Edinburgh author and photographer Malcolm Fife dies aged 66

A leading author, landscape photographer and aviation historian has died in Edinburgh following a short illness.

Wednesday, 13th January 2021, 4:45 pm
Mr Fife passed away on January 4 after a short illness

During his lifetime, Malcolm Fife, who was 66 when he passed away on January 4, authored historic books including ‘The Nor Loch: Scotland’s Lost Loch’ and was also renowned for postcards bearing photographs he had taken.

Having been born in the Capital on August 18 1954, Mr Fife grew up in Edinburgh where he attended Melville College before he went on to receive a Master of Arts in Geography from the University of Edinburgh.

He worked for the Parks and Recreation Department of Edinburgh Council before becoming a full-time writer and freelance professional photographer. The books he wrote are widely regarded as ‘must-haves’ for anyone researching the city’s past.

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His writing career began in the Scots Magazine with a number of articles accompanied by his photographs. He went on to write a number of books including the history of various military airfields - Crail, Aklington, and Drem, civil aviation in Scotland between the wars, British airship bases, Leith docks and other Edinburgh-based subjects, which were his passion to document.

As a photographer, his forte was the landscape of both urban and regional Scotland and work is to be seen on many postcards illustrating the beauty of the country.

His loved ones described him as a ‘tireless researcher’ with his first love being aviation and he had a talent of bringing the facts and figures about the Royal Air Force in Scotland to life, making it an interesting topic even to those who could perhaps find it dull.

Mr Fife’s Australian brother-in-law Ross Dimsey wrote: “To read one of his aviation books is to live with the pilots and crew through both war and peace. Mal also had the knack of illuminating seemingly obscure subjects with fascinating details, as in his histories of Calton Jail and Nor Loch.

“This took him as far afield as Australia where he was the unit stills photographer on the TV series “The Great Air Race”, an account of the 1934 London to Melbourne race. He was also a valuable contributor of research to that program and other aviation-based works for the screen.”

Mr Fife had complications with cancer and Covid-19 before he died, and his family some of whom live in Australia are currently unable to travel due to restrictions to attend his funeral.

Mr Dimsey added: “It was always such an adventure to come over to Scotland and to visit Mal at his home in the Grange. As a fellow aviation nut, I would spend many pleasurable hours in his basement amongst his extensive library and collection of model planes. Malcolm was a private, kind man. Eve and I will miss him greatly, as will many others.”

Malcolm’s sister Marion remembers his love of planes since childhood and how devastated he was when his dream of becoming a pilot was denied to him due to colour blindness.

She also added that his lifelong passion for Edinburgh and East Lothian was obvious in his photography and within his books.

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