Fife’s An­cient Cap­i­tal

It’s Games Day in Mark­inch, but Wil­lie Shand doesn’t need any ex­cuse to visit this fas­ci­nat­ing lit­tle town.

The People's Friend Special - - CONTENTS -

Wil­lie Shand vis­its Mark­inch

about 80 feet high, this is one of only five such Nor­man tow­ers in main­land Scot­land.

Of these five tow­ers, the one at Mark­inch is re­garded as the finest. In­deed, some would say it’s the finest in ex­is­tence any­where – ig­nor­ing the later added oc­tag­o­nal steeple, at least.

A long time be­fore even this tower was built, though, the rise it stands on was used as a preach­ing sta­tion said to have been es­tab­lished to­wards the end of the sixth cen­tury by St Drostan.

St Drostan was a Scot­tish saint, ed­u­cated and trained in Ire­land by Columba. When he re­turned to his home­land he was to live his life as a her­mit near Gle­nesk.

Af­ter a spell on Iona he went on to be­come the Ab­bot of the Monastery of Deer in Aberdeen­shire. Tra­di­tion has it that the name Deer is owed to the saint – stem­ming from the word deara, mean­ing tears – the tears he shed when part­ing com­pany from Columba.

On the War Me­mo­rial in front of the Lau­rel Bank Ho­tel in the cen­tre of Mark­inch you’ll find a carved statue of St Drostan hold­ing his church. Nat­u­rally, he was adopted as the town’s pa­tron saint.

There are not many towns that can lay claim to hav­ing two pa­tron saints, but Mark­inch can. Fol­low­ing the growth of the Ro­man in­flu­ence, in 1243, in an at­tempt to rid it of con­nec­tions with the old Celtic saint, the church at Mark­inch was reded­i­cated to St John the Bap­tist.

It would ap­pear that dur­ing the reign of James V, the vicar of St Drostan’s had an un­for­tu­nate rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing far from the bright­est star in the sky.

The poor man’s rep­u­ta­tion was such that it even reached the ears of the King, prompt­ing him to do some­thing about it. If he wasn’t fit for the job then the King would soon re­move him.

King James de­cided to set the vicar a test by ask­ing four ques­tions. The vicar knew enough to re­alise he needed help. If only he had the brains of the lo­cal miller. He had an idea. Could they not trade places for that day?

The King ar­rived and asked his four ques­tions to the man he thought was the vicar. “Where is the mid­dle of the earth?” he asked.

“Right there,” the vicar’s stand-in said, point­ing his stick at the ground, adding that if his majesty mea­sured all round he would in­deed find it to be the same dis­tance round ei­ther side. The King asked his sec­ond ques­tion. “How long will I take to go round the world?”

Quick as a flash came the an­swer. If you rise with the sun and go round with

At the Pipe Band com­pe­ti­tion.

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