Some people’s real stories find an audience only through the obituary columns, allowing them to be better known in death than they may have been in life. Thus it is for Scottish Susie’s dad who died a couple of weeks ago and whose obituary was in this morning’s Scotsman.
I met Arthur Rae and of course heard much about him from his daughter. Tall, spare and gruff, he suffered few things gladly. “Did your dad enjoy it?” I asked Susan once, when Arthur and Kathleen had been Christmas guests ” He liked all olive oil I use” she said “Said it eased his constipation”.
Maybe, like all families, Arthur’s clan were tired of hearing his stories. Or maybe he spoke little of his wartime experiences. Certainly, I didn’t know he had been a fighter pilot when he was only 20. He was forced to bail out in a raid over Belgium, and was sheltered by the resistance for three months before making it home. His friends who survived became prisoners of war. Arthur went on to serve in India.
I knew Arthur had worked at DC Thomson, publishers of the Oor Wullie annual and the Dandy and Beano comics. This seemed like heaven to me. Arthur’s appreciation of good writing and his particular attention to spelling, grammar and punctuation was well known. His daughter shares his love of language, quick wit and careful attention to sentence structure and pronunciation.
Arthur was recently heard to express concern that fellow Scot Andy Murray, winner of US Open and the Olympic gold this year, might become swell headed. His daughter rolled her eyes. For Arthur, pride was inappropriate, fussy and messy. It did not make his shortlist of acceptable emotions.
Read his obituary and you will understand he had much to be proud about. The word is out, and I’m glad we all now know.