FROM its Old Town closes and grand New Town avenues, to the heights of the Pentlands and drama of Arthur’s Seat, the bustle of the city’s estates and the buzz of university seats of learning.
Edinburgh’s geographical span takes in a breathtaking combination of congested urban and peaceful rural, a city that inspired one of its most famous sons, Robert Louis Stevenson, to note: “Half a capital and half a country town, the whole city leads a double existence.”
That Edinburgh boasts a wealth of architectural and natural glories is blindingly obvious. And that Scotland’s capital city is a place to be immensely proud of goes without saying.
However, behind every great city, are its people: the great minds, the brave souls, the quirky characters, the eccentrics, the winning sports stars, breathtaking artists, brilliant writers and the household name celebrities.
They are the inspirational and sometimes even history-changing women, men and, yes, even in a few cases, animals, whose remarkable stamp has put Edinburgh on the global map.
We all can name a few off the top of our heads, whether it’s a modern sporting hero like Sir Chris Hoy or a figure from the past whose ground-breaking achievements we still celebrate today – after all, where might we all be if Alexander Graham Bell hadn’t invented the telephone?
Now, the Evening News wants to celebrate the best of the best – or, as one of Edinburgh’s greatest characters from fiction, Miss Jean Brodie, might put it, “la crème de la crème” – of the city’s most inspirational characters, those whose achievements past and present have helped make Scotland’s capital one of the greatest cities in the world.
Over the coming weeks, we intend to compile the definitive list of the 100 greatest people to belong to Edinburgh.
There are a million and one different reasons why someone might qualify. Some of the great medical pioneers – past and present – whose work has changed our lives for the better will surely find their way on to our final list.
But you might equally take the view that laughter is the best medicine and nominate one of the city’s great comedians, or champion the cause of a musician, writer, chef, sports star, or community activist.
Whoever it is that you think is worthy of a place on our final list of 100 Edinburgh legends, we want to hear from you.
We have plenty of ideas of our own – from the field of science and medicine, sport, adventure, entertainment and public life, from here and now and the distant past – but we know that you will have many, many more.
We want as many suggestions as possible, whether it’s living legends on the sports field, perhaps fundraisers whose remarkable focus and drive is helping transform the lives of others, maybe exceptional figures from healthcare or even characters from books or film – indeed, anyone connected with the city who has achieved the remarkable.
Maybe your first thoughts will turn to living legend Professor Peter Higgs, whose brilliant mind has finally unravelled one of the universe’s most perplexing secrets.
If you’re a Hibby, you’ll have five “famous” people you might like to include; Jambos, no doubt will be thinking of a certain “terrible trio”.
If you love literature, you may be wondering if there’s a place for some of our favourite characters in our Top 100 – after all, while Jekyll & Hyde might not have actually trodden on city streets, their literary presence spread the world over.
Similarly, for modest beginnings in Edinburgh came novelist JK Rowling’s tales of Harry Potter wizardry that turned generations of young onto reading
Or, for instantly recognisable Edinburgh figures, what about Sir Henry Raeburn’s famous painting of skating minister the Rev Robert Walker? Should he be included?
And if he deserves a place, what about one of our greatest tourist attractions, Greyfriars Bobby?
How about stars of the silver screen – Sir Sean Connery might snatch a place but is there a Top 100 spot for the classic Scrooge, Sir Alastair Sim, or the more modern figure of gritty Rebus actor Ken Stott?
The only thing that is certain is that there is going to be a great deal of debate over the coming weeks before we can reach any conclusions.
Once we’ve gathered in all of your suggestions, it will be down to our distinguished panel to analyse and argue over each one until they finally settle on the characters they believe fully deserve a place in our final list.
The results are sure to be fascinating and entertaining in equal measure with no doubt include a few eye-openers for us all.
Frank O’Donnell, editor of the Evening News, said: “The question ‘who is the greatest of all-time?’ tends to spark debates that last for hours, if not days, on end, whatever the subject – whether its politicians, pop bands, or Hearts and Hibs stars.
“The outcome is always the same – its impossible for everyone to agree, but it’s great fun having the debate.
“We thought how much more fun will it be to broaden out the argument to include everyone who has ever belonged to Edinburgh. That’s a debate that will take some time to settle.
“Coming up with a definitive list is going to be tough, but we’ve recruited an extremely distinguished panel who are certainly up to the job. In fact, many of whom would feature prominently in the final list if they weren’t judging it.
“First of all we need your suggestions. Who do you think deserves the honour of being crowned Edinburgh’s greatest ever citizen?
“Or maybe you want to suggest a lesser-known hero of your own who deserves a place in our Top 100?
“Whichever it is, I’m really looking forward to seeing all your ideas. It’s going to be a fascinating few weeks.”
So come and join us on a unique voyage through some of Edinburgh’s most fascinating characters, tell us about your own favourites and thrash out with family and friends just who might be worthy – and who certainly isn’t.
Get ready. The big debate that’s sure to have everyone talking, is about to begin . . .
Tough choice but judges are up to the task
THERE are hundreds of characters worth a place in Edinburgh’s Top 100.
The task of sifting through them will fall to a panel drawn from careers at the top of sport, literature, science, commerce and politics.
IAN RANKIN’s Rebus novels have fired the imagination of millions of readers worldwide, many of whom have come to love the city that forms as much of a character in his books as the detective himself.
Rugby hero SCOTT HASTINGS won 65 caps for Scotland during a playing career which included representing the British Lions. He has since carved out a career in business and the media.
Independent MSP MARGO MacDONALD is known for speaking her mind and for championing Edinburgh’s cause.
The Capital has long punched above its weight when it comes to scientific and medical advances, so who better then to join the judges than PROFESSOR STUART MONRO, vice-convener of the Edinburgh University Court, scientific director of Our Dynamic Earth and a trustee of the National Museums Scotland.
LIZ McAREAVEY’S business acumen led to her being named Cosmopolitan Business-woman and Outstanding Scottish Business-woman of the Year.
LYNSEY SHARP, above, is one of Scotland’s brightest stars on the athletics field, who combined training for the Olympics with studying for a law degree at Edinburgh Napier University.
As city council leader, ANDREW BURNS is used to dealing with complex matters and tough choices, while FRANK O’DONNELL, editor of the Evening News, will keep everyone to a strict deadline.
HOW TO VOTE FOR YOUR FAVOURITE
So who do you think is worthy of inclusion on our top 100 list?
You might take inspiration from our montage of Edinburgh legends showing JK Rowling, Dave Mackay, Sir Sean Connery, Mary Queen of Scots, Miss Jean Brodie, Eddie Turnbull and Allan Wells. Or you may have very different ideas of your own.
There are only two rules governing nominations. Firstly, your nominees must have a strong association with Edinburgh, regardless of where they were born or lived large parts of their life. So, for instance, JK Rowling and Professor Peter Higgs, who were both born in England, but are long-term residents of the city, would be included. Secondly, you must give a reason why you think the person you are suggesting deserves to be included in our final list.
Your suggestions can be as personal as you like, and, with 100 places up for grabs, there is no reason why you must limit yourself to putting forward just one name. However, if you are sending in a list of heroes, do tell us why each deserves recognition and who you think should be top of the pile.
You can send us your nominations by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, posting on our Facebook page, tell us on Twitter by using the hashtag #edgreats or write to us at Edinburgh’s Greatest, Edinburgh Evening News, 108 Holyrood Road, EH8 8AS.