Sean Connery among new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entries

Scottish actor Sir Sean Connery and English singer Dame Vera Lynn are among the new entrants in the Oxford Dictionary Of National Biography’s latest update.

The biographies of 276 people, who left their mark on the UK and also died in the year 2020, have been added to the reference collection.

Spy writer John Le Carre, Nobel Peace prize winner John Hume, former footballer Jack Charlton, actresses Dame Diana Rigg and Dame Barbara Windsor and Monty Python troupe member Terry Jones are also among those featured in the new edition.

PA Media

Sir Sean’s entry says he “left school at 13, taking a succession of labouring jobs, joining the Royal Navy, and winning a bronze medal in the Mr Universe contest before finding his metier as an actor”.

After becoming the first actor to play James Bond on the big screen in Dr No, it says he was “determined not to be typecast” and was a “proud Scotsman, he started the Scottish International Investment Trust and was a long-time supporter of the Scottish National Party”.

Sir Sean won an Oscar, two Baftas and three Golden Globes during his career – and died in October 2020 at the age of 90.

The dictionary book also highlights his Goldfinger co-star Honor Blackman, who it says “refused honours herself” as a “republican” and criticised Sir Sean for accepting the knighthood for services to film drama in 2000.

Other stars named include British director Sir Alan Parker, travel writer Jan Morris and entertainer Des O’Connor.

John Le Carre.PA Media

The biography entry for Dame Vera states that she was a “child star” and graduate of “East End working men’s clubs and Madame Harris’s Kracker Kabaret Kids” who had been fairly well known before the break out of the Second World War.

It says due to the war and the songs, We’ll Meet Again and White Cliffs Of Dover, she became a “national icon” and later a “prolific fundraiser” for cancer, cerebral palsy and veterans’ charities – which contributed to her becoming a dame in 2016.

Dame Vera died at the age of 103 in June 2020.

Le Carre – known for the books Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, and The Night Manager – is hailed as someone whose “characters and plots were infinitely more complex than Ian Fleming’s, and often highlighted the lying, deceit, deception, and fraud which were at the heart not only of the spy’s profession but also his own life”.

With the real name David Cornwell, he had worked for British intelligence service MI6, his father was jailed for insurance fraud and since Le Carre’s death there has been allegations he had numerous love affairs.

“His later works became more political, and his indignation at Brexit led him to take out Irish citizenship,” the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography also says.

Former SDLP Leader John Hume.PA Media

Former SDLP leader Mr Hume, who received the Nobel Prize for his work on the Good Friday Agreement, was said to have shown “great personal courage in confronting extremism and in trying to find a peaceful solution to Northern Ireland’s problems” and was placed in the update alongside his ex-deputy Seamus Mallon.

Mr Mallon had died at the age of aged 83, around six months before Mr Hume, who died aged 83 in August 2020.

Also among the political and campaigner figures are Northern Ireland peace advocate Betty Williams, Conservative politician and last secretary of war James Ramsden, former leader of the Social Democrat Party Lord Robert Maclennan of Rogart, ex-Labour MP and women’s rights campaigner Maria Fyfe and Windrush scandal activist Paulette Wilson.

Charlton, who was a member of the 1966 winning World Cup team along with his brother Sir Bobby, and his teammate Nobby Stiles also were entered into the collection.

Motor racing great Sir Stirling Moss and the first British paralympic gold medallist Margaret Maughan also made the sportspeople entries for the updated Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

The April 2024 edition includes biographies of 65,230 individuals, written by more than 14,000 contributors and is promoted as the “national record of people who have shaped British history”.

The new entries in the Oxford Dictionary Of National Biography are available online from Tuesday.

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