I Believe in Isaac

The Delightful History of a Name

Posted in Uncategorized by isaacmcphee on April 22, 2010

As far as I can tell (and I seem to be able to tell somewhat far, though I cannot say just how far the average person is able to tell – you’d have to ask an average person), I am the only Isaac McPhee alive in America today.    This is what is called “being special.”

I am certainly not, however, the only Isaac McPhee in the world.  In fact, once global statistics are taken into account it turns out that there are a number of other Isaac McPhees on the planet – mostly in or around Scotland.  Upon discovering this I became fascinated by people who share my name, because there is a link there – a common bond.  At least, there ought to be.

Embarking on this little expedition a few days ago (which, admittedly, required nothing more than typing my name into Google and then clicking on various things which arrived in front of my face as a result – not particularly worthy of being called “journalism”), I found myself faced with something of a peculiar and delightful question:  Why is it that everyone in the world with whom I share a name seems so peculiar?

I have not thought particularly hard about this, and yet I seem to have come up with two answers, each of which is surely true in part, and which together seem to account for the entirety of the problem.

1)      It seems to me that we are all a bit peculiar, even though some of us do not show it quite so readily.  Or at the very least we all know of someone else who is peculiar, and it is not out of the realm of possibility that we might get dragged along with these people into their bizarre and nonsensical misadventures.  Furthermore, it is most likely the peculiarities which will end up on the internet.  There’s a little life lesson in that.

2)      There are probably Isaac McPhee’s out there who are relatively common and ordinary (even boring), but I can’t imagine why anyone would have written about them on the internet.  A search of phone books in Scotland would surely turn up a few dozen such individuals, though of them one might only find one or two who are worth talking to.  It is only the particularly interesting ones who would end up jumping to the top of my Google query.  Such a phenomenon (not to get off track, though I feel the door has opened for just a bit of regurgitated social criticism) is certainly nothing novel.  I quote G.K. Chesterton, just to lend my point at least a morsel of credulity when he notes that, “It is the one great weakness of journalism as a picture of our modern existence, that it must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions.  We announce on flaring posters that a man has fallen off a scaffolding.  We do not announce on flaring posters that a man has not fallen off a scaffolding.  Yet this latter fact is fundamentally more exciting, as indicating that that moving tower of terror and mystery, a man, is still abroad upon the earth.”  Indeed, I agree with Mr. Chesterton but for one fact:  One would get quickly overwhelmed of reading about the rule, and therefore journalism must be about the exception.  I would find myself mercilessly bored by reading of all the endlessly dull Isaac McPhee’s who might be wandering the Earth – several of whom might be tax auditors; perhaps a couple television repairmen – but, as I believe this very essay proves, I find no small amount of delight in reading of the remarkably foul and brazenly lunatic Isaac McPhee’s who seem to be cluttering up the highways of the planet.

This all being said, I really ought to be moving forward, lest I become any more bogged down by the philosophical underpinnings of nomenclature and of the act of studying oneself.

The Election Thief and the Secret Society

Let’s travel back in time to 1920.  Michigan.  Isaac McPhee is listed as a ballot-box custodian for all of the county of Shiawassee.  This is the first instance I can find of an Isaac McPhee in history.  That’s right, thousands of years of human history pass by without any Isaac McPhee’s and thenjust like that, one of us arrives on the planet and carries our name practically to the apex of Michigan politics.  Sure, it may not seem as if there is much to being a ballot-box custodian, but think a little harder:  Isaac McPhee could have engaged in any sort of corruption he liked when watching over his ballot-box.  He could have (and perhaps did) engage in voter intimidation tactics; he could have been a ballot-stuffer; he could have been but a pawn in the infamous Michigan political machine.

But is there evidence for any of this?  Yes, I believe there is.   Let’s move forward to 1923, when Charles Durand was Grand Master of the Michigan branch of the Freemasons and none other than Mr. Isaac McPhee (the ballot-box custodian himself) was the local Master Mason in the town of Byron.  Clearly there was something going on with those ballot boxes than meets the eye, for Isaac McPhee was not just some innocent bystander who happened to make his way into politics – he was member in good standing with the single greatest secret society ever!  The same masons who have been responsible for every human conspiracy, from the building of the Great Wall of China to the moon landing, are those who allowed a young man of humble origins from Byron, Michigan to climb straight to the top of the food pyramid alongside the candy bars and cotton candy.

Clearly in the first couple decades of the 20th century it would not be a stretch to believe that Isaac McPhee played a vital role in the state of Michigan.  Unfortunately, things in the world of Isaac McPhee were soon to turn tragic.

The Great Closet Fire of 1923

1923.  Sandusky Michigan.  A guy named William J. McPhee (allegedly) kills his wife.  The son of both the victim and the accused:  Isaac McPhee.

Is it the same Isaac McPhee who was even then at the height of fame and power in both the political and conspiratorial arenas?  Perhaps, though I’m afraid it is impossible (or at least, not particularly easy) for me to say.

Anyway, no matter who this Isaac McPhee is, one cannot help but feel sorry for him as a result of this tragic, but undeniably intriguing, little story.  Try as I might (though I did not try particularly hard) I could find no other details of this particular case beyond a single newspaper article from October 30th of that year in the Ludington Daily News.  Here are some direct quotes from the article which begin to shed some light on what exactly happened between Isaac McPhee’s parents:

“Re-cross examination of prosecution witnesses and a few former Melvin neighbors of the defendant were heard late Monday and this morning.  Points elicited by defense attorneys included testimony to the effect that McPhee attempted to have his wife, that his relations with her were friendly, that clothing in the closet which formed Mrs. McPhee’s death chamber(!) could have furnished material for an accidental funeral pyreand that the type of lamp which Mrs. McPhee carried could have exploded or ignited clothing in the closet by burning too high.” (italics and exclamatory punctuation mine)

There are, of course, any number of questions which could (and should) be raised by these rather cryptic details of what certainly seems to be a rather horrific crime, but I guess one stands out above the rest:  What kind of shoddy and old-fashioned lamp was this woman using?  Was it really the kind of device which was prone to exploding?  Had she never heard of a flashlight?

I’m sure some sort of answers could be found by searching a bit harder, or perhaps traveling to Michigan and scouring through old microfilm records of newspapers from that era like old-fashioned journalists do in the movies, but I think in this particular case I prefer to use my imagination, as should you, and revel in, if nothing else, the journalist’s choice of words, particularly “accidental funeral pyre,” and “death chamber.”

Later in this same article (the very next paragraph, in fact) Isaac McPhee finally enters the scene, described as “only son of the defendant,” and seems to testify in favor of his father’s innocence.  I’m sure this was a difficult time for the McPhee’s of Michigan, but as I would not be born for sixty or so years, I had very little knowledge of any of these events.

Kneed in the Groin

After the great Michigan Isaac McPhee boom of the 1920’s, we all but disappeared for the following six decades.  I smell a conspiracy (probably a Masonic one), but that is a story for another time.  All I can really say with relative certainty is that I was born in 1982, and with that, the Isaac McPhee floodgates seemed to burst open with a freshness and virility not seen since the ballot-stuffing fiasco of 1920 (novelization to follow).  Sure, in my own life I have engaged in my share of misadventures, many of which have found their way in one way or another to the internet – but I surely pale in comparison to the others who have found in this name a license to be peculiar.

One quick story from the 1980’s before we move on to the 90’s and the 00’s (aughts?), where the pinnacle of peculiarity is to be found.

For this story we must travel outside of the United States, where we will stay (thankfully) for the remainder of our journey, for it appears that every peculiar Isaac McPhee in the past 25 years or so have been thankfully quarantined within the British Isles, and hopefully denied tourist visas.

Now, 1984 seems to have been a rather noteworthy year for Isaac McPhee, a tragicomic hero hailing from the Grampian region of Northeast Scotland.

In truth, though I certainly try my best and at times have been known to write with some ability, I simply cannot do this story justice in my own words.  I defer instead to Mr. Bruce McKain, law correspondent for the Glasgow Herald who wrote, on June 29, 1988 (a full four years after the events described therein) a remarkable story.  In fact, it is hard for me to believe that Mr. McKain could have written the following without chuckling to himself, and perhaps calling a few colleagues over to his desk so that he could read it aloud to them:

“The chief constable of Grampian Region and one of his officers are being sued for £75,000 by a man who alleges that he was violently kneed in the groin while he was being searched by police and is now infertile.

Isaac McPhee, 34, gave evidence before Lord Sutherland in the Court of Session yesterday in his action against Chief Constable Mr. Alistair Lynn and Constable Malcolm Beverly.”

So, to begin with, you have to feel sorry for Isaac McPhee of Aberdeen.  Kneed in the groin?  Infirtile?  Sounds like decent cause for a lawsuit, right?  Keep reading:

“He told the court that on November 13th, 1984 he had been drinking in Willie Miller’s Bar in Exchange Street, Aberdeen with some friends.  He was not sure how long he had been there because he had been drinking and had also taken a couple of tranquilisers.”

A quick search reveals that Willie Miller’s Bar no longer seems to exist.  A pity, really, because it’s tough to find a good bar in Aberdeen which serves both beer and tranquilisers.  So, to recap, Isaac McPhee is good and drunk and ought to be relatively tranquil:

“He said he believed that police had been called to the pub because he had been behaving in a “boisterous” manner.  He told the court he had been doing one-armed press-ups in the pub.”

Impressive, right?  Drunk, boisterous one-armed press-ups?  If it hadn’t come from the mouth of Isaac McPhee himself while under oath, I don’t know if I’d believe it!  We continue:

“Police handcuffed him and took him away in a police car.  He admitted that he had struggled with the officers and at one stage tried to head-but one of them.  He was still struggling when he was taken into police headquarters in Queen Street.  He said he was told to put his hands on a desk so that he could be searched but refused to co-operate and kept his arms rigidly by his sides.  He also refused to give his name.”

I applaud Isaac McPhee for two things:  First, his honesty.  No, it’s not good to resist arrest, but once he was in court trying to get his £75,000 he owned up to his actions like a man.  Second, he refused to give his name, probably knowing that doing so might cause problems for other Isaac McPhee’s, should they ever decide to visit Scotland.

So anyway, to make a long story short, the police responded by kneeing him in the groin, at which point he felt a sickening pain, collapsed to his knees and was dragged to his cell, completely infirtile.  Now, four years later, he sued the Chief Constable and another officer.

Perhaps it is wrong for me to choose sides in this particular case, so I’ll keep my own opinion to myself – but I can at least provide details of the verdict:

Glasgow Herald – July 23, 1988.  Headline:  CLAIM AGAINST POLICE REJECTED.  No, Isaac McPhee never got his money.  Instead, “Lord Sutherland said that Mr. McPhee . . . ‘exaggerated substantially’ about aspects of the case.”  Does this mean we’ll never know for sure if he could really do one-armed press-ups?  Doesn’t look like we’ll ever know.

The Bed-Wetter

I found the previous story funny, but now a brief foray into the simply tragic:

A brief filed in Scottish courts, 1999, details the tribulations of another Isaac McPhee – this one a child.  It begins like this:


delivered by LORD MILLIGAN



under Section 24 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992





Reading further in this document, we learn the tragic truth about young Isaac McPhee:  He is a “Chronic Asthmatic Bed Wetter.”  Essentially, Isaac’s legal guardian, the loving and kind (one assumes) Margaret Stewart, filed an appeal against an earlier ruling which denied young Isaac disability benefits.  In this particular case there is good news:  The appeal was upheld and it looks like Isaac McPhee got the help he needed to deal with his several conditions.

Not much point to that little story – just another instance of an Isaac McPhee finding himself in an unfortunate and peculiar situation.

The Criminally Insane

Finally, we’ve arrived at our dénouement.  The epitome of the individuals with whom I share a name:

A quick glance at some headlines from a variety of Scottish papers over the past decade:

“Knife Attacker Gets Five Years”

“Man Accused of Abducting Couple”

“Accused of Threats and Extortion”

“Three Men Have Been Accused of Abducting Terrified Couple and Threatening to Torture Them in a Bid to Extort Cash”

“Armed Gang Charged Over Scrapyard Attack”

“Third Man in Court Over Abduction and Torture Threats”

Now, what is the one thing that all of these articles (and several more which I did not include) have in common?  If you guessed that they all follow the light-hearted and whimsical trials and tribulations of a sociopath named Isaac McPhee, you are correct.  Except that these stories contain no whimsy.  They are terrifying stories of a criminal dullard who just happen to share my name.

Because of this one individual and his blatant disrespect for the life/property of others, I don’t know that I can ever visit Scotland, lest I strike terror into the hearts of the residents therein by merely introducing myself!  Any Ted Bundy’s or Jeffrey Dahmer’s in other countries surely know exactly what I mean.

So, a brief overview of what seems to have happened:

In 1999 Isaac McPhee, then age 32 from Crieff, was arrested and jailed for 5 years after committing a “serious knife attack at a travelling persons caravan park.”  I don’t exactly know what a ‘travelling persons caravan park’ is, and I don’t particularly want to know, but I certainly know better than to attack them (or anyone else) with knives.  That’s just bad behavior.  The judge of the case, Lord Abernathy, seems to agree with me when he summarized the situation to the defendant: “You have been convicted of a serious charge.  To slash a man across the face with a knife is a dreadful thing to do.”  Hear, hear!

Oh, and one more thing just to make this story even more tragic:  Isaac McPhee’s girlfriend gave birth to a child only days before his conviction.  If ever there was someone who should have been kneed in the groin…

Anyway, Isaac McPhee went to jail… then he got out.  Ten years later, when Isaac was 41, he had apparently not learned his lesson from jail because it appears that he then “conducted a reign of terror… threatening people with violence and extorting hundreds of pounds from them.”

I actually found this particular article, from the Perthshire Advertiser on January 16th, 2009, last year.   It was this story which first made me somewhat interested in what others are doing who share my name.  Highlights from the story:  “(McPhee) warned that if the cash wasn’t paid, he would be ‘cut and scarred for life’” and “It is alleged that if he didn’t pay up, McPhee would slash him, stab him, set fire to his house and burn it down with him and his family inside.”  Isaac’s brother, George, was also arrested during this time for crimes they committed together:  “The two denied threatening the occupants of a house in Ward Road, Muthill, and repeatedly kicking the door, and assaulting Brian Hutchison in Crieff by punching and kicking and head butting him and striking him on the face with a chisel.”

Hmm… not particularly sure what to say to that, except that a chisel does appear to be a deceptively terrifying weapon of torture.

Isaac McPhee was certainly not done yet.  It seems that during his brief time out of prison he also formed a gang with two other middle-aged Scottish men, Thomas Blair (46) and Brian Blair (49) and engaged in vicious attacks and extortion plots in 2009 (yes, just last year).  Together these three model citizens kidnapped some other middle-aged folk, Gordan Barnes and Annabelle Hutchison, tied them up in a salvage yard, put a plastic bag over their heads and held a knife to their throats in an attempt to extort cash.  “It’s claimed the men – said to have wielded an axe and a hammer – demanded Ms. Hutchison tell them where the pair kept cash, before dragging her across a floor.  The men then allegedly fled in a stolen Honda Accord car along with other items and left the pair tied up at Dacrue Auto Salvage yard…”

We can take at least a bit of solace from the fact that Isaac McPhee, Scottish criminal extraordinaire, has been duly captured, along with his fellow gang-members, and is once again looking at some pretty hefty jail time for his actions (other charges leveled against him, it seems, include another little extortion plot and some minor issues involving the distribution of heroin for money).

I suppose there is something comforting about knowing that, despite all of my own faults and peculiarities, despite my plethora of quirks, my premature senility and my eccentricities; I appear to be the most normal of the Isaac McPhee’s.

I take no small amount of solace in that fact.


8 Responses

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  1. Mom said, on April 23, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Great article! Very whimsical. If we go to Scotland we will have to check out the McPhee’s.

  2. mcphee said, on May 22, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    The Criminally Insane,is that what you call my dad? well you should’nt always believe what you read in news papers because what you said aint true! you have the same name as my dad but you dont know anything about him

  3. Anon said, on June 30, 2010 at 9:36 am

    Brilliant article, I thoroughly it! Alas, Isaac Mcphee still resides in Crieff and to my astonishment hasn’t been held at our majesty’s pleasure for his latest terrible crimes. still walking and stalking the streets of our beautiful town.

  4. anon said, on January 3, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    seriously, i wouldnt “check out” the mcphees if you’re in the perthshire area. they are pretty rough, and as far as i know, local residents dont want to get on the wrong side of them.

  5. Beard Trimmer said, on January 24, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    .’: I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives useful information “.~

  6. crieff resident said, on September 20, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Hi, I would just like to say that Issac Mcphee is my good friends uncle. just to clear things up for everyone, the whole family is not like that at all! my friends mother, Issac’s sister, is the most hard working woman I know of. Don’t always judge a person by their name. But we all reckon that they should make a film about issac as it would be an awesome gangster movie 😛

  7. john smith said, on March 28, 2012 at 6:17 am

    one word for him , arsehole !!!

  8. crieff resident said, on March 28, 2012 at 7:05 am

    This guy is a myth, for you intrested Americans . He is whats known as a traveller , tink , gypsy amongest other things . He is essentially a bully , who preys on young people , people with mental health issues , women , and the old and infirm . Reports of him are exagerated , as the media does to make headlines .
    He steals scrap metal , cars , sells watered down drugs and extorts cash from above mentioned people , typical gypsy , petty criminal .
    To avoid jail , he will inform on other more serious criminals to lessen his own sentence . People like him dont do well in jails here . In reality , he is basically a coward , as most bullies are . He is so sad , he even keeps paper cuttings of himself , thinks he is a celebrity . He lives in a drug induced fantasy world , most people here in Crieff dont even know who he is . He is a nobody really . A gypsy who thinks he is a gangster , who at the end of the day he is just another gypsy ………

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