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The Birdman of Stirling Castle

You see Stirling Castle long before you get to it. Perched high on a chunk of volcanic intrusive rock at the strategic point where the River Forth widens, offering the last downstream crossing between the Highlands and the Lowlands of Scotland. You couldn’t pick a more strategic spot for a castle, and the sheer cliffs made it impossible to breach from any side but the heavily-defended front. There were eight significant sieges on the castle, the last (unsuccessfully) by Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Mary, Queen of Scots was crowned here. That’s a story many know. Lesser known but certainly noteworthy was the life of John Damian, resident alchemist for King James IV, who boldly declared that he would fly to France in a flying rig he created that looked like a chicken suit. Damian brought the court out to the Ladies Lookout, which offered one of the steepest drops. He flapped his wings, stepped off the edge and… promptly plummeted. He would have died right then had it not been for the large pile of chamber pot remnants. Instead the mound of muck cushioned his landing just enough that he got out of it with a broken leg and wounded pride. And on the bright side, a bit of immortality.

Glancing over the wall where Damian made his flight, its hard for me to imagine him taking that leap into the abyss. But that demonstrates the power of convictions. Sometimes they work in your favor, sometimes they leave you covered in feathers and crap with everyone you know laughing at you. There’s nothing wrong with taking the leap, but maybe limit your downside first.

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