Holyrood honours one of ‘most brilliant Scots of his age’, folk legend Hamish Henderson

Hamish Henderson,  80 yr old poet and songwriter and historian.  Died on 8/3/2002 at the age of 82.
Hamish Henderson, 80 yr old poet and songwriter and historian. Died on 8/3/2002 at the age of 82.
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Scots folk legend Hamish Henderson has been honoured at the Scottish Parliament with a concert featuring performances of his work.

The legacy of the late poet, songwriter and academic was also lauded by MSPs, who hailed him as one of the “most brilliant Scots of his age”, as celebrations build towards the centenary of his birth in November.

Henderson is widely viewed as the pivotal figure in Scotland’s folk revival of the 1950s, not just for his own work but as an accomplished folksong collector.

He was perhaps best known for his peace anthem The Freedom Come-All-Ye, penned for the anti-Polaris nuclear protests on the Clyde in the 1960s. It had been touted as a possible national anthem for Scotland, although Henderson, a lifelong communist, was not keen on this.

Nationalist MSP Joan McAlpine hailed his contribution as she led a debate in his honour at Holyrood last night, describing him as “one of the most brilliant Scots of his age”.

She said: “The revival in which Hamish was so pivotal changed Scotland.

“It began a steady, subtle growth of national self-confidence which led, eventually, to the opening of this Parliament.

“It is appropriate that we honour him here, in this way.”

Henderson’s widow Katzel and daughters Janet and Tina were at Holyrood last night to take part in the celebrations.

His work at the School of Scottish Studies, at Edinburgh University, from the early 1950s to the late 1980s, helped to popularise the 
“living tradition” in Scotland.

Henderson was born in Blairgowrie before being orphaned at the age of 13 following the death of his single mother Janet, while living in Somerset.

He won a scholarship to study at Cambridge, then went on to serve with distinction in the war as an intelligence officer in Italy and north Africa.

The event at Holyrood last night heard a performance of The Freedom Come-All-Ye in a concert featuring different generations of singers, including Henderson’s friends Margaret Bennett and Sheena Wellington.

New works in Henderson’s honour, composed by Mike Vass of the School of Scottish Studies Archive and Pipe Major Callum Douglas of Hamish Matters, was also performed at the reception. Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said Henderson, who died in 2002, was “one of the most influential Scots of the past century.

“Hamish Henderson’s devotion to Scotland and particularly to its traditional cultures has left a remarkable legacy for us today.

“It’s important that we continue to recognise and to value his contribution, but probably more importantly to ensure that we value, protect and nurture our culture – the spirit, the value of what he communicated.”

She added: “Hamish Henderson – hero of Scotland.”