sight, during the milk-round days. Come to think of it, I delivered milk myself, from a cart, for St Cuthbert’s when I was a boy. This is getting spooky.

That said, I didn’t join the Royal Navy in 1946 at the age of 16, during which stint Tam acquired two tattoos: “Mum and Dad” and, more controversially, “Scotland Forever” (note to foreign readers: many Scots have tattoos saying “Scotland Never”).

HeraldScotland: Sean ConnerySean Connery

Discharged from the Navy at 19 because of a duodenal ulcer (I had one of these too; not nice), he went back to the Co-op for a bit and also had stints as lorry driver, lifeguard, labourer, artist’s model and coffin polisher. He also shone at football, with Matt Busby offering him a contract at Manchester United, which he turned down, as he felt it too short a career at a time when players earned bawbees.

By now, he was entering bodybuilding competitions and, during one such in London in 1951, someone mentioned they were looking for extras for a production of South Pacific. Tam got a gig as a chorus boy. "I didn't have a voice, couldn't dance," he later recalled. “But I could look good standing there.”

Soon, he was promoted to a proper role and began calling himself Sean, as it reminded him of the movie cowboy Shane. Minor roles in movies and TV followed, as well as a big part in a film about leprechauns. Around this time, he was urged to take elocution lessons as a Scottish accent is the hardest in the world to understand, and a bit common to boot.

Indeed, his unpleasant Scottishness nearly did for him when he was offered the role of Bond, as Ian Fleming, the character’s creator, thought it made the character unrefined. Fleming also didn’t like his looks: “an overgrown stuntman”. However, the top snob’s girlfriend, along with producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli’s wife, liked Connery for some peculiar reason and, after the success of Dr No, Fleming himself changed his mind and subsequently gave Bond a Scottish heritage, though not as an Edinburgh milkman.

READ MORE RAB: Westminster sketch – Funds and games at the House of Commons

Director Terrence Young showed Sean how to walk, talk and even eat, activities that were not then widely practised in Scotland. In the films, he often wore evening dress as he ordered a vodka martini (“Shaken aboot, no’ stirred, ken?” “Cut!”). And, of course, he was given great lines. “Bond … James Bond”, quoth he, introducing himself while lighting a fag in a casino. Hate to say it but folk forget how sexy cigarettes were.

In the end, “the rogue with the brogue” made seven Bond films, but ultimately found the role had become “a bit of a bore” and, like all actors, he didn’t want to be known for just one role. But, like all actors, he pretty much is.

Ach, that’s not really true. He had great roles in The Man Who Would Be King, A Bridge Too Far, Highlander, The Name of the Rose, The Untouchables (for which he won an Oscar), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Hunt for Red October.

He was a passionate advocate of Scotland running its own affairs and, consequently, was despised by some Scots. Connery was knighted in 2000, after two previous nominations had been vetoed by a Scottish Labour leader. Which one? “Dewar … Donald Dewar”, here in the role of Dr No, cancelling Connery before cancelling was a thing.

Not everything about Connery was admirable: the affected lithp; the golf; the questionable attitude to women; turning down a part in The Lord of the Rings. But we’re nipping at a giant here, a handsome, strong, confident, talented giant, who never let being Scottish become a handicap.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.