Wednesday, 2 January 2013

James Bond's Scottish roots, as revealed in Skyfall

According to a report in the Evening Standard, the term 'hunting rifle', used by Kincade in Skyfall to describe a firearm owned by James Bond's father, Andrew, has ruffled the feathers of British gamekeepers. Apparently, no such term is used by country folk, who regard the term as an Americanism. 

While solecisms such as this are an inevitable product of writers being unfamiliar with the subject matter, the implication of Kincade's remark, that Andrew Bond engaged in shooting and other country pursuits while in Scotland during James Bond's early childhood, is intriguingly paralleled by Ian Fleming's own experiences.

Its exact location is not made clear in the film, but Skyfall Lodge is presumed to be in Glencoe. The lodge sequence was filmed there, and we know from M's obituary of Bond in the novel You Only Live Twice that Andrew Bond came from the region. This was also the region where Ian Fleming spent part of his childhood. Glenborrodale Castle in Ardnamurchan, some 50km further west of Glencoe, was taken by Fleming's father, Valentine, for family holidays.

Given the Flemings' Scottish roots – Ian's grandfather, Robert, came from Dundee – the holiday destination is unsurprising, but the young Ian did not enjoy his time there. In a letter to the then Ann Rothermere, Ian Fleming wrote in 1946 that he spent some of the unhappiest years of his youth at Glenborrodale. Curiously there is an echo of this in Skyfall. As the lodge burns down, Bond says, 'I always hated this place.'

While at Glenborrodale, Ian's father, Valentine, took part in the sort of country sports enjoyed by Andrew Bond, and perhaps James, such as shooting grouse and deer stalking, judging by the stag in the Fleming crest (referenced by the stone stag on top of the gateway of Skyfall Lodge). Ian joined in the activities, but he didn't enjoy them, claiming that he would rather catch no salmon than shoot no grouse. On another occasion, at Black Mount, also near Glencoe, Ian Fleming, aged 16, shot his first stag; usually, though, he preferred to listen to records than going 'out of doors killing something.'

The experiences of the young Ian Fleming are paralleled to some extent by the James Bond of Skyfall. Some of the similarities may well be coincidental, but they nevertheless add depth to the background of the cinematic Bond. As with other aspects of James Bond's life – his tastes, his views, his hobbies – the clue to Bond's past can be found in the life of Ian Fleming.


References

Amory, M (ed.), 1985 The Letters of Ann Fleming, Collins Harvill
Lycett, A, 1995 Ian Fleming: the man behind James Bond, Turner

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