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Famous Scots - Magnus Magnusson

Magnusson was born in Reykjavk but grew up in Edinburgh, where his father, Sigursteinn Magnsson, was the Icelandic consul. Under Icelandic naming conventions, his name would have been Magns Sigursteinsson (Magns, son of Sigursteinn), but his family adopted British naming conventions and used his father's patronymic as a surname.

He was schooled at the Edinburgh Academy.  After graduating from Jesus College, Oxford, Magnusson became a reporter with the Scottish Daily Express and The Scotsman. He went freelance in 1967, then joined the BBC, presenting programmes on history and archaeology as well as appearing in news programmes. He was Lord Rector of Edinburgh University from 1975 to 1978, and later became Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University. Magnusson presented the long-running quiz show Mastermind from 1972 to 1997.

The popularity of the show made him one of the best-known faces of the BBC. His famous catchphrase, which the current presenter John Humphrys has continued to use, was "I've started so I'll finish". Magnusson made a one-off cameo appearance as himself, hosting Mastermind in the children's series Dizzy Heights. Magnusson translated a variety of books from modern Icelandic and Old Norse into English. Among these are several works by Halldr Laxness, the Nobel prize-winning novelist from Iceland, and a number of Norse sagas which he co-translated (with Hermann P?lsson) for the Penguin Classics series: Njal's Saga (1960), The Vinland Sagas (1965), King Harald's Saga (1966) and Laxdaela Saga (1969). Magnusson was also the author of a popular history of the Viking era, called The Vikings (revised edition, 2000).

Magnusson was awarded an honorary knighthood (Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 1989, and was elected President of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for a five-year period, at their 94th AGM in October 1995, succeeding Max Nicholson. He also became the founder Chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage upon its inception in 1992. In 2002 he became Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University. In the early years of the 21st century, Magnusson also wrote for the New Statesman.[1] On 12 October 2006, his 77th birthday, Magnusson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Magnusson mordantly noted that "this has to be one of my worst birthdays ever". His condition meant he was forced to cancel a string of public appearances.

He died on 7 January 2007

Headstone Photograph

Further Information

Firstname: MAGNUS


Date of Death: 7th Jan 2007

Age at Death: 78

Cemetery: Baldernock cemetery

  Craigmaddie Road


PostCode: G62 6ES

Region: Glasgow and Clyde Valley

Country: Scotland


Please Note, the marker on this map indicates the Cemetery location, not the location of a particular grave. is a privately owned website with no affiliation to any Local Councils.