It's difficult to know just where to start in describing the contribution made by Norman Buchan. As a schoolteacher in Rutherglen, he inspired a generation of pupils who went on to inspire and influence several other generations - Archie Fisher, Gordeanna McCulloch, Anne Neilson, Ewan McVicar, Bobby Campbell, Josh McRae.
One of the most influential books of songs ever was the 'wee red songbook', ('101 Scottish Songs'), compiled by Norman, the book which provided a foundation repertoire to many a young singer in the 60s.
Norman was a Marxist who felt the best route to Socialism lay in the Labour Party. He was elected as an MP and was (among other posts he held) Shadow Minister for the Arts. Unlike many who get into the cesspit of politics, he refused to compromise his principles and he never forgot that he was there to represent the people who had elected him. Whatever the issue, Norman made his decision based on his principles, including once resigning from the Shadow Cabinet on a matter of principle.
He also had a very wry sense of humour. At a meeting once when I was loudly advocating that Hamish Henderson's "Freedom Come Aa Ye" would be the best choice for a Scottish Anthem, he quietly pulled me aside and said, "Listen, son, the fastest way to kill a song is to make it a National Anthem - let them keep Flooer o Scotland!"
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©Dick Gaughan February 2001. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in whole or in part in any form, material or electronic, without the written permission of the author.
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