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EBERHARD BORT - At Hame Wií Freedom: Essays On Hamish Henderson And The Scottish Folk Revival

EBERHARD BORT - At Hame Wií Freedom: Essays On Hamish Henderson And The Scottish Folk Revival
Grace Note Publications ISBN 9781907676178

It is now just over ten years since the death of Hamish Henderson deprived Scotland of one of its great polymaths, whose contributions to the folk revival were truly significant. This is the third of a loose trilogy, following on from Borne On The Carrying Stream and ‘Tis Sixty Years Since, all edited by Eberhard “Paddy” Bort, the Edinburgh-based academic and club organiser, who has done a first-class job in compiling this collection of entertaining, informative and accessible essays which cover various aspects of Hamish’s life and its impact on the tradition.

Maurice Fleming opens the contributions with a remembrance of Hamish’s early years in rural Perthshire, the county which was to play such a big part in his life, illustrated by the inclusion of Belle Stewart’s The Berryfields O’ Blair. Jim Bainbridge then adds recollections (despite the difficulties of years running into one another!) of the early days of the Blairgowrie Folk Festivals, the founding TMSA events.

Ewan McVicar looks at correspondence between Hamish and the indefatigable Arthur Argo, whose own efforts built upon those of his ancestor Gavin Greig, then Alison McMorland adds a chapter on Elizabeth Stewart and her Fetterangus relations, showing how embedded the travellers’ songs and stories are in the wider Scottish scene.

Pino Mereu’s Anzio Pipe Band follows, deftly translated into Scots by Tom Hubbard, and footnoted in English for those without either of those two languages, then Fred Freeman examines Hamish’s role in the carrying stream of tradition, whilst George Gunn explores modern Scottish poetry in a wider context.

Hayden Murphy takes us through his introduction to the Edinburgh scene, with typical pawky insight, before we get the transcript of Owen Dudley Edwards’ 2011 Hamish Henderson Lecture, Sectarian Songs. The editor then concludes the essays by adding his own assessment of Hamish’s politics, which were always, like the man himself, just a bit more complex than you might at first have thought.

There are some fine photographs included to illustrate some of the topics and personalities discussed, and the cover shows Hamish and two Italian partisans standing in a jeep called Bandiera Rossa, giving clenched-fist salutes, maybe not the typical British army officer pose!

This is, to summarise, an excellent publication, which gives insight to this fascinating character, and there are good footnote references to source publications, so that those whose appetites are whetted can read more. This is a book which should be read by anybody who has an interest in the story which made the revival what it is today.

Gordon Potter


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This album was reviewed in Issue 95 of The Living Tradition magazine.