September 09, 2015

In praise

Take thou the writing: thine it is. For who
Burnished the sword, blew on the drowsy coal,
Held still the target higher, chary of praise
And prodigal of counsel who but thou?
So now, in the end, if this the least be good,
If any deed be done, if any fire
Burn in the imperfect page, the praise be thine.

I have always liked Robert Louis Stevenson’s dedication to his wife in his final novel, Weir of Hermiston, which he wrote at his estate on the island of Upolu in Samoa between fits of coughing up consumptive blood. Due to his sudden death, the novel was never completed, but fortunately he dedicated it before he was, as it were, done.

Behind almost every good piper or drummer is a partner who provides support, encouragement and inspiration. I’ve written before about the benefits of having an understanding spouse and family who understands or, better yet, participates in themselves, the strange affliction that is competitive piping and drumming. Conversely, we have all known pipers and drummers, some who became very good, who have been pressured to quit due to a badgering partner who insists that more attention be placed on other things – specifically, them.

We pipers and drummers can be self-centred. Some might say that the more selfish you are, the better you’ll be. We spend hours by ourselves perfecting our game. It’s generally a solitary conceit, and, if we’re lucky, the happiness that comes with success brings happiness to our family, who are made happy because we’re happy.

I see the partners around the games, whether in-person or at home in support. Invariably, successful pipers and drummers are buoyed by the unconditional love of others. How else would you be able or allowed or motivated to pursue so wholly such a flight of self-indulgent fancy as competitive piping and drumming than with a reassuring and compassionate partner at your side?

My greatest supporter by far has been by my side for 30 years now, and 20 years ago today, September 9,1995, for reasons that I still can’t comprehend or accept, she married me at Greyfriar’s Kirk in Edinburgh. She was radiant as ever, and she shines today, as she has every day 20 years on.

A brilliant scientist, a wonderful mother, a faithful companion, a beautiful woman – she  weakens my knees.

Chary of praise, effusive with common sense, she’s the correcting counterbalance to all that’s not right. With the lightest touch, she tips the scales in my favour.

Whether it’s the playing of pipes or the writing about it, she not only permits me, she encourages me to do my thing. She understands what I get from it. She’s happier when I am made happy by it, and, by that alone, she makes me happier.

She is comfort by my side. Fount of delight. She’s a rare jewel and my astonishingly good fortune and, if whatever I have done is the least good, it is she who deserves credit at least in equal measure.

Twenty years now, she holds still my target higher. The praise is hers.



  1. Congrats to you and Julie, Andrew. Now, tell me, how did she manage to put up with you for 30 years? 🙂 She is all of what you say she is and more, and from a wonderful, classy family to boot. Even wore Doc Martens in the day. May you both enjoy another 20 years together: it doesn’t get much better. Cheers and A’, Syd . .

  2. Congratulations to you both with wishes for many, many more years of good health and happiness together!
    Thank you for another outstanding article…one that gives me pause to reflect on similar thoughts of unyielding support at home and the good fortune that I have experienced in this regard myself.

  3. Congratulations and a Happy 20th Anniversary Andrew.
    As you know, I’ve known Julie since we were in primary school together. Then went to Craigmount High School and played in the pipe band. She was good fun and kind natured to boot. At school she was always in the top classes and was destined to do really well in academic life. She’s always been a crackin’ lookin’ lass and I remember all the boys in the school band were devastated when they heard that she was dating a guy from St. Louis. I even followed her all the way to Canada to see if she would change her mind (just kidding).
    I haven’t seen Julie at the games recently but please wish her a Happy Anniversary from Andrea and I. Cheers.



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