Edinburgh’s Greatest: Ron Flockhart | Alastair Sim

Ron Flockhart, one of the nominees for Edinburgh's 100 Greatest. Picture: TSPL
Ron Flockhart, one of the nominees for Edinburgh's 100 Greatest. Picture: TSPL
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A racing driver, a firebrand MP, and a literary scholar line up next to a much-loved actor and an arts impresario – it can only be the hunt for Edinburgh’s 100 Greatest.

Readers have been contacting us in their droves to nominate who they think should make the final list, sending suggestions of inspirational characters and sparkling personalities through Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and old-fashioned post.

Each has a fascinating story, a slot in Edinburgh life, and reasons of their own to justify being named one of the 100.

All the nominations will go to our distinguished panel, whose epic challenge will be to sift through the wide range of names who have been suggested to produce the final list.

It will be no easy task when you consider the characters, both historic and modern, fictional and real life, who together have helped make this city great.

There is still plenty of time to get your nominations together to make sure no-one misses out on their rightful spot in the Capital countdown.

Here are just a few of the latest suggestions.

RON FLOCKHART

At six feet tall, fair-haired and handsome, it is easy see why Ron Flockhart fitted the profile of a dashing gentleman racing driver of the post-war era.

The Edinburgh motorsport hero was nominated via Twitter for his achievements which ­include twice winning the gruelling Le Mans 24 Hours race.

Born in 1923 and brought up in Bruntsfield, Flockhart was enlisted and became a captain in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers before he could pursue his interest in motorsports.

He had raced motorbikes while serving but switched to motor racing in 1952 when he graduated to Formula Three, before making the first of his 14 Formula One Championship appearances in 1956.

His best grand prix result came that year when he finished third at Monza in a ­Connaught ­vehicle.

In 1956 he won Le Mans driving a Jaguar D-type, and again in 1957 but he was denied the chance of a hat-trick when he crashed at Rouen shortly before the 1958 event, and suffered a spinal injury.

Throughout the 1950s, flying had also been one of Flockhart’s passions and he set his sights on breaking the Sydney to London single-pistoned engine solo record.

On April 12, 1962, his Mustang crashed in the Bandenoong Hills above Kallista in Victoria and Flockhart was killed. The cause was never conclusively determined, but it was thought most likely that, flying through low cloud, his engine may have stalled and he struck tree tops, causing the plane to crash.

He was cremated in Melbourne and his ashes returned to ­Edinburgh to be scattered over the Pentland Hills.

RON BROWN

Controversial MP Ronald Duncan Mclaren Brown was nominated via Twitter by @The Leithman.

Their nomination read: “Ask for his help and he would give it. Man of the people.”

Nicknamed ‘Red Ron’, he was rarely out of the headlines during his time serving Leith between 1979 -1992, and was suspended from the House of Commons four times in a lively career that earned him many plaudits with his constituents.

Born into a working-class family at West Pilton in 1938, he was educated at Pennywell Primary School, Ainslie Park High School and the Bristo Technical Institute.

He initially worked as an electrician with Bruce Peebles & Co, where he had an accident which left him with partial facial paralysis and scars. There, he became an active member of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (AUEW).

In the 1970s he was elected a member of Edinburgh Town Council for Central Leith, and then a member of Lothian Regional Council from 1974.

Brown was selected to stand for Edinburgh Leith in 1979 general election where he won with a majority of 3000 votes.

Known as a diligent MP who showed genuine concern for his people, he had increased his majority to more than 11,300 by the 1987 general election.

The occasions which saw him suspended from the House of Commons included throwing the House of Commons mace on the floor during a debate on poll tax, landing himself with a £1500 repair bill. He refused to pay his community charge while poll tax protests were going on which eventually led to him appearing before a sheriff court.

He remained a popular character until he died of liver failure after a long battle in 2007.

JOHN DOVER WILSON

There is no question of “to be or not to be” for fans of Shakespeare scholar John Dover Wilson (1881-1969).

Rachel Jeffrey went to our Facebook site to nominate the regius professor at the University of Edinburgh for his groundbreaking new edition of Shakespeare’s works.

In January 1936, after publishing What Happens in Hamlet – a fresh interpretation of Shakespeare’s most celebrated tragedy – he ­received much critical acclaim.

Actors and theatre directors including Laurence Olivier, Harley Granville Barker, Tyrone Guthrie and Michael Redgrave consulted him over the choices they were making in staging their own productions.

Writers such as Rupert Brooke, EM Forster and Siegfried Sassoon valued his critical expertise. He even received fan mail from the then chancellor of the exchequer, Neville Chamberlain, and the pair stayed friends throughout the latter’s time as prime minister.

Although not a collector, he helped the National Galleries of Scotland to acquire the Bute collection – 1266 English plays, from the 16th to 19th century, primarily built up by the Earl and Marquis of Bute.

Ms Jeffrey said: “Wilson compared the moment when he became passionately interested in Shakespeare to falling in love. In particular, he was fascinated by Hamlet. The book he wrote to explain his ideas about the play was a popular success and made his reputation among general ­readers.”

RICHARD DEMARCO

Maurice Dougan nominated Richard Demarco, one of Scotland’s most influential advocates for contemporary art, via Twitter.

Born on 9 July, 1930, Demarco ­attended Holy Cross Academy, where he was a pupil when the first Edinburgh Festival was launched, opening his mind to music, theatre and art from foreign lands.

He went on to study graphic design at Edinburgh College of Art, where he met life model Sean Connery working part-time as a receptionist in the Caledonian Hotel.

On graduating he spent two years’ National Service with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, before re- entering civilian life as a teacher at Duns Scotus Academy in Corstorphine. It was there that he realised he wanted to open the eyes and minds of the wider public too.

Demarco was co-founder of the Traverse Theatre in 1963 and left three years later to establish what became the Richard Demarco Gallery.

His contributions to contemporary art internationally have been recognised on numerous occasions, receiving the Polish Gold Order of Merit, the Cavaliere della Republica d’Italia, the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres de France and the Order of the British Empire.

Since the early 1990s, Demarco’s activities have been through the Demarco European Art Foundation. Over the years he has put on a wide variety of theatre productions, art exhibitions and cultural events.

ALASTAIR SIM

HE was a famous Scrooge but this has not stopped Alastair Sim being nominated for Edinburgh’s 100 Greatest.

Reader Ostara Danu nominated the famed actor for his appearances in a string of classic Scottish and British films, notably those of Ealing and Hitchcock. Educated at George Heriot’s, Sim became an elocution and drama lecturer at the University of Edinburgh from 1925 until 1930 where he was later rector from 1948 until 1951.

In 1950 he was voted the most popular film actor in Britain in a national cinema poll having starred in the likes of Green for Danger and The Happiest Days of Your Lives. Keen to promote and encourage young acting talent, he nurtured the career and talents of George Cole who lived with Sim and wife Naomi Plaskitt for 12 years. He died in 1976 aged 75.

Nominations fly in via twitter

The @edinburghpaper Twitter feed has been kept busy with #edgreats nominations

Stevie Dunn @Billy_Buroo

Actor Ian “You might think that, I couldn’t possibly comment” Richardson

Al @alinver

Tom Gilzean a true gent and a great Edinburger #edgreats

Nick Jury @TheRealNickJury

Arthur Conan Doyle who created probably the most famous fictional detective there is, Sherlock Holmes

@ArchHistDarling

Drs Sophia Jex Blake, Elsie Inglis & Isabel Venters pioneering medical education for women & medical care for working-class women

Joanna Young @joannayoung6

Sir John Crofton, who led the team which cured TB, deserves a place.

EdinWorld Heritage @EdinburghWH

Ebenezer MacRae, first to properly identify Edinburgh’s historic buildings & designed city’s police boxes

James Jopling @jamesjopling

Prof. Mike Dixon - leading breast cancer surgeon, researcher and lifesaver at the Western General

Blair Macdonald @BlairMacdonald1

Sir Chris Hoy, Phil Stamp and Sean Connery

Edinburgh Spotlight @EdinSpotlight

Who’s your #edgreats then? Lynne (McNicoll) from @itsgood2give for starters!