Copyright ©2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

John McIlWraith, whose commentaries graced this program between 1990 and 2001, died last Friday. Listeners may recall him plying his thick Scottish accent and wit to subjects ranging from insomnia to a childhood bout with what was thought to be tuberculosis.

(Soundbite of past broadcast)

JOHN MCILWRAITH reporting:

My mother, who had great faith in the virtues of natural foods and natural home remedies, determined to make me tall and broad and healthy by pumping increasing amounts of milk into my tiny body, smearing great slabs of butter on everything and stuffing me with creamy, rich, local cheese.

But day by day I grew thinner and paler, until it looked as though the first strong wind would carry me away. Many months later, I weighed little more than a two-year-old boy. One doctor grew curious as to why, although obviously besieged by the disease, I had no cough, no sputum, and was refusing to die, so he ran a series of tests and discovered that my only problem was an absolute allergy to milk, to butter, to cheese, to everything that contained butterfat.

They changed my diet and I started gaining weight. I got taller. My face had some color in it and if the Chicago Bears had been the Glasgow Bears, they would have drafted me.

NORRIS: John McIlWraith emigrated from Glasgow to Vancouver, British Columbia. His first job was stoking coal on the western ferries of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, but he soon drifted toward a career more suited to him as a morning radio host in Seattle. He later wrote for newspapers and magazines. Charming to be sure, John McIlWraith was also crusty and he tweaked convention, sometimes raising the hackles of his countrymen.

MCILWRAITH: The Scots are a race not noted for their music. The favorite instrument in Scotland is the piano accordion, followed by the fiddle. The next favorite would be the harmonica. Even the Scots consider the bagpipes to be an instrument of torture, of warfare, its practitioners huge, red-faced farmer types who have switched from pig sticking to bagpipe playing.

Bagpipes are a strange instrument. The only reason they were invented is the Scots needed some kind of noise to rally the clans when the English crossed the border. They could have bought a bell or a whistle, but being a thrifty people they took a pig's bladder and stuck a reed in it and the rest is history. For some reason, great masses of people have mistaken bagpipes for a musical instrument.

NORRIS: John McIlWraith suffered from a form of dementia called Lewy Body disease. He is survived by his wife Dixie, four children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: