Keith Rossiter: My vote for Greatest Janner goes to...
I AM thinking of writing a book and calling it "Plymouth: More Famous People than Belgium".
This city has bred some high achievers, while the home of the European Commission is famously a byword for mediocrity.
Once you are done with Adolphe Sax (inventor of the saxophone), Hergé, the creator of Tintin, the actress Audrey Hepburn, and a couple of painters, Peter Paul Rubens and René Magritte, you have pretty well exhausted the list.
As I am discovering through The Herald's online poll to find "The Greatest Janner" (www.thisisplymouth/greatest) a city of a quarter of a million can easily whup, as they say in the Deep South, an entire country.
BUY ONE GET ONE FREE - Medium Cod, Chips & Mushy Peas at...View details
Simply Purchase a Medium Cod, Chips and Mushy Peas and receive another portion for FREE.
Sustainable Cod, Fresh Cut Chips & Proper Mushy Peas.
Visit Our Website for more information and offers
Terms: Offer valid only with this Voucher, 1 voucher Per Customer. Not for use with any other offer, Not transferable to other menu items
Contact: 01752 421044
Valid until: Thursday, June 27 2013
The Herald asked readers to nominate their favourite contenders for the title, and voting is now open to find the winner.
Polls like this are fun but notoriously unreliable. In 1998 People Magazine tried using online voting to decide the year's "Most Beautiful Person". Gleeful pranksters cast 230,000 votes for Hank the Angry, Drunken Dwarf – more than they did for Julia Roberts, Leonardo DiCaprio and Madonna together.
A year later, on the eve of the Millennium, Time magazine asked readers to vote for their "Person of the Century". A Turkish campaign put the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in the lead until the magazine's editors overruled them in favour of Einstein.
But of course none of you would be so naughty, would you?
As a boy growing up in Africa I would have rated only two English cities worth a mention. London, of course, being the former home of Dick Whittington and his cat; and Plymouth, where Sir Francis Drake famously played bowls on the Hoe while waiting for the Spanish Armada to self-destruct. Such is schoolboy history.
Drake was born in Tavistock but spent enough of his time in Plymouth, including a spell as Mayor, to qualify in the terms of our vote. He also brought water from the moors to Plymouth along what is now known as Drake's Leat, think about that next time you boil a kettle.
Richard Whittington, as far as we know, was too busy being Lord Mayor of London to visit Plymouth.
Charles Darwin, immortalised by his theory of evolution through natural selection and nominated by our readers, spent a couple of months in Devonport in 1831 while he waited to sail round the world on The Beagle.
His observations of Plymouth and the surrounding area are recorded in his diary. All the same, it's hard to argue that he was any kind of Janner, so my vote would go elsewhere.
Perhaps to Edward Stanley Gibbons? Like many boys I flirted with stamp collecting, looking up my latest acquisitions in my father's Stanley Gibbons stamp catalogue.
Little did I know that I would eventually wash up on the very shore of its founder, Edward Stanley Gibbons.
Ed (I feel I know him well enough to be familiar by now) was born in 1840 at his father William's chemist shop in Treville Street, in Plymouth city centre, so it's fair to say he's a Janner through and through.
He's a household name in stamp-collecting households around the world. But Greatness? Perhaps that requires something more.
What about Sir Joshua Reynolds?
The 18th century portrait painter was one of the founders and first President of the Royal Academy. He was born in Plympton. We could have a long debate about whether he qualifies as a Janner, since the town was not then a part of Plymouth.
My cursor hovers over the voting button for Nicholas Sherwell, whose name was unknown to me 24 hours ago. He is remembered now through Sherwell Lane and Plymouth University's Sherwell Centre, but Nicholas had a more colourful life than mere brickwork would suggest.
He was Mayor of Plymouth three times, sailed with Drake on raids to the Spanish Main, and became a wealthy merchant, landowner and philanthropist.
He helped to set up Plymouth Hospital of the Orphans' Aid in 1615 and helped the Pilgrim Fathers on their way to settle in America.
With the Mayflower 2020 celebrations already on the horizon, it's worth noting that he was a member of the Virginia Company, which founded Jamestown in 1608. He also helped to fund a settlement in Massachusetts in 1623 that eventually grew into Boston.
You may instead choose the warlike John Rouse Merriot Chard VC, hero of Rorke's Drift in the 19th Century Zulu Wars.
Or how about Sir Charles Eastlake, a painter born in Plymouth who became President of the Royal Academy like his predecessor, Reynolds, and the first director of the National Gallery.
Or perhaps you prefer a modern hero like Tom Daley, winner of bronze medals on the diving platform and outright gold for charm, charisma and telly presence.
Scott of the Antarctic was a Plymouth boy born and bred (and you can see his famous skis in the City Museum). For me, though, his memory is tainted by the failure of his final expedition.
Lady Nancy Astor was the first woman to take her seat in Parliament, and Michael Foot was a loveable old socialist and one-time leader of the Labour Party, but I'm reluctant to vote for politicians unless they leave a legacy more tangible than their own glory.
The best part of this competition has been discovering the famous personalities I didn't know anything about, many of them commemorated in city street names. So my vote goes to ... Nicholas Sherwell.