On Christmas Day 2016, Ian Davison died. One of Scotland's most prolific and able songmakers in the traditional style, Ian, born in Glasgow in 1939, was captured for the Scottish Folk Revival by a 1957 lecture given in Glasgow’s Partick Burgh Halls by Norman Buchan, one of the three key kick-starters of the Revival. Ian went on to co-found the Glasgow University Folk Club, then to teach English with Norman in Rutherglen Academy, and co-run the Academy’s very influential folk club.
For most of his teaching career, Ian was Head of English at Knightswood Academy, where he sang traditional songs to generations of pupils and, in the 1960s and 70s, collected from them several hundred street and playground lyrics and verses. He then used some of these finds in his own teaching. His card index of what he found was a key source for my own study of Scots children’s songs and rhymes.
Throughout the Scottish Revival, Ian has been a well-respected, clever and melodic songwriter, a performer earlier with his own Ian Davison Folk Group and latterly solo or in a duo with Carissa Bovill, and a developer in workshops of the songmaking skills of others.
He wrote, recorded and issued on his own label several cassettes, then CDs, of his political, comic, historical, love and other songs, including Mandela Danced In The Square, Going Home To Glasgow, The Muttonheid Wearies, McKinlayville, The Clydebank Blitz, Keeping The Elephants Out and Wrap Me In Yer Airms. Contributors to a Mudcat tribute page named several others they hold dear.
Ian wrote about Scottish socialist hero John MacLean, various fine and poignant lyrics about Middle East conflicts, in support of Israeli whistleblower Mordecai Venunu In The Jail Of Ashkenon, and many songs celebrating the language and life of Glasgow. Anyone commenting on a song of his would speedily be given a recording of it.
When he was Secretary of Scottish CND in the 1980s he and I met up again, and we co-founded the six member SCND Buskers. We then raced each other to see who could first utilise which Scots or American traditional tunes for disposable protest songs for marches and Faslane demos, for funny songs pointing out the absurdity of nuclear weaponry and for appeals for sanity. We busked them on Glasgow’s streets to raise funds for financially busted SCND, and to support SCND stalls around the country.
Ian was much respected by his peers. A few years ago Glasgow's Star Club devoted a tribute evening to Ian’s confreres singing his songs to him. One of Ian's titles that tells us of him is There's Room For Us All In The Dance. Another song says “We are the human miracle, with our magic in the sky, We can save ourselves and save the world, and we only have to try.” Ian wrote shoals of fine songs, and was a tremendous friend and compatriot to have, cheerful and purposeful, dedicated and tireless.