IN a week dominated by the high drama of Brexit , two smaller events coincided that are in their own way landmarks in history too. Journalist Garrett M Graff’s formidable book The Only Plane In The Sky: An Oral History Of 9/11 was published in the UK, whilst the Scottish Parliament paid tribute to the life of Hamish Henderson, one of the most brilliant Scots of his age, a poet, songwriter and the catalyst of Scotland ’s post-war folk revival.

Both are historic but in different ways. One is a painstaking record of a monumental moment in American history, which resonated around the world and had a profound bearing on the global war against terror.

The second was history in a gradual and insistent way, much like the waves that resound against jagged rocks, shaping them with time.

Hamish Henderson was a man whose influence may not be fully understood for decades yet to come. He was a co-founder of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Scottish studies and a hugely important figure in Scotland’s journey to national self-discovery.

What the two events shared was the power of oral history: the unique way that people and their personal perspectives can illuminate the stories world we live in.

Oral history is the collection of historical information using interviews with ordinary people who have unique perspectives on significant past events.

It is usually history from the bottom up, told by onlookers, hairdressers, joiners and the unemployed and not through the eyes of the powerful.

Like the work of the Mass Observation movement of the late 1930s, the purpose is to record the testimony of thousands of people and see history through multiple experiences, not through the individual perspective of the great writer, the chronicler or the political leaders.

The presidential biographer Jon Meacham has described The Only Plane In The Sky: An Oral History Of 9/11 as “history at its most immediate and moving”. It starts with what you least expect, two artists from a scheme run by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council which funded 15 artists to work in residence in the Twin Towers. One of them, a fine-artist called Vanessa Lawrence, is surveying the 91st floor of the North Tower. “Because I was living in a basement where I just saw people’s feet, I thought it would be amazing to paint from such a high view – seeing different weather patterns, changing skies, changing lights,’’ she remembers.

She was painting a gathering thunder storm when Muhammad Atta’s “Hamburg Cell” were hijacking planes above the skies of Boston, on their way to blast the towers.

NOTHING of Hamish Henderson’s work has the same visceral drama for the very simple reason that not all oral history is as visually spectacular. Henderson spent years painstakingly tracking down storytellers and folk singers in rural Scotland with the American folklorist Alan Lomax. Together and tensely, they recorded dozens of hours of ancient ballads, Gaelic work songs, children’s songs and contemporary folk songs from all over Scotland. Henderson’s ambition was to record a people’s history before its dissipated and died.

Oral history projects are intimidating beasts and usually require an army of volunteers, researchers and recorders willing to travel extensively to track down the witnesses.

It is not cheap nor is it a simple task, but as we look forward to the next big moment in the history of Scotland’s independence movement it is worth asking: who is recording its story to date?

There are already many great projects out there. The indie producer Phantom Power has made a series of films that chart individuals on the journey from No to Yes; this week CommonSpace are running “5 Years On”, a special week of coverage to mark the fifth anniversary of the first independence referendum, and BBC Scotland’s three-part documentary, Yes/No: Inside The Indyref, is the gold-standard of conventional television history.

All are commendable projects but by their nature too selective to be d,escribed as a historic record of the independence movement.

What is required is the will to dig deeper into the grassroots of the movement and get beneath the hard skin of the Yes brigade, those people that lost their jobs arguing for a cause, those that gave up their jobs to devote themselves to full-time campaigning, those that drove Yes bikes, gave birth, suffered heart-attacks, stuffed envelopes, designed flyers and pounded streets, and those that simply turned up to vote, then felt so emotionally fulfilled that they walked out with a stubbed pencil in their pocket.

Oral history is about remembering, but it’s also about capturing the ephemeral before it disappears forever.

The Yes campaign is one of the biggest mass movements in our modern history, but because it is still seen as oppositional, I fear the records of the movement may dissipate without the deep historic research it deserves.

Scotland urgently needs a Hamish Henderson or a Studs Terkel, someone who has the vision to capture the oral history of a movement on the march.

Terkel’s project Hard Times: An Oral History Of The Great Depression assembled recollections of the Great Depression spanning the socioeconomic spectrum, from the Okies, to prison inmates and even the wealthy speculators who lost their shirt when the stock market crashed.

To give you a sense of the scale of ambition, Terkel’s archived radio interviews contain 238 separate recordings about neighbourhoods in his native Chicago, and 582 recordings about indigenous music from folk to blues.

I know there are already scattered collections out there, but who will upscale them? Who can give them coherence, by adding to them and building on local foundations?

By rights it should be a standalone charity or a Scottish university, someone capable of raising the huge funding required to do the movement’s story some justice. It may even be a partner project with a European network, before the door slams shut on that one or before it re-opens again. We need to catalogue the stories of how we got to where we are.

Oral history is first-hand evidence of the past which captures people’s experiences and opinions often in ways that contrast with or contradict official history. A current project that points to the possibilities out there is called Oral Histories Of The American South, a three-year project on race and civil rights which aims to select, digitise and make available a collection of more than 4000 interviews on racial integration as experienced by students at West Charlotte High School during its transition from a traditionally black school to an integrated one.

Similarly, the British Library’s “Sisterhood and After” has recorded the oral history of feminists who were at the forefront of the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s and 80s.

The Yes movement is alive and kicking, but it is not immune to loss. Even after relatively short periods of time, people’s memories play tricks, they forget things as they really were and often aggregate their stories to match official history.

Others pass away or are too busy to bother archiving their materials. A dedicated oral history project celebrating Yes would be a mammoth task but it would also be a national asset that would enrich any of our major universities.

We need Hamish Henderson to lead the charge – but in his absence, who?

The Only Plane In The Sky: The Oral History Of 9/11 by Garrett M Graff is published by Monoray