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EBERHARD BORT - Anent Hamish Henderson: Essays, Poems, Interviews

EBERHARD BORT - Anent Hamish Henderson: Essays, Poems, Interviews
Grace Note Publications ISBN: 9781907676659

This is the fourth in a series of books edited by Eberhard ‘Paddy’ Bort, relating to the life and work of Hamish Henderson. Viewed as a whole, the four volumes (Borne On The Carrying Stream, Tis Sixty Years Since, At Hame Wi’ Freedom, and this latest publication, Anent) provide a rich seam of information, opinion and analysis for people to rummage around in for years to come.

This book will be widely read by those who knew Hamish and no doubt scrutinised and discussed for years to come. Hamish is rightly referred to as a cultural giant, yet among the general public he is scarcely known. Among people who are interested in folk music he is significantly better known, but despite that greater name recognition, even in those specialised circles not too many people know that much about him.

I’m not sure that this book will reach those people, but I am confident that anyone approaching it with some knowledge of folk music will find much in it to interest them. For someone new to the subject, as a collection of diverse writing, it don’t give an easy insight into the life and works of Hamish Henderson. That overview might be provided by the recent release of Hamish, a documentary film about his life. This film may prompt people to dig a little deeper and for this audience these books will be an essential port of call.

In folk music circles, the series editor is best known as ‘Paddy’ Bort, the charismatic organiser of the Edinburgh Folk Club and the Carrying Stream Festival. Behind that persona, Eberhard Bort is an academic working at the University of Edinburgh. That background, and the rigorous research discipline that comes with it, displays itself in the academic nature of the book. There are lots of footnotes and pointers for those wanting to find out more, which may not suit those who would enjoy a simpler narrative. However, when read by people with even a nodding acquaintance of the subject, it will prove to be a rewarding read and will fill in lots of gaps.

One of the sections of Anent is a transcript of a radio interview on Travelling Folk with Archie Fisher asking the questions. Transcriptions of a spoken conversation don’t necessarily translate well to written form without some minor editing, but one point jumped off the page and stuck in my head over the next few days. Almost at the end of the interview, Archie asked Hamish how he would like to be remembered and who he would like to remember him. Hamish’s reply was: “Oh, you wait to this moment to ask me an unanswerable question! Well I think I’ll go straight to the point: I’d like to be remembered as the discoverer of Jeannie Robertson.”

Each subsequent time I picked up the book, another thing came to my attention. In summation, that is the joy for me of Anent. This is a book to dip in and out of, and I can pretty much guarantee that each time you pick it up, some aspect of Hamish’s rich life will jump out at you, potentially enriching your own experience.

And to save you reaching for the dictionary, join me in adding a word to your vocabulary. According to Webster’s, Anent means “preposition”, “about” or “concerning”.

Pete Heywood

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This album was reviewed in Issue 114 of The Living Tradition magazine.