A HEADMASTER at Bolton School has defended Sir Ian McKellen’s shock confession that he does not class himself as northern.

The Hollywood actor, who starred in The Lord of the Rings and X-Men, spent his early years in the borough before moving to London 50 years ago.

In an interview with the Telegraph on Tuesday, Sir Ian — who just last month wore his old Bolton School tie while being presented with an honorary degree at St Catharine’s College in Cambridge — was quoted as saying: “I certainly wouldn’t define myself as a northerner. I’ve lived in London for 50 years. I wasn’t born here but I have spent most of my life here.

“I don’t go back [to Bolton]. I’ve not got family there so I’ve no reason to do so unless it is for work.”

But Philip Britton, headmaster of the boys’ division at Bolton school, said the 75-year-old, who visited the school four years ago when its McKellen Studio Theatre was unveiled, still holds a “deep affection and appreciation” for his life in Bolton.

At the time, Sir Ian, who was head boy between 1957 and 1958, said: “I remember my days at school vividly and with great affection.

Bolton School has a great tradition in the liberal arts. I've always acted for the love of it and this first love was inspired at Hopefield, the school theatre."

Mr Britton said: “I was delighted to see an article in The Telegraph, a national paper, about the interview with Sir Ian referencing his acting at Bolton School and its impact on his career choices.

"It is great to see Bolton in the news in that positive way.

"In common with many of our former pupils, his life has taken him beyond Bolton and, as time goes on, those direct family links weaken within the area.

"What is very impressive is that so many Alumni, like Sir Ian, retain a deep affection and appreciation for the school and the town without necessarily considering that being ‘northern’.”

A spokesman for Sir Ian is yet to comment.