The Bagpiper


A Reminder—For those who may not know—or remember—our family newsletter evolved from the announcement letters leading up to our family gathering in Wichita in June 2001. To stimulate interest in the upcoming reunion later mailings included bits of Scottish history that pertained to Erwins, as well as insights of the Erwin family in the 1700s and 1800s.

Several mailings were made, starting in June 2000, and by March 2001 the simple single-page letter had grown into a seven-page newsletter titled simply  Reunion 2001. One of the questions asked on the post-reunion questionnaire was whether the newsletter should continue, and if so, would family members contribute news items, trivia, etc. The answer was an enthusiastic yes to continuing the newsletter, and a number of family members volunteered to act as reporters. The response was reported in the post-reunion follow-up newsletter in August, and a general format of the proposed organ was outlined as well.

The first issue of The Bagpiper was mailed in November 2001, and succeeding issues have been sent out at the end of each calendar quarter. The stated aim of our family newsletter is to generate interest in our family heritage, as well as to report family news to our extended family members. An editorial in the first issue emphasized that our extended family included—at that time—over 500 surnames dating back to the time of Sir William de Irwyn, and that there were undoubtedly hundreds of interesting stories and anecdotes about our collateral families and their individual members. It was felt that we, as a group, had a tremendous reserve of potential material for future issues of our newsletter. Thus your editor committed to eight issues, which meant through 2002 and 2003.

At first there was a good response from family members. Several individuals wrote articles for The Bagpiper, while others notified the editor when births, deaths, marriages, graduations, etc., occurred. As time passed, however, it became increasingly necessary to solicit this information. I have enjoyed putting the newsletter together, but it became increasingly difficult to come up with suitable and interesting content to fill the seventeen pages of our newsletter (the number of pages in the two-ounce postage rate). By the beginning of 2004 it was becoming difficult to think of continuing, but by then we were preparing for Reunion 2004...not a good time to stop. 

There were two reasons why it seemed that it might be prudent to discontinue the newsletter after our family gathering in Las Vegas. The first is described above, and the second is purely a matter of economics. It was pointed out in the beginning that there would be a cost involved in the newsletter undertaking. At the time we had a mailing list of nearly 150 addresses (it is now about 200). It was naively thought that as little as little as four dollars would cover the cost of paper, computer ink cartridges and postage for an individual mailing for two years, or eight issues. We learned early on, however, that the eight-page mailer (at the 37 cent postage rate) was not sufficient to do everything we wanted,

so after only a short time our newsletter expanded to seventeen pages (the maximum for the 60 cent postage rate). A subscription plan was discarded in favor of a donation plan, and during the first couple of years or so it worked well. It was felt that senior family members might endorse mailings to young adult children and grandchildren, and that the more affluent among us might include funds to “use as needed.” And...this is what the beginning. As time passed—and with the exception of a few very generous individuals—donations dried up. Expenses did not. The cost for postage alone was almost $120 per issue.

It was decided that future issues of our newsletter will more aggressively solicit contributed articles, human interest stories, family anecdotes, trivia and family announcements of all kinds. On the other hand, we will not solicit gossip, or expect anyone to shake out real or imagined dirty linen. As we have pointed out many times in past issues, there are undoubtedly hundreds of great family human-interest stories just waiting to be told. It should not be necessary for one or two or three people to carry the burden. And, as has also been pointed out, one does not have to be a literary giant to relate interesting things about our family. Almost every one of us has written a letter at one time or other, and submitting material to The Bagpiper is just that easy. We will keep reminding you of it.

 The solution to the second issue is probably obvious to many of you, as it was to me when I really started to think about it. Probably two thirds of our readers have access to the Internet, so a web site would eliminate a large portion of the postage and materials expense. It is probable also that a few folks on our current mailing list don’t really have a burning interest in our little newsletter. That seemed to be apparent when the Postal Service returned a mailing as being undeliverable. They only do that after six months, which means that the addressee had had at least one issue forwarded to them without their sending a change-of-address notification to the editor.

 So...a web site was established. The address is, and it is accessible to anyone with an interest in our family and our history. It is still somewhat primitive, and there is some adjusting to do, but it is workable. As your editor gains experience it is hoped that visitors will find it more attractive and easier to use.

Sadly, the June 2004 issue was the last sent to everyone on the mailing list. Those folks who do not have access to the Internet, and would like to continue to receive a hard copy of our newsletter, will regrettably be asked to contribute a fixed amount in the form of a subscription. The cost of materials and postage, described above, have been evaluated, and it is felt that it will be necessary to assess a fee of ten dollars per year (four issues).

The bottom line is this...those who have access to the Internet may view The Bagpiper on the web site listed previously, and those who do not may subscribe and receive a hard copy via “snail mail.”                              -Editor