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