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A Highlander And His Books

A Chat With Father and Son: Bob and Rob Fletcher
Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Authors of REMEMBRANCE: A Tribute To Americaís Veterans

Bob and Rob Fletcher
Bob and Rob Fletcher

With the unusual outpouring of patriotism experienced in America since 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, and now the one in Iraq, it is a pleasure to talk to men who are really two patriots who have shown all of us in their book the proper respect for the veterans of our country and those heroes of ours who lost their lives on behalf of a greater good Ė freedom.

Q: Bob, how and when did you and Rob determine the two of you would write a book together? What was it like working together as father and son? From beginning to end, how long did it take to publish the book? Where did the two of you do most of your research? Also, tell us about Iron Mountain Press.

A: In November of 1999 during National Veteranís week, 25 of my paintings were on exhibit in Washington D.C. Rob was there video-taping everything and just seemed so enthusiastic and interested in it all. He noticed that people were moved by the paintings. It was then that we began talking about taking it step further - putting words to the art. Rob immediately began to gather material. I had a very comprehensive file on the military. We collaborated and expanded on that. The Internet was very helpful. The quotations were Robís idea, and I think that the addition of other peopleís voices deepens the book.

The book took three years to complete. The closeness that developed between Rob and me was very special, an underlying blessing of the project. We were amazed to discover the similarities of our thoughts and work habits and motivations. We have great respect for one another as individuals as well. Rob is a very special son.

We established Iron Mountain Press in order to insure that the book would be published and that we would maintain control of the content and quality. The world of book publishing is a complex one and we wanted to keep this part of the process as straightforward as possible.

Q: Bob, whose inspiration was it to publish Remembrance, "the first book to portray veterans and military scenes from all of Americaís wars in a series of outstandingly precise watercolor paintings and pencil drawings"? Tell us about the original concept(s) of the book you and Rob, your son, worked out.

A: My interest in veterans goes back to when I was six or seven years old. My mother would take me to parades in Paterson. The bands were made up of veterans. It struck me, as a child, that these men had served in wars and that wars killed people. I knew that they had been through a lot. I also remember seeing veterans who were gas victims begging on the streets. I think of one man in particular. His skin was a bluish-brown tone, and he was blind. I remember his military jacket, the street corner, his cushion, his tin cup.

One time, I was visiting my cousin in the next town. We were sledding and a veteranís funeral cortege went by. I left my cousin and followed the funeral until it was dark. So I guess Iíve always noticed and wanted to pay tribute to Americaís veterans, both those who are still living and those who were lost and to their loved ones. In 1986, after I left the business world, my attention was devoted to the military scene. My first painting was of a Civil War funeral. I was walking by a little church one night in a snowstorm. I thought of all that had happened there. It was the inspiration for that painting. I was astounded by peopleís interest in that painting and dedicated myself to honoring veterans in my art. So I was painting for many years before Rob and I thought of collaborating, of bringing words to the art.

Q: Please elaborate more on why "the word Remembrance was chosen very specifically" as the title of your superb book?

A: The purpose of the book is to recognize our veterans, their families and what they have contributed. They will never forget their wartime experiences. May we never forget them.

Q: Rob, being the talented writer you are, what is the next book project for you? Do you and your Dad have another joint effort in mind you could share with us?

A: Neither of us is happy unless weíre immersed in a project! Weíve started working on a book detailing the history of family farming in America tentatively titled The Way Home: Americaís Family Farms. My fatherís good friend, Luther Barrett, was the last member of a multi-generation, traditional farming family in my hometown. He visited Luther every week, drew and painted his life, and wrote down his stories about farming. Every summer weíd go up to his farm, pick blackberries, and get our winter hay for the cows. So, thereís an emotional connection for us, and we feel itís an important piece of America to chronicle. Weíre at the information gathering stage, which is always fun. It means many trips to the library and many hours searching the web.

Weíre also collaborating on a book of my poems, which is an incredible experience for me. My father is illustrating the cover and doing pencil drawings to go with the words. Itís going to be called Writing on Water. The drawing Returning Fishermen will be on the cover, one of my favorite works of his. Writing on Water will be dedicated to my grandparents - my grandfather Alexander Fletcher was a fisherman in Aberdeen, Scotland. And now I can see the ocean from the window of my home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, so it feels as if things have come full circle.

Q: I notice, Rob, that you have a BA degree in music performance and a background with the harmonica. What are the books you have written in your chosen field? How did you acquire your love for music?

A: Iíve written two music instructional books. Blues Harmonica for Beginners and Blues Grooves for Guitarists (both Alfred Press), as well as two harmonica transcription books, Gospel Harmonica Workbook and Kim Wilson: My Blues (Kevinís Harps).

Music was always present in our house - we didnít have a TV. My father loves choral and organ music, and he also plays harmonica. So I grew up with that in the air along with my older brother and sisters playing 60s and 70s rock and roll. I used to lie in bed and get utterly transported to a wonderful place listening to AM radio on my yellow Mickey Mouse radio. Music was one of those things that was a constant friendly force helping me along as I was growing up. Oddly enough, I always thought it was too late for me to actually learn how to play an instrument. It wasnít until I was twenty that I realized that youíre never too old to do what you really love, so I bought a guitar and enrolled in music school.

Q: Rob, this remarkable book also has a CD. It is, in my opinion and as described in the CD booklet, "an incredible collection of songs and musicians." I enjoyed all of them, but in particular God Bless America, Rally ĎRound the Flag, Dixie, Yankee Doodle, Nearer My God to Thee, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, In the Gloaming, and Amazing Grace. Tell us about the CD, and is it sold separately?

A: The Remembrance CD is an all-acoustic collection of songs that were originally played and sung by soldiers and the people that waited for them to come home. The songs span the different eras of American history, and some even go farther back than that. For example, the Revolutionary War-era ballad "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier" has its origins in the Irish lament "Shule Aroon" from 1691 when William of Orange crushed an Irish revolt.

The musicians on it are all pretty amazing. To me, the level and diversity of musicianship on the CD is stunning. Theyíre all my friends and are from all over the country, from California to Texas, from North Carolina to New Hampshire. Iím fortunate to know so many incredible guitarists. I didnít even pick mine up; I just sang and played harmonica. We recorded in an old grange hall in New Hampshire, at home and in studios across the country where and when we could, and put it all together from start to finish in about two months.

Because of the nature of the book, we had a unique chance to really focus on the tenderness and emotion of the songs. Itís a quiet, reflective collection, and it feels like it really captures the humanity behind the history.

The CD also features spoken word readings by Pulitzer-prize winning poet Louis Simpson, who is a World War II veteran and a very inspiring man. We were also lucky enough to have 93-year-old Irene Carlisle read her poem "The Welder." Irene is an original "Rosie the Riveter" and the poem first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post during WWII.

The CD is available both with the book and separately. It can be purchased at People have really responded to it, and Iím putting together a touring group of musicians to perform Remembrance throughout the U.S.

Q: How does one go about purchasing this book and CD that I cannot recommend too highly? Please give us the complete details.

A: You can order Remembrance on the website - go to You can email us at or phone us at 845-986-9861. Or mail a note to Iron Mt Press, P.O. Box 7, New Milford, NY, 10959. We love to hear from people. I think we have enough material for another book from all the great stories that people tell us - everyone has a connection to a veteran somewhere in their life.

Q: Thank you for your cooperation and the courtesies you have extended to me during our chat. Is there a final word the two of you would like to leave with our readers?

A: First of all, we would like to thank you for your interest in Remembrance and for your continual fostering of the Scottish heritage. We are thankful for our Scottish legacy. Our family both here and abroad has always been very supportive. We have both spent time in Scotland and have a great love for our people. Aye, the blood does run strong. May God bless America and our beautiful Scotland. (5-12-03)

Return to June/July 2003 Index Page


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