How James Bond was formed at Fettes College

Ollie, Isabella with Steve Cole. Pic: Ian Georgeson
Ollie, Isabella with Steve Cole. Pic: Ian Georgeson
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He’s the international man of mystery with a licence to kill and a flavour for top tech, fast cars and even faster women.

But before James Bond became the iconic 007 character he is today, the young Bond was busy causing havoc in Edinburgh as a pupil at Fettes College.

Bond author Ian Fleming revealed the super spy was a member of Glencorse house at the school in Bond’s obituary in You Only Live Twice.

And now that period of 007’s life has been explored in a new Young Bond novel by author Steve Cole.

Set during the 1930s, Strike Lightning sees Bond plunged into the midst of a conspiracy reaching across Europe after his best friend is murdered at Fettes in what the school claims is a science accident, however when Bond suspects differently, it’s up to him to avenge his friend’s death.

And according to author Steve, who interviewed old Fettesians from the 30s about their own experiences at the school, the setting allowed him to mould 007 into the man he would later become.

“The fun thing about writing Young Bond is you already know the man he is going to become and you can put him through hell to chip away the softer edges,” he said.

“In the 30s, Fettes was a very different place which had masters with their own secrets and agendas creating a real us versus them mentality feeding Bond’s desire to rebel.

“Interviewing the old Fettesians, I got a sense of just how isolated and enclaved it was back then. It really was its own world with its own hierarchy which leads the young Bond to explore it.

“Obviously, when Bond is an adult, he is sent on missions by his superiors, but at 14, he has to make his own missions really, so he’s completely self-reliant.”

As a pupil at Fettes, 007 would’ve experienced “savage” initiation rituals, pre-breakfast lessons and chapel which made certain students faint and ice-cold showers after morning runs around the school grounds, according to the Fettesians that Steve interviewed.

Current Glencorse house pupils Max Roberts, 16, and Grant Sperling, 17, said the idea of Bond being a former member of their house was an interesting legacy to follow.

“It’s quite weird because I know it’s fictional, but everyone knows who Bond is,” said Max.

“There’s a pretty cool legacy there, it’s really something to try and live up to.”

Glencorse housemaster Peter Jenkins believes having Bond as a pupil would have presented some interesting teaching challenges, but said he can act as an inspiration for current pupils.

“I think, looking around the school, there are a few potential spies of the future, but while he was here we would’ve had to deal with him quite carefully,” he said.

“We would’ve tried to find a way to channel his energy in a positive way because he definitely is someone who would have challenged authority while he was here, but it clearly worked for him because he ended up on her majesty’s secret service.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com