An East Kilbride man who suffered from a crippling stammer for most of his life is now helping others to make their voices heard.
Iain Gray, from Whitehills, a coach with the McGuire Programme, has helped numerous people on their path to finding ways to deal with their stammer, including former Scotland rugby captain Kelly Brown.
But Iain’s own journey hasn’t been easy – from struggling to say “I do” at his own wedding to have the confidence to say his own name.
And he is now keen to highlight what it’s like for people struggling with a stammer in conjunction with International Stammering Awareness Day on October 22.
A documentary in 2018, School for Stammerers, brought to the fore just how much the condition impacts peoples’ lives.
The 68-year-old, who worked with Rolls-Royce for 35 years, had spent most of his life trying to hide his stammer but after seeing Pop Idol’s Gareth Gates talk about his struggle and the work of the McGuire Programme in 2004, Iain hasn’t looked back since.
He went on to meet Gareth at an event in Glasgow and his first coach was Wet, Wet, Wet guitarist Graeme Duffin.
Iain’s first memories of feeling ridiculed for his stammer are in childhood after a number of speech therapists failed to give him the necessary tools to cope.
He told the News: “At five or six I was sent to a speech therapist and, unknown to my family at the time, a child psychologist.
“My parents were extremely supportive but I spent most of my time playing with toys.
“A pattern began where I was OK in the room with the therapist but as soon as I went back out into the real world I was as bad as ever.
“When I was nine my dad got a job in India and we moved out there.
“The first really traumatic experience I remember was being made to audition for Hook in the school production of Peter Pan.
“The teacher, who I later found out was unbelievably also a speech therapist, made me stand up in front of the whole school. I of course couldn’t get my words out and everyone was just laughing at me.”
He then became an expert at hiding his stammer moving on in life but avoiding difficult situations where he felt under pressure, avoiding eye contact with people and letting others speak for him.
At his wedding to wife, Anne, he was unable to say his vows, instead concentrating on getting two simple words out: “I do”.
But finding out about the McGuire Programme – which provides support internationally – was a turning point.
Iain went on: “The programme took away my fear of speaking, gave me the confidence to go out.
“Previously, I had always let my wife do the talking for me without even realising I was doing it.
“There is no “cure” as such for a stammer – it’s not a disease – but you can learn techniques to manage it.
“In 2007, I became a coach having to sit rigorous exams to learn the techniques and how to teach them to others. The programme works by changing the psychology of a stammer and also how you breathe.
“I remember being with Kelly Brown on his first course with the McGuire Programme and we kept talking. He was increasingly in the limelight through playing with Saracens and Scotland. I then remember seeing him interviewed as Scotland captain and the change was incredible. He was totally in control of his speech.”
Iain also wants to tackle the wider public’s understanding of stammering.
He continued: “I was told about a stammerer who went in to a well-known coffee shop who ask for your name when you order. Unable to get their name out the girl behind the counter started laughing at them.
“To be fair, this is the exception but there are a number of simple things you can do to help someone with a stammer– the main thing being giving them the time to get the words out, not interrupting them or finishing their sentences.”
Many stammerers feel isolated and Iain is keen to stress there is help our there.
He said: “For a long time I was ashamed of myself and many people with a stammer think they are the only one who struggles.
“But there is help out there, the McGuire Programme has delivered amazing results but if it’s not for you there are other programmes – just give them a try and see what works for you.”
The McGuire Programme will hold an open day in Edinburgh Central Library at 2 pm on October 26 for anyone who wants to see