Hooray for the letter writers! Sunderland bagpiper story hits the right notes

It’s been a good week for the shrivelling art of letter writing.

Tuesday, 20th August 2019, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 20th August 2019, 5:04 pm
Hooch! Roker bagpiper sent a letter to the Echo and was famous a week later.

Roker bagpiper Alan Jamieson was anonymously accused of creating a “horrendous racket” and being a “public nuisance”.

His response was a letter to the Echo, pointing out that actually he’s a very accomplished piper, his neighbours enjoy his music and he only practises twice a week at around 4.30pm.

Most importantly, the accuser was made welcome to come to his home and discuss the matter civilly over a cup of tea.

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He had made his point.

The Echo took up his story and, to cut a long story short, he ended up in a string of national newspapers (plus Country Life for some reason), several radio shows including an interview with John Humphrys on the Today programme and on Good Morning Britain.

He has now quite spectacularly made his point.

His detractor had set out his/her complaints in a letter in the first instance. But Mr Jamieson’s response to us was constructive, measured and, crucially, had his name and address appended.

By contrast, the complainant’s letter was anonymous.

As Mr Jamieson himself put it: “I don’t think the person who wrote it is a bad person. But people become overly critical when they sit down at a keyboard.”


In fairness to Mr Jamieson’s anonymous nemesis, they did at least consider their words. Keyboard warriors possess no such discipline. Their shortcomings emphasise the greatness of letters pages in local newspapers.

The Echo letters page provides a welcome alternative to the “Who cares?” crowd on the internet. Why would anyone bother to say “who cares?” about a subject they … er … don’t care about? And why do they imagine you care that they don’t care?

They’re entitled to express their thoughts in the manner they choose. It just isn’t obvious why they bother.

Compare this to the life-affirming, simple and charming missive we published recently from a lady who found a gentleman’s cap on a bench and wanted to return it to him. She even included her phone number.

How absolutely delightful. Name one negative thing about that letter.

The letters page provides a platform for everyone’s thoughts. You might agree with these thoughts; or think they are the sheerest flapdoodle.

But these thoughts are expanded upon and it’s more difficult to dismiss a letter writer than it is a keyboard warrior, whose instant, one-line solutions are so rarely deserving of attention.

Proper letter writers have courage of their convictions; and prove this by adding their real names.

Even the ongoing political ding-dongs on the letters page don’t resort to personal insults. They adopt a civil tone; even when the protagonists clearly aggravate each other.

Proper letters in newspapers are variously entertaining, controversial, informative, silly, touching, thought provoking - and always worth reading.

We do receive some excellent, considered, non-anonymous feedback through social media. But you simply can’t beat the letters page.

We know a bagpiper who can confirm this.