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Plateau will mourn, celebrate death of Scottish leader

The Plateau
The Plateau's Rick Murchie served as the Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland Games Chieftain in 2001.
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By Brenda Sexton

The Courier-Herald

"But, oh! Fell death's untimely frost, That nipt my flower sae early," said poet Robert Burns in "Highland Mary," but he could have been talking about Enumclaw's Rich Murchie, who died of complications from lung cancer Dec. 2, 2002.

When Murchie died, the Plateau, the Pacific Northwest and Scots everywhere lost one of their beloved leaders, and plans are under way to pay tribute and remember the man who brought the Highlands everywhere with him with a traditional Ceiliah from 1 to 4 p.m. March 8 at the Pete's Pool fieldhouse.

Like the many Highland Games celebrations he led over the years, the afternoon will be complete with color guard, song, dance, poetry and readings. Already scheduled for the celebration will be friend Walter Russell singing "Star O' Robbie Burns," and friend Joe MacIntyre reading "A Man's A Man For A' That." There will also be the traditional Haggis ceremony, prayer, eulogy and performances by the Tacoma Scots Pipe Band, Plateau Scottish Country Dancers and Auburn Ceiliah band Kilmany.

And there will, of course, be the "Address to the Haggis," a Scottish pudding-like dish cooked and served in a sheep's gut. Murchie was most renowned for his authentic recitation of Robert Burns' "Address to a Haggis," which he performed at many local dinners and as leader of Scottish Country Dancing, Saltire and Ceilidh at the Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland Games, where he served as chieftain in 2001.

"Invariably he was chosen to address the haggis," said Plateau resident Tim Cooke, who was a member of the Scottish American Military Service and Calvary Presbyterian Church with Murchie. "And he always did it in that broad Glasgow accent or brogue, and he'd really lay it on thick. If you didn't know what he was saying you had trouble understanding it. He was a fixture at these events all over the Pacific Northwest and even broader.

"His loss is felt extraordinarily deeply by the local Scottish American Military Service," Cooke said. "There's a bond and depth if you haven't served it's hard to grasp.

"He was a truly fine soldier and Christian gentleman," Cooke said.

Murchie's wife, Cherie, said the March ceremony is a way for many of the groups he was associated with to honor and pay tribute to her husband and his heritage.

Murchie was honored in a service in Canada in January, and many groups like the Scottish American Military Service and Tacoma Scots Pipe Band have been paying their respects with special events too.

He was born John Richmond Murchie in Ayr, Scotland, Nov. 12, 1923, to John Hunter and Jessie Campbell Paton Murchie.

In 1942, Murchie volunteered for the British Royal Navy, serving during World War II in the Atlantic Fleet to Africa and India on the H.M.S. Worcestershire as a gunnery officer. After completing training on the H.M.S. King Alfred, he was promoted to acting sub-lieutenant on Feb. 4, 1944. While stationed in Torquay, he assisted in loading equipment bound for the French coastline on D-Day. Murchie was decorated with the 1939-45 Star, The Atlantic Star, The Africa Star and The Pacific Star.

He married Lois Stannett in Glasgow, Scotland, in October 1944, and lived in his hometown of Ayr until the family immigrated to Canada in 1951. He worked as a Canadian Federal Auditor and an office manager for Patchett Lumber Company in Quesnel, B.C. He was very active in the community, joining the Royal Canadian Legion Branch, Burns' Night celebrations, Highland and Scottish County Dancing, curling and served as a 4-H leader. He taught figure skating, prepared choreography for the annual ice carnival, and for eight years was a radio announcer for a 30-minute program called "Highland Echoes," where he would play Scottish songs, given news reports and share items of Scottish heritage. After moving to Surrey, B.C., in 1966 he joined the Cloverdale Branch #6 of the Royal Canadian Legion where he first became sergeant-at-arms.

Following his move to Seattle in 1973, Murchie became involved in The Seattle Branch, Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, Caledonian and St. Andrew's Society, and the Seattle Scottish Highland Games Association. He was a member of the board of directors for the Tacoma Highland Games Association and The Clan MacIntyre.

During his 49-year life membership in the Royal Canadian Legion, he will be best remembered for his many years of service as sergeant-at-arms with Branch 123, where he participated in parades and memorials throughout the Pacific Northwest and at the annual Peace Arch "Hands Across the Border." Most recently he was sergeant major for the Mount Rainier Post #1889 Scottish American Military Society Color Guard.

Since 1996, he could also be found on Tuesday nights leading Plateau residents in Scottish Highland Country dancing. His group performed regularly at the Highland Games and local festivities like the Fourth of July celebration.

After his marriage to Cherie in 1993, he became a member of Calvary Presbyterian Church in Enumclaw and joined the Elks of Canada. He worked for 17 years as an accountant at the University of Washington, retiring in 1994.

He is survived by his wife, Cherie, of Enumclaw and her children Patricia Haven and Philip Mitchell; Lois Calclaugh of Penticton, B.C., and their children John Murchie and wife Louise of Kamloops, B.C., Lyn Brinkman and husband Barry of Gibsons, B.C., Carol Ann Casey and husband Dr. Brian of Vancouver, B.C., and Craig Murchie and wife Lynne of Pitt Meadows, B.C.; 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

A sister Agnes Jean (Nanette) Fabian preceded him in death in 1985.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to either Enumclaw Community Hospital Foundation, 1450 Battersby Ave., Enumclaw 98022, or Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center, attn: Memorial Gifts, J5-200, P.O. Box 19024, Seattle, Wash. 98019-1024.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com

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