Scotland Inspired: Margaret Bennett

Margaret Bennett Margaret Bennett is widely regarded as one of Scotland's foremost folklorists

Who and what has shaped some of Scotland's most creative minds?

BBC Scotland has launched a major series - Scotland Inspired - tracing Scotland's artistic family tree, with prominent figures choosing Scots who have inspired them.

Margaret Bennett is a singer, storyteller and widely regarded as one of the major figures of the modern Scottish revival in folklore studies.

She is a singer of great versatility and sensitivity.

Margaret has written several award-winning books and recorded CDs with a range of musicians, including her son, the piper Martyn Bennett.

BBC Radio Scotland - Scotland Inspired, Episode 3 - Tuesday 15 May at 13:45

HAMISH HENDERSON - poet, soldier, folklorist, campaigner (1919-2002) MARGARET BENNETT SAYS
Hamish Henderson

"My mother told me about Hamish Henderson, that he was collecting songs.

"My mother used to have a little black book of songs.

"And her own grandfather had been collected or recorded by Marjory Kennedy Fraser.

"In my childhood, somebody from the School of Scottish Studies had come to our house and recorded my mother.

"A good many years later I was singing at a concert in Glasgow and Hamish was at that.

"I was astonished that he could remember precisely who I was, where I was from, and the fact that they had a recording of my mother.

"Within seconds he had the recording on the machine and I remember feeling a great warmth as he played my mother singing in Portree in 1953.

"I think one of the areas of life of Scottish society that Hamish succeeded in drawing attention to was the travellers.

"Hamish sometimes lived among them, he recognised they had a well of tradition of a depth that may never be plumbed.

"When he began to bring some of them to the major performance spaces, for example in 1951 when he ran the People's Festival Ceilidh, in some ways that began as a statement that there is a very profound value in the art of ordinary people."

SONG COLLECTORS - Marjory Kennedy Fraser (1857-1930); Margaret Fay Shaw, below(1903-2004)


Margaret Fay Shaw and Marjory Kennedy Fraser Margaret Fay Shaw and Marjory Kennedy Fraser

"Marjory Kennedy Fraser was born in Perth into a family of musicians and singers.

"This is 1905. She had heard wax cylinder recordings by Cecil Sharp so she knew this machine existed but when (I believe in Edinburgh) she heard a Gaelic song from the Hebrides, she was so drawn to it that she decided she would go to the Hebrides and record these songs.

"So she and her daughter, Patuffa, went to the islands and recorded a large number because there are now four volumes.

"When the first volume came out, a young woman in America by the name of Margaret Fay Shaw heard them.

"She was so struck she moved to South Uist and stayed with two sisters in 1929.

"She was a wonderful musician. She notated the songs and sat with the sisters.

"She learnt Gaelic and learnt the songs in the original language, and wrote them down as precisely as possible.

"Now that collection, which she didn't publish until 1950s, stands as possibly one of the finest collections of traditional Gaelic song that we have."

MARTYN BENNETT - fiddler, piper, innovator (1971-2005)


Martyn Bennett

"Martyn was an only child. He had an incredible memory for music and reproducing it.

"He had incredible power of concentration. Would you believe he taught me to listen better?

"We worked on the album Glen Lyon together. He said: 'I'm not asking for your ideas mum, I'm just asking for your songs.

"He often made me sing things more than once, memorably Glen Lyon which is the song that gives its name to the album.

"My mother just before I did the recording said, 'Make sure you get that second verse right, in fact I'm going to write the words the way I taught you because you keep changing one of those words and don't take your eye off this paper'.

"So I put the paper on the stand and began to sing and he stopped me after one line - start again.

"This happened about three or four times.

"He was behind this glass screen where the mixing desk was, without any further ado in four steps he swept over to the music stand and tore the paper up.

"'Now', he said, 'sing - I can hear your eyes on that paper… I want to hear your voice'.

"And he was absolutely right, when somebody's eyes are drawn on to a paper you know they're reading, even if they know the thing off by heart.

"And it's like saying sing from your heart."

"I do come across quite a lot of young people and now people in their 30s and some in 40s who say Martin was such a huge influence on them in their music, in their own compositions, or playing or even in their life, which is quite amazing.

"That one young person should leave that behind."

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