Posted by Prof. Christopher Harvie on 20th Feb 2017
Dear Freudies and friends,
Paddy Bort died suddenly in an Edinburgh street on the evening of Friday 17 February, apparently through a heart attack. We had supper on Thursday evening before I left for the airport and a Tuebingen Kompaktseminar and he was full of plans for the year, and beyond. Thus ended a friendship of thirty-six years, and a life devoted to peace, regionalism, socialism, learning and drama. In Edinburgh he famously embodied folk music - as his hero Hamish Henderson had done - but there were different Paddys in different places, who will go on stirring things up.
In Tuebingen's Bert-Brecht-Bau Saturday students were rehearsing in the theatre Producer Paddy helped build out of a large and useless cloakroom. It gave that 'austere-brutalist' building of 1973 a heart. Politics Paddy went on to repeat the act with the similarly-pilloried Scottish parliament, recognising how Enric Miralles' strange creation actually threw people together in ways that made them think differently.
His ANNALS OF THE HOLYROOD PARISH: A Decade of Devolution 2004-2014 (Grace Note 2014) shows how this happpened between 2004-14 and (inter alia) how it got us our Borders Railway back. Paddy published the first pamphlet in June 1999, from Edinburgh University’s International Social Sciences Institute which he had served since 1996. He was with us at a ‘fete champetre’ at Avenel House, Melrose, for David and Judy Steel when it finally opened to Tweedbank in autumn 2015.
As 'Academic Coordinator' he grasped the practical experience Holyrood could provide, partly because, while a student, Stadtrat Paddy was also an SPD councillor in Ilsfeld, the small vineyard-town south of Heilbronn where his father taught. He was influenced by his next-door neighbour the dynamic Lothar Spaeth, pioneer of 'eco-hi-tech' and later Minister-President and even 'the bunch of rascals' who were his conservative opponents but still civic actors. Mutual if wary trust saved their burgh the vast administrative costs we face in Scotland.
Like Patrick Kavanagh Paddy preferred parishes to provinces, because they represented human experience better. The bad news reached Tuebingen via the Phoenix Irish Pub which Barman Paddy had helped restore amid the barges and bridges of Lauffen-am-Neckar.
Freudenstadt started with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung who then owned the Zollernblick in 1991. Its early July discussion weekends now total 26, with 'and-a-half' evenings at Edinburgh's Summerhall.
Above all there was Ireland: that year teaching German at Trinity in 1978-9 when the place began to change; then after 1985 when demographics and new voices from changing Dublin and Belfast reached Tuebingen too. Brechtbau Actor Paddy was Hugh the hedge-schoolteacher in Brian Friel's TRANSLATIONS: perhaps his finest stage role.
Health hadn't dealt the Bort family good cards. Paddy's parents and his younger brother Claus died prematurely and underneath the wit and energy there ran a heroic melancholy, a sense of 'Work, for the night cometh ...'
Something you get from both the Yeats's words and pictures. From 'At Galway Races' we can recover them:
'Sing on: somewhere at some new moon,
We'll learn that sleeping is not death,
Hearing the whole earth change its tune,
Its flesh being wild, and it again
Crying aloud as the racecourse is ...'
Review: "We are the Engineers!" by Christopher HarvieWe Are The Engineers! They Taught Us Skills For Life by Margaret Bennett : Ochtertyre: Grace Note Publications, 2015, 197 pp, with many illustrations, pb, £12,99, ISBN 978-1-907676-66-6.Margaret Bennett is one of the great authorities on, as well as performers of, Scotland’s folk music. But her family background was in the ‘new itinerant’ community of engineering, whose bard, Ewan [...]
Fugitives Donald Campbell. Grace Note Publications REVIEW BY CHARLIE GRACIE Fugitives is the first collection of Donald Campbell's poems for many years and is an eclectic mix. The range of subject matter is broad and impressive, from the streets of Edinburgh to his relationships with other writers to the voices of Native American and Russian poets. [...]
An award-winning playwright with a love of the Scots language has published two new works with a distinctly Fife flavour.
The Lucky Charm of Major Bessop by Tom HubbardScottish Books, reviews, criticism and classic titles. 25 Feb 2016The Lucky Charm of Major Bessop is a strange novel of misadventure and mystery, set in a hinterland of the imagination that many won’t recognise. That hinterland is not just rural Fife, but is represented in the form of a formidably unpleasant [...]
POSTCAIRDS FAE WOODWICK MILL by William Hershaw An exuberant delight in Scots runs through this new collection by the Fife poet, William Hershaw, and it finally overflows in the aptly titled ‘Watter Song’. Trysting on leaf-blade, stem and bole, in hoof hole, filling cupped stane, jyning [...]
Eberhard Bort (ed.), View from Zollernblick: Regional Perspectives in Europe – A Festschrift for Christopher HarvieLuis Moreno <http://www.euppublishing.com/action/doSearch?Contrib=Moreno%2C+L> Luis Moreno is Research Professor at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).Citation Information. Volume 25, Issue 1, Page 128-131, ISSN 0966-0356, Available Online February 2016 . DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/scot.2016.0115This book is a compilation of diverse contributions around the [...]
FUGITIVES by Donald Campbell This is a substantial collection of poetry, and not as the title might evoke a hard-to-grasp or ephemeral offering. It encompasses twenty five years of work, since Campbell’s ‘Selected Poems’ appeared in 1990. In addition, the volume is helpfully introduced and annotated in a way that sets Donald Campbell’s notable achievements as a playwright in the context of [...]
EdinburghGuide » Edinburgh NewsBooks: 'Eavesdropping on Myself, An Outsider's Boyhood in Glasgow' by Norman Maclean By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 09 January 2016It was a timeous coincidence that ‘Pìobairean Beaga Bhaile Ghobhainn’ otherwise ‘The Wee Govan Pipers’ featured on BBC Alba over the last few days. At one time Govan was as stowed with [...]
Book review: There’s no need for drama in this lucid Jesus story from Owen Dudley Edwards | Culture | The National 21/12/2015, Review by Hugh MacDonaldTHERE is, of course, a God. It is obvious that he/she/it exists for many as a central force in their lives and for others at least as an idea, even [...]