Francis Crawford tops best Scots character poll

Francis Crawford, the protagonist in Dorothy Dunnett's The Lymond Chronicles series, has topped a poll of Scotland's favourite literary characters. Picture: Rob McDougall
Francis Crawford, the protagonist in Dorothy Dunnett's The Lymond Chronicles series, has topped a poll of Scotland's favourite literary characters. Picture: Rob McDougall
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DEVOTEES of Dorothy Dunnett, the late historical novelist, have voted the star of her acclaimed novel series into top place in a poll to find Scotland’s favourite literary character.

Francis Crawford, from Dunnett’s books The Lymond Chronicles, beat off competition from the likes of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus, JK Rowling’s boy wizard Harry Potter, Begbie, the fearsome psychopath from Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and Chris Guthrie, the heroine in Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song.

The charismatic character’s adventures across Europe unfolded in the Fife-born writer’s books between 1961 and 1975, becoming her best-known works, although the original’s manuscript was rejected by five different UK publishers.

Despite the young 16th century nobleman making his first appearance more than half a century ago, he emerged as the clear winner ahead of characters including Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary sleuth Sherlock Holmes and Dame Muriel’s Spark’s iconic schoolteacher Jean Brodie.

Hermione Granger beat her fellow wizard Harry Potter in the poll, which saw the Potter character drawn level in 10th place with comic strip favourite Oor Wullie.

The findings of the survey - released to coincide with Scotland’s national celebration of the written word - revealed that Francis Crawford garnered more than 100 more votes than Welsh’s Begbie, who edged Rebus into third place by just one vote.

Some 3,150 votes were cast in the Scottish Book Trust’s survey, which attracted interest from 28 countries, including the United States, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Singapore and Qatar.

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The trust conducted a similar survey last year to find the nation’s favourite novel, but sparked controversy by limiting voters to the past 50 years, ruling out the first Francis Crawford novel, The Game of Kings, and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which missed the cut by just two years.

Welsh’s Trainspotting, his best-selling portrayal of heroin addicts in Edinburgh, was voted the overall winner, ahead of Alasdair Gray’s Lanark, and the Rebus thriller Black and Blue.

Among the classic Scottish literary characters to miss out altogether were Richard Hannay, hero of John Buchan’s classic novel The 39 Steps, maverick journalist Jack Parlabane, the character which helped crime writer Christopher Brookmyre make his name and Tam O’Shanter, the character immortalised in one of Robert Burns’ best-known poems.

Marc Lambert, director of the Scottish Book Trust, said: “Francis Crawford of Lymond may be an unknown name to many, but Dorothy Dunnett’s enduring popularity, sustained over the years by her legions of devoted fans, is testament to the strength of writing talent that we enjoy in Scotland.

“Literature is one of the best ways of really inhabiting another person’s thoughts, and is the reason why people have such strong feelings about their favourite character. It isn’t always a traditionally ‘nice’ character who gets under people’s skin either, as is proven by Begbie and Miss Jean Brodie’s positions in the top ten.”

With Oor Wullie and Harry Potter claiming joint 10th place, and Hermione Granger claiming seventh, and Hebridean schoolgirl Katie Morag one place behind there was a strong showing for “children’s books” in the survey, after they were included by the book trust following controversy after they were also excluded last year.

Earlier this month the television adaptation, which is filmed in the Isle of Lewis, won a BAFTA Scotland award for best children’s programme.

Mairi Hedderwick, Katie Morag’s creator, said: “I’m delighted that Katie Morag is still a favourite book character. All of 33 years old, she is now treading the television boards, but her first home will always be on the page.”

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