John McIlwraith, whose commentaries graced All Things Considered between 1990 and 2001, died last Friday. Listeners may recall McIlwraith's deep Scottish accent and wit, which he applied to subjects ranging from insomnia to a childhood bout with what was thought to be tuberculosis.
McIlwraith emigrated from Glascow to Vancouver, British Columbia, as a young man. His first job there was as a coal-stoker on the western ferries of the Canadian Pacific railroad.
But he soon drifted toward a career more suited to his garrulous dispostion: as morning radio host in Seattle, and later as a writer for newspapers and magazines. Charming to be sure, John McIlwraith was crusty and willing to tweak convention — like he did when he raised the hackles of his countrymen.
"The Scots are a race not noted for their music," McIlwraith began. After explaining his almost blasphemal dislike for an ingrained Scottish tradition, he closed with a wondering comment about how Scots could have "mistaken bagpipes for a musical instrument."
John McIlwraith suffered from Lewy Body Disease. He is survived by his wife, Dixie, four children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Commentator John McIlwraith tells about his difficulties with his grandson, who was at one point living with him. A complex and complicated child, Jesse has Attention Deficit Disorder. Eventually, his outbursts forced his grandparents to send him away.