Just over 50 years ago Muriel Spark’s short novel, ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ described in sharp, crystalline prose the interaction of an unconventional teacher and her ‘set’ of chosen pupils as they canter through adolescence in the staid Edinburgh of 30 years before. It quickly established itself as a fixture on examination syllabuses, and became a favourite of teachers and pupils in just the sort of schools the book depicts. But it was the 1969 film starring Maggie Smith that has ensured the character’s place in the canon of popular culture. It’s certainly the best-known – if not indisputably the best – Scots novel of the 20th century, with Time magazine declaring it one of its 100 all-time best novels in English.
As charismatic teacher Miss Brodie leads her charges through the city, there’s a backdrop of real Edinburgh locations (minus TV aerials, which had to be physically removed in those distant pre-digital times), including the old Grassmarket; the Vennel (the narrow flight of steps leading up from Grassmarket); Edinburgh Castle itself; and Greyfriars Kirkyard – yes, where Bobby the terrier supposedly spent 14 years guarding his master’s grave.
The studio of painter Teddy Lloyd (Robert Stephens) is the Mary Tudor house in the heart of the city at 1 Merchant Street, on the corner of Candlemaker Row – right opposite Greyfriars Kirkyard & Oz Bar.