Magnus Magnusson, Icelandic journalist, translator, writer and television presenter, Died at 77

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Magnus Magnusson died on the 7th of January 2007 at the age of 77, was an Icelandic journalist, translator, writer and television presenter.

Born in Reykjavík on the 12th of October 1929 but grew up in Edinburgh, where his father, Sigursteinn Magnússon, was the Icelandic consul.

Magnus Magnusson was married to Mamie Baird (1925-2012).

They had five children.

Their eldest son, Siggi, died in a traffic accident in 1973, when he was struck by a vehicle close to the Glasgow Academy playing fields at Anniesland, Glasgow.

Their daughter Sally is a journalist, writer and TV presenter, and youngest son Jon a TV producer, writer and director.

After joining the BBC, he was a presenter on many different programs, reflecting his interests in history, archaeology, and the environment.

His interest in ornithology started in his youth; when he was 14, he won a medal from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for his essay on the mating habits of the blackbird.

Four decades later, he became president of the RSPB.

In a statement, his children said: “Magnus was the most generous, steadfast, loving and loved of husbands and fathers. He taught each of us how to live, and in the last few weeks he has taught us how to die.

He did both with infinite grace.”

Such was the popularity of the show that it returned to the BBC in 2002 for a celebrity special and 2003 saw the first full new series with a new quizmaster John Humphrys.

In 2004 Mr Magnusson had to undergo emergency abdominal surgery after reportedly suffering a ruptured stomach abscess.

His interest in ornithology went back to his schooldays, when, at 14, he won a gold medal from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for an essay on the mating habits of the blackbird.

Magnusson’s books included I’ve Started so I’ll Finish (1997), a memoir of his years on Mastermind, and Scotland: The Story of a Nation (2000), as well as translations of Icelandic sagas and works by Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness.

He also edited the fifth edition (1990) of the Chambers Biographical Dictionary. Although Magnusson never took British citizenship, he was awarded an honorary knighthood in 1989.

He is survived by his wife Mamie, to whom he was married for 52 years, and his four surviving children, Sally, Margaret, Anna and Jon. His elder son Siggy died in 1973.

Magnusson’s preoccupations were principally with the environment and history, and his books and appointments reflected that.

His long list of published work includes Introducing Archaeology (1972); Treasures of Scotland (1981); and The Nature of Scotland (1991); he also edited the fifth edition of the Chambers Biographical Dictionary in 1990.

Among Magnusson’s passions was birds.

As a schoolboy he had won the Public Schools Essay Competition for his submission on the mating ritual of blackbirds.

He served as president of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds from 1985 to 1990.

 

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