ONLY three Scots have been immortalised on the Royal Mail postage stamp - Robert the Bruce, Robert Burns and David Livingstone. Now they're joined by a fourth - Melissa Stribling.

Even keen film fans may never have heard of Stribling, the Gourock-born actress whose career highlights included a supporting role in the saucy comedy Confessions Of A Window Cleaner in 1974 and appearances on the Benny Hill Show and the long- running soap opera Crossroads.

However, she did have one hugely important role in a big-screen masterpiece, playing Mina, the main female character in the classic Hammer horror version of Dracula in 1958.

Next month Stribling appears along with Christopher Lee on a new stamp commemorating the 50th anniversary of the film. It is part of a series of six devoted to Hammer horror and the Carry On films, and it shows her exposing her neck (and much of her ample bosom) to her bloodthirsty co-star.

The actress, who died in 1992, joins an elite group of Scots to appear on British stamps and also an elite group of actors and actresses, including Charlie Chaplin and Peter Sellers.

Stribling's screen career lasted more than 40 years. She was married to Basil Dearden, a successful English film director, and was the mother of James Dearden, who wrote Fatal Attraction.

She was born in Gourock on November 7, 1926, though reference books variously cite 1927 or 1929. It was common for actresses to knock a year or two off their ages in those days.

It is an unusual name, and there is no statutory record for anyone called Stribling born in Scotland at the time. But her younger son Torquil solved the mystery by revealing that Stribling was her middle name and that her family name was Smith. There were plenty of Smiths around.

The family moved to Buckinghamshire, where her father latterly became postmaster at Pinewood Studios. In her teens, Stribling worked as a cutting-room assistant at Ealing, where she met Dearden, who was almost twice her age and in the process of establishing himself as one of England's top directors.

His films included the Will Hay comedy The Goose Steps Out (1942), the police drama The Blue Lamp (1950), which introduced the character of Dixon of Dock Green, and the historical drama Khartoum (1966), which starred Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier.

Stribling trained at Rada and pursued a career as an actress in theatre and film. She and Dearden worked together on several films and TV shows, including the classic crime caper The League Of Gentlemen (1960) and the TV series The Persuaders! (1971), with Tony Curtis and Roger Moore. It was Dracula, however, that gave Stribling her greatest and most memorable role.

Wayne Kinsey, who has written several books on Hammer and is considered one of the foremost experts in the field, admitted he knew very little about Stribling, who, unlike her co-star, did not become a regular in the studio's films.

"She was very good in the role of Mina, bringing out the type of sexuality that soon became a trademark in Hammer's gothic horror renaissance," he said. "As to whether she merits being on a stamp - well, the stamps commemorate Hammer, and their films were a team approach."

Director and screenwriter James Dearden won an Oscar nomination for his script for Fatal Attraction in 1988. His most recent film was Rogue Trader (1999), with Ewan McGregor as wayward banker Nick Leeson.

Torquil Dearden, Stribling's younger son, works as an editor at a London company that specialises in commercials and corporate videos. "It's a lovely idea that they are doing the stamp," he said. "She would have been rather chuffed.

"She was certainly very proud of having done Dracula. She used to tell fantastic stories about Christopher Lee throwing her into this big open grave in the Pinewood back lot. She opened her mouth to scream and he took great delight in throwing a whole sod all over her face, and she always thought that was incredibly funny."

She may never have become a household name like Sean Connery or Deborah Kerr, but Melissa Stribling has beaten Scotland's best-known actors into postal history. She now takes her place alongside Livingstone, Burns and the Bruce coming soon to a post office near you.