Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Hamish Henderson archive comes to Edinburgh

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Media captionHenderson wrote the song Men of Rivonia in the 1960s in support of Nelson Mandela

Letters, manuscripts, and notebooks offering a "unique" insight into the 20th century's social and political upheavals are to come to Edinburgh.

The archive of documents belonging to the poet and folklorist Hamish Henderson has been acquired by Edinburgh University.

They include first-hand accounts of events in 1930s Germany, WWII and apartheid era South Africa.

One of Scotland's most prominent cultural figures, died in 2002 aged 82.

It will be available for people to use for research from September.

Henderson was a leading architect of the Scottish folksong renaissance and co-founder of the university's school of Scottish studies.

The archive includes unfinished and unpublished poems.

Scottish nationalist

There are also letters to and from major cultural figures such as American folk singer Pete Seeger, poet Norman MacCaig, and Scottish makar Edwin Morgan, as well as notebooks from Henderson's time serving in the Intelligence Corps during WWII.

His private archive of more than 10,000 letters from almost 3,400 correspondents, plus 136 notebooks and diaries, has been acquired by the university library's special collections from the Henderson family through the offices of the Hamish Henderson Archive Trust.

The material shows his many interests - as a folksong collector, a cultural historian, a Scottish nationalist, and an international democratic socialist.

A committed Europhile, he was also a supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a campaigner against Apartheid and injustice in general.

Image caption The poet kept a notebook while serving with the Intelligence Corps in Florence during WW2

From the late 1930s there is information about Henderson's attempts to help smuggle Jews out of Germany.

In the Cold War era there is correspondence with the American Embassy in London calling for clemency in the 1952 case of convicted spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were eventually executed for passing nuclear secrets to the Russians.

Henderson wrote the song Men of Rivonia in the 1960s in support of Nelson Mandela and the South African freedom fighters.

The archive contains a letter of thanks from the ANC to Henderson. He met Mandela when the South African visited Glasgow in 1993 following his release.

Also included are notebooks relating to Henderson's fieldwork collecting old stories and songs during his time at the university's school of Scottish studies.

There are many letters from people whom he recorded, which give context to recent sound archive digitisation projects.

Dr John Scally, director of library and university collections said: "The Hamish Henderson archive is a fine research asset and connects very strongly with a number of other collections already held by the library.

"It will enhance our existing strengths and help promote further development and funding of our holdings relating to Scottish Studies."

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