The 20th Century’s greatest adventure story...nearly

Asked to name Scotland’s greatest war hero, you might well plump for one of the nation’s 164 Victoria Cross winners, or perhaps even William Wallace.

By Dawn Renton
Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 7:21 am
Updated Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 7:21 am
The Nearly Man Tells the story of a boy from Banchory who went on to lead one of the most extraordinary life stories ever told.
The Nearly Man Tells the story of a boy from Banchory who went on to lead one of the most extraordinary life stories ever told.

When asked to choose Scotland’s most successful businessman the options are wide-ranging, from Andrew Carnegie to Duncan Ballantyne.

From the heights of the nation’s literary achievements, Robert Louis Stevenson or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to the depths of its most notorious criminals, like Bible John or Peter Manuel, many Scots have excelled in their chosen fields.

However, not many have tried to achieve success in all those areas and more besides. Not many would even have the temerity to try. Except, perhaps, for one man from Banchory – Francis William Metcalfe.

The saga of his incredible life is perhaps the greatest untold story of the 20th century. So why isn’t Francis Metcalfe Scotland’s most acclaimed hero, adventurer, writer, businessman, or even its most notorious villain? Well, he very nearly was.

Author Mark Bridgeman explained: “I first stumbled across the story of Francis Metcalfe while writing a series of short stories about four years ago. My intuition immediately told me there was so much more to this man than meets the eye.

"His story is a truly amazing one, that will take you from rural Scotland at the end of the Victorian era, through the golden Edwardian age, the horrors of the trenches in the Great War, to the frozen expanses of Arctic Russia to face the Bolsheviks, then to London and Paris in the sizzling twenties.

"And if that’s not enough, there’s a battle with Sinn Fein in Ireland, and a communist riot in Canada, an escape from the police, three stints in prison, two brushes with death, and one secret romantic tryst – plus a few encounters with some rather famous people along the way.”

Mark explained the appeal of the man and story: “The story of Francis Metcalfe isn’t just a unique way to uncover some of the last century’s lesser-known events. For me, it was a chance to see just how easily the course of a normal person’s live can change; and how devastating events can suddenly overtake a person, just by, on any given day, choosing to turn left instead of right, or say yes instead of no.

"During my research, I was lucky enough not only to find his memoirs, which haven’t been seen since 1926, and to locate the only person still living to have met Francis Metcalfe.”

Mark added: “I hope I’ve done his rollercoaster story justice and achieved my bit in bringing some of the most interesting events of the last century to light – all through the eyes of a most remarkable man, whose name, I hope, might now be elevated from the ranks of the nearly famous to really famous.”

The Nearly Man is available to order now .