WEEK FIFTY-ONE-AND-THREE-QUARTERS – Francis Begbie/Miss Jean Brodie

>> Francis Begbie

Miss Jean Brodie <<

begbie         miss-jean-brodie

Two literary anti-heroes fall under the Scotia Extremis spotlight, both hailing from Edinburgh, both representing elements of the Scottish character but each separated from the other by a chasm of class, aspiration, education and temperament. Francis Begbie, the most memorable character from Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting novels, is a foul-mouthed, brawling sociopath on a very short fuse. He is drawn to the drug addicts at the centre of Welsh’s novel but is not an addict himself, though one could argue that he is addicted to confrontation and bouts of vicious physical violence. By contrast, Miss Jean Brodie, literary invention of novelist Muriel Spark, is more refined and genteel, aiming to lead a clique of secondary school girls (whom she refers to as her crème de la crème) into adulthood. She manipulates their thoughts, beliefs and ultimately their romantic and sexual lives and seeks to imprint upon them something of her own questionable moral belief system. The two characters were unforgettably brought to life at the cinema; Begbie by the wiry Robert Carlyle and Brodie by the magnetic Dame Maggie Smith. Although it’s inconceivable that the two could ever meet each other in a literary sense, they stand equally for perceptions of the Scottish character through the ages; educated yet capable of brutality, loyal and yet individual, lying in the gutter yet looking at the stars.

by Martin Malone

A slight shift
in the cunt’s perception
and you are fucking claimed.
General Franco,
gallus twat,
hair-trigger king
of your twenty street

Francis Begbie,
the law-giver:
down from the hill
with his cairn
of dimpled glass
to stick into the face
of some draftpak.

How you anchor us,
Blind Beggar,
in the keich
of our own expedience,
lead us
by its nose-ring
from cop-out
to appeasement.

unlovable man,
let me pull the pin
and roll you
fizzing into Annie’s Bar
to stanley well-fed chops,
stick the head on Gove,
have Boris shit his keks.

Rogue trader
in broken teeth,
show them what
the markets mean
to scum like us,
for these myths
give us the basis
to rescue the night.


by Tim Turnbull

And here entombed
is quisling Sandy,
gripping the bars,
struggling with big
questions – as if there
were questions, big
or otherwise, to be
answered or asked –
wrestling with faith,
the fragile psyche,
sin, and the world
and all its dirt.

But where’s the use
in that, my dears,
my dilettanti,
when we have myth,
art and aesthetics.
Let’s tramp the streets
in soft black boots,
hail and worship
gilt and glitter pagan
Caesars, find succour
in flaccid rebellions
and easy heresies.

There is no evil
where there’s beauty.
That’s the siren wail.
Watch the film.
Know we were born
way past our prime.




martin-malone-picBorn in County Durham, Martin Malone now lives in Scotland. He has published two poetry collections: The Waiting Hillside (Templar, 2011) and Cur (Shoestring, 2015). Two further, Great War-related collections, The Unreturning and Ghosts of the Vortex will be published in 2018. An Honorary Research Fellow in Creative Writing at Aberdeen University, he has just finished a PhD in poetry at Sheffield University. He edits The Interpreter’s House poetry journal.


tim-turnbull_-alejandro-salinasTim Turnbull was born in North Yorkshire in 1960 but has lived in Highland Perthshire for fifteen years. He worked for many years in the forestry industry, but has more recently been involved in adult literacy projects. Donut Press publish his poetry collections Stranded in Sub-Atomica (2005) and Caligula on Ice (2009). He has also produced ‘entertainments’ for the stage. His collection of eerie and satirical tales Silence and Other Stories (2016) is published by Postbox Press, the literary fiction imprint of Red Squirrel Press.




Images courtesy of;
Tim Turnbull photo courtesy of Alejandro Salinas

One thought on “WEEK FIFTY-ONE-AND-THREE-QUARTERS – Francis Begbie/Miss Jean Brodie

  1. Amazing similarities here – the actors of course (Carlyle & Smith) have pushed boundaries in their work, promoting Scottish Drama and film along the way, and their characters are unabashed in their congruence. Your final sentence sums it up beautifully. Lovely piece of writing 🙂


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