Joining as an enlisted soldier in the Pioneer Corps, he later applied for and received a commission in the Intelligence Corps. He was quite effective as an interrogator due to his command of six European languages and deep understanding of German culture. He took part in the Desert War in Africa, during which he wrote his poem Elegies For the Dead in Cyrenaica, encompassing every aspect of a soldier's experience of the sands of North Africa. On 2 May 1945, Henderson personally oversaw the drafting of the surrender order of Italy issued by Marshal Rodolfo Graziani . Henderson collected the lyrics to "D-Day Dodgers," a satirical song to the tune of "Lili Marlene", attributed to Lance-Sergeant Harry Pynn, who served in Italy. Henderson also wrote the lyrics to "The 51st (Highland) Division's Farewell to Sicily", set to a pipe tune called "Farewell to the Creeks". Folk song collector Henderson threw himself into the work of the folk revival after the war, discovering and bringing to public attention Jeannie Robertson, Flora MacNeil (see Flora MacNeil, Gaelic singer), Calum Johnston (see Annie and Calum Johnston of Barra) and others.
In the 1950s, he acted as a guide to the American folklorist, Alan Lomax, who collected many field recordings in Scotland. (See Alan Lomax, Collector of Songs). People's Festival Ceilidhs Henderson was instrumental in bringing about the Edinburgh People's Festival Ceilidh in 1951, which placed traditionally performed Scottish folk music on the public stage for the first time as "A Night of Scottish Song". However, the People's Festival, of which it was part, was planned as a left-wing competitor to the Edinburgh Festival and was deeply controversial. At the event, Henderson performed a song, to the tune of Scotland the Brave, which glorified John Maclean, a communist and Scottish nationalist hero. However, the event marked the first time that Scotland's traditional folk music was performed on a public stage.
The performers included Flora MacNeil, Calum Johnston, John Burgess (bagpiper), Jessie Murray, John Strachan, and Jimmy MacBeath. The event was extremely popular and was regarded as the beginning of the second British folk revival. Henderson continued to host the events every year until 1954, when the Communist ties of several members of the Peoples Festival Committee led to the Labour Party declaring it a "Proscribed Organisation". Losing the financial support of the local trades unions, the Peoples Festival was permanently cancelled. Later life Dividing his time between Europe and Scotland, he eventually settled in Edinburgh in 1959 with his German wife, Kätzel (Felizitas Schmidt). Henderson collected widely in the Borders and the north-east of Scotland, creating links between the travellers, the bothy singers of Aberdeenshire, the Border shepherds, and the young men and women who frequented the folk clubs in Edinburgh. From 1955 to 1987 he was on the staff of the University of Edinburgh's School of Scottish Studies which he co-founded with Calum Maclean: there he contributed to the sound archives that are now available on-line. Henderson held several honorary degrees and after his retirement became an honorary fellow of the School of Scottish Studies.
For many years he held court in Sandy Bell's Bar, the meeting place for local and visiting folk musicians. Beside his academic work for the University, he found time to produce translations of the Prison Letters of Antonio Gramsci. Death He died in Edinburgh on 8 March 2002 aged eighty-two, survived by his wife Kätzel and their daughters, Janet and Christine. Legacy Henderson's complexities make his work hard to study: for example, Dick Gaughan's commentary on the song-poem The 51st Highland Division's Farewell to Sicily, while insightful, does not take into account the traditional divide between pipers and drummers in the Scots regiments, the essential key to one reading of the text. In 2005, Rounder Records released a recording of the 1951 Edinburgh People's Festival Ceilidh as part of The Alan Lomax Collection. Henderson had collaborated heavily with the preparations for the release. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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