WEEK FIVE AND A HALF – Hamish Henderson/Tommy Smith

>> Hamish Henderson

Tommy Smith <<

Hamish Henderson               Tommy Smith

The next fortnight sees major events featuring the two individuals we are pairing for this, the first of our special Scotia Extremis postings – special as it comes mid-week and to mark these events. In Scotland, none have contributed more, and few as much, to traditional song as Hamish Henderson and jazz as Tommy Smith. While traditional music and jazz might seem stylistically divergent, it is characteristic of the Scottish scene that there are numerous links between them, with numbers of musicians active in both. The all-encompassing and supportive attitudes of Henderson and Smith can only have contributed to this. With the documentary Hamish, the Movie premiering at the Glasgow Film Festival this week and Tommy Smith headlining a poetry & jazz performance at the launch of the StAnza Festival next week, the editors are delighted to feature poems about each as a tribute and an appreciation.


Hamish Henderson (1919-2002)
by Richie McCaffery

For me always the Embra of Hamish Henderson
where the dark old side of toun holds some
of the brightest minds full of new ideas
or else the old ideals recast and reset
like Heine’s freedom becoming people
becoming, for Henderson, poetry and song,
and all this under the shadow of the Bomb.
He went from the lyrical ego of the war poet

to the anonymous sower of the folk-leid,
yet in every book in his library he scrawled
his name as if to prove that for a while
he bided in a howff of song, ideas and words
imbibing all along but never made insensible.
He took pride not in himself but others –

the fate of the recorder of oral culture
that he recorded so little of himself.

Tenor (for Tommy Smith)
by Rab Wilson

It could be the course of meaning,
that tenaciously holds through something;
Substance, drift, purport, effect…
Or perhaps the action, or the act of holding on;
Continuance, duration…
A progression, a course, a movement…
Or pertaining to the tune, the sound, or the melody;
Its quality, its character, its nature, its state.
Formed from a habitual conditioning of the mind.

What I suppose I’m trying to say is,
I’m attempting to spell out a spell with words;
Something that is intangible, invisible,
Mysterious and magical;
Like dark matter.
It’s there –
But we can’t explain it.




richie-by-gerry-cambridgeRichie McCaffery 
is the author of two pamphlets (Spinning Plates from HappenStance Press and the 2014 Callum Macdonald Memorial prize runner up, Ballast Flint). His recent collection Cairn is published by Nine Arches Press. He has a PhD in Scottish Literature (The Scottish poets of World War Two) from The University of Glasgow. He is the editor of Finishing the Picture: The Collected Poems of Ian Abbot (Kennedy and Boyd, 2015) and is working on his third poetry pamphlet, due out in 2017.

Rab Wilson (credit Robin Gillanders)Rab Wilson was born in Ayrshire and has worked in engineering, coalmining and psychiatric nursing. His major work is an ‘owersettin’ of The Ruba’iyat of Omar Khayyam in Scots. His collections of poetry include Accent o the mind: Poems, chiefly in the Scots language (Luath Press 2006) and Life Sentence: More Poems Chiefly in the Scots Language (2009). A third collection A Map for the Blind was published in 2011. From 2012 – 2014 Rab was the Scots Language Centre’s virtual poet in residence (‘Makar ben the Hoose’) on their website, work from which can be seen at http://www.scotslanguage.com

Images courtesy of;
Rab Wilson photo by Robin Gillanders

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