Ding Dong Dollar — sings and surges full and free in the rich mainstream of Scottish satire, with ten centuries of authority and impetus behind it, vaunting the ethos of our Celtic ancestors, whip-lashing and riving its way through the rock of Scottish history and character. And full from the teeth and tongue of this flood the ethnic soars, proud, Joyous and defiant: "Fredome is ane nobil thing."
In more circuitous idiom the story runs like this: In early Celtic society the bards enjoyed enviable power and prestige. They were respected and feared, because they were able, whenever they felt inclined, to administer the poetic corrective of aoir (satire).
Rather than suffer the humiliation of being made "infamous in the mouths of all men" as a result of bardic ridicule, the haughty and the mighty were ready to go to extraordinary lengths to conciliate the poets and even to buy them off, for they found themselves helpless against the whiplash of satirical invective
Sometimes even, the poets rounded on each other, and the result was savage flytings (sustained bardic slanging matches) — often masterpieces of extravagant grotesque mockery. Many of the latter are on record, both In Gaelic and in Scots; in Gaelic, for example, the flyting between the rival bardesses of Barra and South Uist, and in Scots the immortal pantagruelian flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy.
Parallel with this literary tradition — the examples quoted are from cultivated art-poets — there is a 'sub-literary' tradition of partisan and often scurrilous satirical verse and song, which has enlivened every conflict and controversy in Scottish history. Reformation satires against "the Paip, that Pagan full of Pride" anti-Calvinistic satires pillorying the Whigs as canting, sleekit hypocrites; Jacobite insults to the Hanoverian monarchs.
These traditions, the literary and the sub-literary, cross-fertilised each other through the centuries; they meet in the satirical works of Robert Burns e.g. his "You're welcome to despots, Dumourier", "Holy Willie's Prayer", or his savage "Election Ballad"
" — I pray with holy fire;
Lord, send a rough-shod troop o Hell
Owre aa wad Scotland buy or sell,
Tae grind them in the mire!"
In our own days, Hugh MacDiarrnid has dragged Scotland kicking and screaming into a Twentieth Century literary renaissance, reasserting with all the power of faith, passion and intellectual ferocity, everything that is most mordant in this tradition. His scathing, implacable denunciations of the English overlordship and of his own people's acceptance of the fake and the false, reach to the heights of the visionary and the prophetic. MacDiarmid, in fact, in height, depth and sheer mass is practically a culture on his own.
It is not surprising, then that the younger poets following in such yeti footsteps should see so clearly the line of advance: a Scottish folk-song renaissance. The line was so clear in fact that they were able to cover every phase of it, from Christmas Day, 1950, when the Stone Of Destiny was retrieved from Westminster Abbey, right up to the arrival of Abi Yoyo, in the Holy Loch, March, 1961.
Everything was thrown In the pot: the missionaries first to give it the bite, army ballads from World War II, football songs, Orange songs, Fenian songs, Child ballads, street songs, children's songs, bothy ballads, blues, skiffle, Australian bush ballads, calypsos, MacColl and Lomax, Ives and Leadbelly, songs about the Stone of Destiny, Dominic Behan, S.R.A. songs, I.R.A. songs, Guthrie and Houston, pantomime and vaudeville, Billy Graham, Scottish Land League songs, Gaelic songs and mouth-music, Wobbly songs, spirituals, mountaineering and hiking ballads, Elliot and Seeger, mock-precenting, the Royal Family, Roddy MacMillan and Matt McGinn.
As a result of this genial eclecticism, we finished up with a banquet: Firstly, as a result of recovery, regrouping, re-editing and recirculation, a new metropolitan folksong corpus was established.
Secondly, the Orange-Fenian monopoly in the rebel songs was broken by the emergence of a strong folk-rebel corpus which subsumed all the best elements in the two opposing sectarian traditions: Hampden had taken over from Ibrox and Parkhead.
Thirdly, a rich skalrag, and immensely popular Glasgow street song corpus emerged with dozens of writers to add new verses, new melodies and new material.
Fourthly, a structure of ceilidh, concert, soiree, melee, jazz club, folk club and youth hostel took the message to wider and wider circles of young people.
Pause for documentation: Ballads of World War II (ed. Mor) Sangs o the Stane (ed. Berwick) the Rebel's Ceilidh Song Books (ed. Kellock) Scotland Sings, Personal Choice (ed. MacColl) the Patriot Song Book (ed. MacDonald) broadsheets (various). Most of these are now collector's pieces.
This, then was the folk-scene in the Spring of '6l when the new-style gun-boats came sailing up the Clyde. The singers and the songs were there to greet them. The singers had sung in club, ceilidh, concert etc.
Acting as an independent unit, they supported demonstrations called by the D.A. Committee, the C.N.D. Committees, the Glasgow & District Trades Council and the English and Scottish Committees of 100. They became known as the Anti-Polaris Singers and were accepted with pride and affection by demonstrators and organisers as their oum establishment singers. No one told them what to sing, where to sing, or how to sing it. They kept to the main theme of anti-Polaris, uniting and binding the many disparate organisations into one body.
And to this body they gave heart, voice and laughter.They were B.B.C'd, S.T.V'd, televised, N.C.B'd, broadcast, telecast, free-lanced and pirated, A.F.N'd, Radio Moscowed, translated, interpreted and given in evidence in court.
They now added train and station, boat and pier, bus and lorry, road and road-side, march and platform: "It's in an oot, an up an doon, an on an aff the piers."
The United Kingdom has never really been united. Riots in Northern Ireland, the SNP in Scotland and explosions in Wales demonstrate that it is certainly not united today. The English, enjoying a somewhat privileged position in this grouping of nations raise an eyebrow and sometimes a smile when earnest Celtic patriots claim that they are being deprived of their national heritage by England. The Establishment however does not smile nor under estimate this unrest. They fight off the ever-growing tide by investing Edinburgh with dukes and Wales with princes. But the digit conscious Duke is himself but a finger in the dike. And he and his son will be swept aside by the great flood of independent republican feeling that is rising throughout the 'Untied Kingdom'. This is what the songs on this record are about. They are anti-monarchy, anti-establishment and anti-Yankee. The American Polaris submarine, berthed in Scotland acted as a focal point, representing foreign political interference in Scotland at its most impertinent. This record has some pertinent impertinents to offer in return.