THE singer-songwriter, poet, folklorist and collector Hamish Henderson is rightly seen as "the father of the folk revival” in Scotland, but his often overlooked contemporary Morris Blythman was in many ways the powerhouse behind it. Blythman's contribution will be highlighted in a special event in Edinburgh on Monday, when from Thurso to Berwick: A Celebration of Morris Blythman is held at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, at the Netherbow Theatre. It will feature Alastair McDonald and Corinne Harris.

It would also be safe to say that without Blythman’s determined influence the folk revival would not have spread beyond folk clubs and on to the highways, byways and streets of Scotland to have the cultural and political impact it did.

If we could pinpoint the day the folk revival was born, it would probably be St Andrew’s Day 1948, when more than 2,000 people gathered in Glasgow to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the death of the Scottish Republican Red Clydesider John Maclean.

From the start, the revival had political overtones and, at least partially, conscious political intent.

At this gathering Hamish Henderson’s now famous John Maclean's March was first sung. Willie Noble’s performance of it was described by Morris as “the first swallow of the folk revival”.

Also at this “huge mass meeting” Hugh MacDiarmid, Sorley MacLean and Sydney Goodsir Smith read poems in honour of John Maclean, as did Blythman under his nom de guerre Thurso Berwick. Henderson described Blythman’s “vigorous spoken poetry” as “a potent agent in the contemporary folk song revival”.

After the Stone of Destiny (the Stone of Scone) was repatriated by four Scottish students who “burgled” Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1950, Blythman produced a best-selling booklet Sangs o the Stane, which included work by poets such as Norman MacCaig and TS Law.

This was also the period when, as Blythman put it, “the concept of demonstration singing was born as far as I was concerned”.

Three times, he took singers to central Glasgow, to entertain the crowds with nationalist/republican songs. When they went to the station to welcome yet another batch of English polis sent up to seek out the Stane, the authorities feared a riot and diverted the train!

“For the first time since the Jacobite era, as far as songs were concerned at least, here was a rallying point,’’ Blythman said. ‘‘Politically, almost all thought till then had been geared to false premises such as Labour versus Tory … Scotland had not been united in spirit for generations, but here at last was a unifying factor.”

But what Morris was to call “the first real singing campaign ever undertaken in Scotland” began in the spring of 1961 when the US nuclear sub the Proteus “sailed up the Clyde with her Polaris missiles and sparked off a wave of demonstrations and songs which were to make headlines all over the world”.

The anti-Polaris Ding Dong Dollar songs were largely written and/or inspired by and work-shopped with Morris: songs like The Glesca Eskimos, We Dinna Want Polaris, Boomerang, Camp in the Country, Twa-Twa-Zero and John Mack Smith’s Superb Misguided Missile and the Misguided Miss as well as the famous Ding Dong Dollar itself, with its closing chorus:

O ye canny spend a dollar when ye’re deid,

Sae tell Kennedy he’s got tae keep the heid,

Singin’ Ding Dong Dollar; everybody holler

Ye canny spend a dollar when ye’re deid.

WHILE the Ding Dong Dollar songbooks sold in their tens of thousands on the streets and at rallies, meetings, concerts and protests, at sixpence a go, many of the songs were also released by the highly respected Folkways Records in New York on the Ding Dong Dollar album of 1962. The (mostly) Glasgow singers were now keeping company with the likes of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Leadbelly.

Specifically, most, if not all, these songs had been “worked up” by Morris and his Glasgow Song Guild which drew on such talents as John Mack Smith, Josh McRae, Jackie O’Connor, Alastair McDonald, Gordeanna McCulloch, Matt McGinn, Bobby Campbell, Nigel Denver and that great republican songwriter Jim McLean. Notably, these Blythman Balladeers were not interested in hymning pacifism or in praising lofty ideals. Their songs were in the Scots “flyting” tradition which aimed to deflate and deride. They were reductive, comic and down-to-earth. In short, they kicked ass and they took no prisoners. For Morris, these songs were about “defending Scottish territorial integrity” and “protecting Scotland and Scotland’s honour”.

Through the Allan Glen Ballad and Blues Club which he’d set up at the school where he was then teaching (arguably the first “folk club” in Scotland) and the house ceilidhs he hosted with his wife Marion, Morris was also to help bring to the fore singers such as Jimmy and Susan Ross, Ian Wade, Andy Hunter, Ewan McVicar, Ray and Archie Fisher, Robin Hall, Hamish Imlach and Jimmie Macgregor.

As MacGregor recalled when Morris died in 1981: “Through these vastly enjoyable and always crowded house parties, Morris … won us all away from the commercial music of the time, and introduced us to the traditions of our own country... It’s a simple fact that Morris Blythman was one of the people who changed the course of my life, and it’s no exaggeration to say Scottish music would not be the same without the influence he exerted. His work lives and continues to change and grow.”

Due to his Marxist and republican principles, Morris never joined the SNP, but wrote some of their best campaign songs in the 1960s, including for Winnie Ewing’s watershed victory in Hamilton in 1967. Accused by Brit Leftists of compromising his (Marxist) principles by supporting the “bourgeois” SNP, Morris replied he was only compromising “priorities”. He said: “The Scottish literary tradition is quite clear. You speak out for the people all the time. It is a people’s tradition. Whoever and whatever happens to coincide with the people’s tradition, be it CND, Sky-High Joe, the people who took the Stone of Destiny; you back them up and you don’t split hairs. That’s how you keep with the thing. Solidarity without compromise.”

Raymond Ross is taking part in From Thurso to Berwick: A Celebration of Morris Blythman at the Scottish Storytelling Centre (Netherbow Theatre), Edinburgh, on Monday at 7.30pm. Starring Alastair McDonald (with Raymond Ross and Corinne Harris). Box Office:

0131 556 9579, Scottish Storytelling Centre 43-45 High Street, Edinburgh, www.scottishstory