PhD flag

While I was working on my PhD at St Andrews, I befriended a young American professor who spent a year there on an assignment involving a few lectures. He later went on to work for a group of US Congressmen and Senators on Capitol Hill. When I went to Washington myself, I stayed at his place for a time. He presented me with a remarkable gift. It was a box containing a US flag. Accompanying the flag was a letter on headed paper from the Architect of the Capitol to Congressman Philip Crane. It testified that flag had been flown on the Senate building on the Hill "at the time Dr Madsen Pirie was graduating in St Andrews with his PhD." It was indeed dated with the day of my graduation. I still have the flag hanging on my wall, with the framed letter alongside it. It was a handsome and memorable gift.

When soon afterwards I gained employment working on the Hill alongside my friend at the Republican Study Committee, I remembered how impressed I had been with his thoughtful gesture, and assiduously bought souvenirs of Capitol Hill for friends back home. These included congressional decals to add style to luggage, pens, cuff-links, and medals of the US seal complete with wooden mounts. In a UK that was somewhat bleak and drab at the time, these were a much-appreciated touch of the exotic.