For the past 26 years, Sean Connery has been keeping an eye on Scotland’s younger generation. He founded the Scottish Intl. Education Trust – a charitable organization dedicated to promoting talent and education among Scotland’s youth – in 1971 to give something back to his own country.
“Connery wanted to do something that would help the country,” says the Trust’s director, John McClellan, who recalls how Scotland suffered severe unemployment and industrial decline during the early ’70s. “He knew what being short of money was like himself.”
So when the ardent young patriot finally “did something with his life,” as he once put it, he decided to give some of what he had to those who have not. That included donating $1.25 million of his salary from “Diamonds Are Forever” to aid underprivileged Scottish children through the trust.
Today, the Trust’s modest existence reflects Connery’s roots. McClellan describes it as a “small scratch organization,” tucked away in an unpretentious Edinburgh building and staffed by only two part-time workers – McClellan himself and a secretary.
The Trust’s grant money of £70,000 to £80,000 per year is divided among individual and group projects that contribute to the cultural, economic or social development of Scotland. “They’ve got to persuade the trustees it’s helpful to Scotland,” McClellan explains.
Past recipients include the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, the Scottish Opera, and the environmental improvement efforts of Scottish Conservation Projects.
In addition, the charity assists researchers studying abroad whose work promises to benefit Scotland, and provides grants for summer camps and other activities for children and young people in deprived areas.
Besides Connery, the organization’s dozen trustees include a member of Parliament, a newspaper editor, Scotland’s head of education, and racing car driver Jackie Stewart.
McClellan, who’s known Connery for 11 years, says the actor attends meetings, but that his film schedule usually keeps him a “very busy man.”
“I think he’s a straightforward, honest, reliable sort of person,” he says. “He doesn’t lean on us. I very much respect him for putting up the money to get this charity project going and then standing back and not interfering, and leaving it to us.”