John Murray Archive Campaign

Sir Sean Connery's endorsement

  • This is the full text of Sean Connery's endorsement of the National Library's fundraising campaign for the John Murray Archive.

'My first big break came when I was five years old. It's taken me more than 70 years to realise that. You see, at five I first learnt to read.

'My real education took off when a friend handed me a formidable list of books to read. I didn't buy the books he recommended. I couldn't afford them, and anyway I had nowhere to keep them. All I had in life was a padlocked wicker basket, which was shipped ahead with the scenery as I followed on my bike. In each town we visited I made straight for the nearest public library after finding digs. I was astonished to find that the libraries were free. You just filled the form in and gave your card and you got your book. I did all the libraries up and down the country. From then on I was never without a book. The excitement of the written word, imbued in me when I was five, and which had remained dormant during all my years when I was an odd job man, now came rushing back. Getting through these books, studying them and engaging with them was hugely important to me. The fact that I read them, learning new words as I went along, greatly increased my confidence and self-esteem. It gave a balance to my life and a better identity, just as body building had done for me years before. 'This passion for literacy led me to visit the National Library of Scotland in August 2006 to view the national collections, including of course the John Murray Archive, which arrived at the Library in March 2006. What I saw there impressed me immensely. The Library's collections are of world class importance and the plans for making the John Murray Archive accessible to the people of Scotland and beyond are groundbreaking.

'The chance to see unique literary treasures first hand in Scotland was a great privilege and I very much hope that others will enjoy the Archive as much as I did.

'Viewing items from some of the greatest writers, politicians and scientists of the late 18th to the early 20th centuries, such as a letter from Charles Darwin outlining "Origin of Species", a manuscript of Byron's "Childe Harolde's Pilgrimage" and an 1862 letter from Edward Whymper to his father recounting a failed attempt to climb the Matterhorn, brought the past vividly to life. It is safe to say that history wasn't this interesting at school!

'On my visit I discovered that the excitement of the written word and ideas found in the Archive will be brought to life via a permanent exhibition - due to open this summer - a major digitisation programme where thousands of items will be made available on the internet, education activities, outreach events, touring exhibitions and via private study in the John Murray Archive reading room. There will be something for everyone, from five-year-olds to academics.

'As the National Library prepares to open the John Murray Archive exhibition and continues with its fundraising campaign to raise the final £6.5 million required to complete the acquisition of the Archive, I believe that the importance of promoting literacy and of preserving our literary and cultural heritage should never be underestimated.

'I commend the National Library of Scotland for the vision and commitment to bring this treasure to Scotland and wish them every success.'

24 April 2007

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