Master storyteller; Born April 11, 1928; Died November 8, 2007.

Duncan Williamson, who died yesterday aged 79, was regarded as being among the finest storytellers in Scotland.

His publisher, Canongate's Stephanie Wolf-Murray, yesterday described him as "number one - head and shoulders above anyone else in his field", while Dr Donald Smith, director of the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh, added: "He was uniquely gifted with a keen sense of poetry and above all else a passion for wonder."

Indeed, if the Scottish story-telling community had the gift of beatification it would probably have made Williamson its first saint. Such accolades are not inconsequential, for in the past 20 years the art of storytelling has acquired an important status in Scottish education.

Williamson was the seventh of 16 children born to travelling folk on the shores of Loch Fyne, possibly in the grace-and-favour woodsman's hut provided to his family by the Duke of Argyll. He was the genuine article, his family having been tinsmiths, horse traders and travellers for many generations and, aged 15, he continued in the family tradition by setting out to begin a traveller's life on the road.

He would announce with a grin and a shrug: "My grandfather pushed a barrow around Scotland. Some travellers like to stay in one area. He went from Inverness in the north to Dumfries in the south. Aye and further."

Williamson fished commercially, dug and cooked for navvies, slept in tents and howffs and in the open, and he sang. When he sang, folk stopped what they were doing and were drawn by his voice into a fantastical world of cold days and wild storms, of happy lovers and troubled souls.

It was while on his travels that Williamson began to collect stories, some of which he had first heard during the campfire gatherings of his childhood. He sought out tales from everyone he met, to the extent that by the end claimed to know more than 3000. Though he was probably guessing, his memory was truly remarkable.

He was at his best in a small group - the formal stage never suited him. Surrounded with folk he loved, Williamson would weave a spell, altering the performance according to interest and mood, constantly tasting the feedback gained from eyes and smiles.

By the middle of his life he was settling down, in Fife, with horse-trading as his main income earner.

He had married early, to distant cousin, Jeanie Townsley. Ten children followed but later he went on to meet a young American academic.

Dr Linda Williamson, as she became, was young, small and winsome, and when he asked what she could offer in exchange for his tales she responded with a good deal of her life, marrying him and bearing him two children.

The remainder of his days were extraordinary. He became an international celebrity in the storytelling world with Linda guiding and driving him in a remarkable career as an author, teacher, storyteller and (sometimes to his detriment) bon viveur. He travelled extensively to festivals all over the world, wrote songs, recorded, visited schools and was met with great affection wherever he went.