The Wizard of Kirkcaldy

Pic from the Fife Walking website

Halloween season continues with more local magic and mystery!

Our neighbouring town up the coast is famous for producing two financial wizards, Adam Smith and Gordon Brown, but a less well-known son of Kirkcaldy is the extraordinary character of Michael Scott. Shrouded in myth, he was known as ‘The Wizard of Fife’.

Head up into the woods of the stunning Beveridge Park, and you’ll find a fanciful wooden sculpture of Scott en route along the ‘Wizard’s Walk‘ which, if you want, can take you all the way to the ruins of Balwearie Castle.

There are lots of exciting legends about Michael Scott. He zipped around on a flying horse, ‘cleft the Eildon hills in three and bridled the river Tweed with a curb of stone’, and turned the devil to twine in the sands of Kirkcaldy beach.

None of the stories are quite as remarkable as the truth though. Scott is generally accepted to be Scotland’s first scientist, alchemist and astronomer. He wrote books, worked for Kings, and generally led an incredible life.

In 1210, Scott left Scotland for Toledo, where he learned Arabic, studied Jewish literature and ancient philosophy, and became so famous he was head-hunted by King Frederick II – the Holy Roman Emperor! He helped Frederick out with philosophical enquiries (“Where do rainbows come from?”; “What causes God?” etc) and became his Royal astronomer. There was a darker side, too. Stories swirled about him drowning people in an attempt to weigh their souls, and conducting cruel sleep deprivation experiments.

Scott was hugely famous within his own lifetime, and he turns up in literature for centuries – usually as a master of the dark arts. He’s even mentioned in Dante’s Inferno!

In later years he was a member of the group of nobles who travelled to Norway to bring Princess Margaret, the Maid of Norway, back to Scotland as Queen after the death of King Alexander III in 1296. Margaret’s death precipitated Scotland into the Wars of Independence against England. Read more about him here.

Main photo here is Kirkcaldy beach by Gilbert Townsend, a photographer who stayed at the Studio over the summer.