IVOR Cutler – the great Glaswegian-Jewish poet, singer-songwriter, humorist and self-proclaimed “oblique musical philosopher” – would, had he lived to tell the tale, have turned 100 last weekend.

Born Isadore Cutler in Glasgow on January 15, 1923, and raised in the Govan area of the city, he would become one of the most distinctively eccentric and beloved figures in UK popular culture.

Cutler’s parents and grandparents – refugees from the violent anti-Semitism of the Tsarist Russian Empire – arrived in Scotland in the late-19th century.

By the time Ivor was born the family name, Kushner, had been Anglicised to Cutler (a common practice among Jewish refugees and immigrants, who altered their names to make them sound less “foreign”).

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Cutler believed himself to have been traumatised by the birth of his younger brother, which drew attention and affection away from him. “Without that I would not have been so screwed up as I am, and therefore not as creative,” he once said.

The poet even claimed to have attempted to murder his younger sibling using a poker, only to have been thwarted by a vigilant aunt.

As a schoolchild on the southside of Glasgow, Cutler experienced anti-Semitism (not least from teachers) and witnessed children growing up in dire poverty. These experiences contributed to his left-wing and humanist sensibilities.

After training to be a teacher at Jordanhill College in Glasgow, Cutler expressed his dislike of the regimented and disciplinarian aspects of the Scottish education system.

He held corporal punishment (to which he had been subjected many times while a pupil at Shawlands Academy) in particular contempt.

During a difficult time teaching at a school in Paisley early in his career, Cutler is said to have demonstratively taken his government-issue leather strap from his drawer, cut it into pieces and distributed them to the pupils.

This gesture stood him in good stead for his periods teaching at AS Neill’s “hippy school” Summerhill and a number of schools run by the Inner London Education Authority.

Cutler believed that teaching helped to unlock his artistic creativity, and his career in education ran in tandem with his emergence as a humorist (he was, he insisted correctly, resolutely not a comedian).

From quite early in his artistic career, Cutler’s gloriously tangential take on life found some famous champions.

The philosopher Bertand Russell appreciated the poet’s work greatly, as did Billy Connolly. Paul McCartney and John Lennon so loved the Scot’s performances that they asked him to play the part of the bus conductor Mr Bloodvessel in The Beatles’ 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour.

On radio, Cutler recorded more sessions for John Peel’s popular, late night Radio One programme than any other act, apart from Manchester post-punk group The Fall. It is testament to the breadth of interest Cutler generated that he performed on BBC radio channels One, Two, Three and Four.

In more recent times, singer-songwriters Alex Kapranos (of Franz Ferdinand fame) and KT Tunstall have emerged as aficionados of all things Cutler.

It was typical of Cutler that, when invited to make a programme about his life and work for STV, he used a split screen in order to interview himself. The first Cutler sat at a harmonium on the right-hand side of the screen, the second knelt before the first, like a supplicant, on the left side.

“May I interview you, Ivor?”, asked Cutler number Two, meekly. “Mr Cutler to you!”, Cutler One replied, gruffly, before adding, “only my intimate friends get to call me Ivor”.

“When strangers call me Ivor, it’s like getting a French kiss from a public relations consultant.”

The chastened Cutler Two offered a mild protest: “But you know me.” Unmoved, Cutler One concluded the exchange, saying: “I know nothing, and it’s taken me a lifetime to get to this stage.”

It’s often said that dreamers live in a world of their own. In Cutler’s case that world had its own name, as he divulged in the title of his first album Ivor Cutler of Y’Hup (released by Decca in 1959).

Many albums – such as Velvet Donkey (1975) and Gruts (1986) – were to follow. There were numerous books (for both adults and children) too, including the poetry collection Fresh Carpet (1986) and the anecdotal prose of Glasgow Dreamer (1990).

Throughout this prodigious oeuvre Cutler combined his delightfully, and sometimes troublingly, surreal humour with a gently subversive, anarchic humanism (the latter of which was reflected in his steadfast support of both the Noise Abatement Society and the Voluntary Euthanasia Society).

I had the pleasure of seeing Cutler perform his poetry live, at the Stills photography gallery in Edinburgh in 1994.

The occasion was the launch of the whimsically titled A Stuggy Pren, a book of photographs of Cutler and his partner (in life and art) Phyllis King taken by Katrina Lithgow, accompanied by poems by Cutler.

Lithgow’s black and white photos – of Cutler peaking out from inside a cupboard and so on – are typically playful and humorous.

Cutler encouraged the children in the audience to sit at the front. Following a short interval he returned proclaiming: “Shut up! Shut Up! The poet’s coming back!” (An injunction that would be paraphrased in the theatre show The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler, co-produced by the National Theatre of Scotland and Vanishing Point theatre company in 2014).

Cutler was a resolute atheist who joked about God taking revenge upon him. However, his Jewish identity was important to him.

“Religion is not relevant to my life,” he said, “but I was born a Jew and there is no way you can hide under the carpet, not that I want to.”

Cutler’s Jewish roots also emerged in some of his music, which was inflected strongly with the distinctive sound of Ashkenazi Jewish klezmer.

Ivor Cutler was a brilliantly unique figure in Scottish and international culture. He also stood in a tradition of Glasgow-Jewish comedians and humorists that stretches back to the early-20th century music hall artist Ike Freedman and forward to contemporary figures Arnold Brown and Jerry Sadowitz.

With thanks to Harvey Kaplan, director of the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre