THE tenth anniversary of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction was celebrated with the world premiere of Dandie Dinmont the operetta.

Acclaimed author Alexander McCall Smith, along with composer Tom Cunningham, created a fittingly fabulous musical tribute to one of Walter Scott’s most alluring characters from the Guy Mannering novel.

Performed by five of the country’s leading opera singers, under the guidance of artistic director Alan Borthwick and musical director David Lyle, as well as pupils from Melrose Primary, Dandie Dinmont was deserving of the standing ovation it received.

McCall Smith explained the background to the performance.

He told us: “I had a conversation with Richard Buccleuch last year about the tenth anniversary of the Prize, and I suggested something from Scott would be ideal for an opera.

“Dandie Dinmont is one of the most attractive characters in Scott’s work – he’s a very appealing, nice man… a jovial farmer.

“Working out what was happening in Guy Mannering is quite a task, so concentrating on Dandie Dinmont was the way forward.

“It’s always great fun when you see what you have been working on come to fruition being performed.

“The Borders Book Festival is one of the nicest book festivals there is – it’s very friendly - and where better to have an opera about a character from Sir Walter Scott’s novels.”

Simon Boothroyd, Andrew McTaggart, Luca Hlaing, Fiona Main and Gillian Robertson made the adult roles their own with exceptional performances.

But they were almost overshadowed by Dandie’s children, played by Melrose Primary pupils Eve Buckenham, Ben Cooke, Grace Fotheringham, Lexie Hamilton, Maryam Khan, Sarah Low, Isabella Rause and Maise White.

Alexander has been a permanent fixture at the Borders Book Festival since its early years.

His hugely popular The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series and the 44 Scotland Street series of books have made his a firm favourite with fans of all ages.

As well as discussing his hometown of Edinburgh, the 70-year-old was also talking about his latest best-selling novel, The Second Worst Restaurant in France.

Alexander hopes his visits to Harmony Garden will continue for many more years.

He added: “There are certain book festivals I like doing and the Borders is certainly one of them.

“If I’m invited I’d like to continue coming to Melrose for a few more years yet.

“Book festivals are an important part of conversations we have as a community and a nation – people talk about ideas in a way which is very focussed, and that’s in an age when there is so much and so disparate media that discussions become quite fragmented.”