Andrew Marr’s crucial lesson

Andrew Marr has stepped aside from his work at the BBC.

Rev David Clarke

For many years he has presented a Sunday morning programme on BBC 1, in which he has submitted leading politicians to penetrating interviews.

His courage in battling back from a severe stroke, which means that his left arm is permanently paralysed, is matched only by his mental rigour in analysing the key events of the day.

As he retreats to Dundee, purportedly to ‘find his own voice’ after years of observing the strict impartiality required of BBC journalists, it will be interesting to see what he makes of Sturgeon’s Scotland.

Perhaps there will be frequent reminders of an early mistake when a cub reporter.

In an early book entitled ‘My trade’ he recounts how he got his first front=page story when employed by ‘The Scotsman’ newspaper. He received a telephone call from an entrepreneur who claimed to have discovered a formula for pressing waste paper into a substance which in turn could be used to build yacht hulls.

He arranged a meeting with the unknown caller, saw the fancy brochure, heard how the venture would lead to the hundreds of new jobs in Portree on the Isle of Skye. It was all hunky-dory. An enthusiastic article followed, taking pride of place on the front page of the business section of ‘The Scotsman’.

Marr was walking on air, until he received another phone call the morning after publication. It was from a reporter on the Isle of Skye, employed by the West Highland Free press. He had a simple question for Marr: ‘Are you aware of the fraud charges?’

He was then informed that his entrepreneur had fled the country after fraud charges had been preferred against him at Portree Sheriff Court. Marr was brutally aware how comprehensively he had been duped.

A colleague in the office attempted to cheer him up, and took him for a drink. But ever afterwards when he felt Marr was becoming just a little too full of himself, that same colleague would quietly whistle ‘The Skye Boat Song’.

The tune itself always reminds Marr of that early ‘faux pas’.

Just as it is important to have a friend who will encourage us when times are rough, it is equally valuable to have a friend who will tell us necessary home truths, that our feet might be kept firmly on the ground.

We need someone who will be as frank with us as Oliver Cromwell famously was to the so-called ‘Long Parliament’, when he said, ‘Think it possible, in the bowels of Christ, you may be mistaken’.

The Book of Proverbs has a timely warning; ‘Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall’ (Proverbs 16;18). It’s a reminder to tread carefully, and humbly, in the New Year.