It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish

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Remembering the gaffer

“…I’ve often wanted to see a bit of magic like what it tells of in old tales, but I’ve never heard of a better land than this. It’s like being at home and on a holiday at the same time, if you understand me. I don’t want to leave. All the same, I’m beginning to feel that if we’ve got to go on, then we’d best get it over.

It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish, as my old gaffer used to say. And I don’t reckon that these folk can do much more to help us, magic or no.”


by J. R. R. Tolkien (3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973)
from The Fellowship of the Ring,
The Mirror of Galadriel
image – Dave or Atox

When the Gaffer Knows Best

Since the 1930’s, “gaffer” has been the job title of the head electrician on a movie set. Artists may also know the term from glassblowing – a gaffer is the team member who is blowing glass. These are the head craftspeople, the old-timers who know their field backwards and forwards, and they’re probably your boss or would know how to run things if they were.

Go back further and you’ll find gaffer used as a term of respect for older people, the grandfathers of a group. Gammer is the female version, from the word grandmother. These could be actual grandparents, or honorary grandparents – respected elders.

Sam is like a child who is aspires to good behavior in the adult world, and always seems to stumble in the right direction, sometimes in spite of himself, becoming more solid every step of the way. He confesses that he’s long wanted to see magic, but hearkens back to his old gaffer for practical guidance. Reading this, I imagine Sam’s voice warm with respect, as he reaches for wisdom. Sam’s inner adult is ready to get down to business.

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One Response to “It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish”

  1. Out with the Old, In with the New | Brendan Nagle Says:

    […] I likely wouldn’t have done it at all. As Samwise Gamgee’s old gaffer used to say, “It’s the job that’s never started as takes the longest to finish”. Wise words. May this be a lesson for all of you as well… there’s never a wrong time to […]

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