SOME of the biggest names in sport, politics, television and, of course, literature are being eclipsed at this year's Borders Book Festival by a rare breed of dog.

The Dandie Dinmont breed is named after a character in Sir Walter Scott's early novel Guy Mannering.

And a dozen or so of the lovable pooches took centre stage last week during the launch of 2019 festival at Harmony Gardens in Melrose.

While the likes of David Coulthard, Kate Humble, Stephen Hendry, Alan Titchmarsh and Kirsty Wark will undoubtedly pack out the marquees during the four glorious days in June, it is the cute canines that are providing some of the biggest talking points.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the prestigious Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction there will be a world premiere of the Dandie Dinmont operetta written by Alexander McCall Smith.

With music composed by Tom Cunningham and directed by David Lyle (music) and Alan Borthwick (artistic), the operatta features four professional opera singers along with pupils from Melrose Primary School.

Festival director Alistair Moffat said: "There is a strong connection between Sir Walter Scot and the Dandie Dinmont breed - not only are the dogs named after one of his characters but the Duchess of Buccleuch, who along with the Duke of Buccleuch kindly sponsor the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, is patron of the Dandie Dinmont Society.

"I have read Alexander's Dandie Dinmont Operetta and listened to the music - and it's fantastic.

"The operetta is based on the character from the Guy Mannering novel and not the dog - but we couldn't resist having them along as well."

A total of 18 pupils from Melrose Primary School's choir auditioned for the youthful parts in the operetta.

And eight of them have been selected to appear in the celebratory performance.

Mr Moffat added: "All of the children who auditioned, as well as their families, are being invited along to the premiere.

"I can;'t recommend this highly enough - it's a wonderful family-orientated way to start the Saturday programme."

The Dandie Dinmont Operetta's world premiere will be staged in the Douglas Home Marquee just ahead of the winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction being announced.

Acclaimed authors Peter Carey, Cressida Connolly, Samantha Harvey, Andrew Miller, Michael Ondaatje and Robin Robertson are all in the running for the £25,000 prize.