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Significant Scots
Alexander MacLagan


ALEXANDER MACLAGAN (1811-1879)
POET OF PERTH
Alexander Maclagan

Alexander Maclagan, the writer of many well-known Scottish lyrics, including "Hurrah for the Thistle", "A Cronie O' Mine", “Tibby and the Laird", "My Auld Granny's Leather Pouch", etc., was born at Bridgend, Perth, on the 3rd of April, 1811.

When five years old he was taken to Edinburgh by his father, and during the remainder of his life his headquarters continued in the capital. Mr. Maclagan was early apprenticed to a trade, and when he first became known as a writer of songs was a journeyman plumber.

In 1829, while yet an apprentice, he became a contributor to the Edinburgh Literary Journal, then under the editorship of Mr. Henry Glassford Bell. As a contributor to that publication, he was introduced to Professor Wilson, William Motherwell, and the Ettrick Shepherd, who severally commended his verses.

In 1844 Maclagan published a collected edition of his poems, which attracted the favourable notice of Lord Jeffrey, who invited the poet to his residence, and in many ways proved his benefactor. The last letter his Lordship wrote was one addressed to Maclagan, dated 4th January, 1850, and bore kindly reference to a new volume entitled "Sketches from Nature and other Poems," which he was about to publish. Soon after Lord Jeffrey's death Maclagan found a new patron and friend in Lord Cockburn, who procured him a junior clerkship in the office of the Inland Revenue, Edinburgh.

In 1851 he was entertained by a number of his admirers at a public dinner in the hall attached to Burns' cottage, and then a similar compliment was extended to him in his native town. His third publication ---"Ragged and Industrial School Rhymes" appeared in 1854. Two years later he had conferred on him a civil list pension of 30 per annum. His last publication was a handsome quarto volume, richly illustrated, entitled "Balmoral: Songs of the Highlands, and other Poems," which was dedicated by permission to Her Majesty the Queen.

Alexander Maclagan possessed a genuine lyrical faculty, and few bards of his day have a fairer chance of obtaining a permanent place in the minstrelsie of his native land.

He died in Edinburgh in 1879.


Alexander MacLagan writes in 1851 ...

"I, the author of the work, "Sketches From Nature And Other Poems", have candidly to confess, that the introduction of my humble efforts to public notice has been to me a matter of considerable anxiety.

Prefaces to volumes of verse are generally considered and estimated as the preliminary apology of the lady or gentleman who may be about to favour the friendly circle with imitations of the nightingale. But, alas! how do the public sympathise with the apologist ?

Most of the pieces in the volume have appeared from time to time in many of the leading periodicals and newspapers of the day. A few were published in a collected form in 1841, which met with a very flattering reception: and I take this opportunity of returning my thanks to the Gentlemen of the Press for their kindness on that occasion.

The Rev. George Gilfillan, author of "Literary Portraits," &c., in a notice of my "rhyming ware," has said that mine "has been the pursuit of knowledge under difficulties." A word on this point may not be out of place here.

That a working man should write and publish a volume of verse, is no phenomenon; many of the brightest lights of literature in all countries, more especially in the "land of the mountain and the flood," have toiled for years at the press, the plough, the loom, and the hammer. That wealth and education, in themselves, have never made a true minstrel, is proverbial, nevertheless they are powerful allies in his favour.

Take, for instance, a youth from school, ten years of age, and bind him at thirteen or fourteen to a laborious trade. See him working ten hours a-day for years, without intermission—struggling to unravel, meanwhile, the mysteries of literature, science, and art, without assistance or encouragement—and you will find that he has many hard battles to fight before he can hope to attain even standing-room in the literary arena.

Such has been my literal position in this present volume. But disliking a grumbler in any shape, more particularly in a book, I have felt, and still feel, poetry to be a great and a true enjoyment—a grand art, and a glorious accomplishment. I have loved it for its own sake. It has sweetened many an hour of his existence; it has procured me the friendship of many of the best and most talented of my countrymen, which, to me, is above all price.

"Nature's charms—the hills, the woods,
The fields, the flowers, the foaming floods—
Are free alike to all ;"

and if, whilst breathing the air of my native land, wandering by her singing rills or roaring torrents, threading her tangled woods and flowery vales, or near the eagle's home on the mountain's hoary head, I am so fortunate as to pluck a few wildflowers of song, the presentation of them, "in their season," to the lovers of the lyre, will ever be to me a sincere pleasure."

HURRAH FOR THE THISTLE
by Alexander Maclagan

Hurrah for the thistle ! the brave Scottish thistle,
The evergreen thistle of Scotland for me !
A fig for the flowers in your lady-built bowers
The strong-bearded, weel-guarded thistle for me !

'Tis the flower the proud eagle greets in his flight,
When he shadows the stars with the wings of his might;
'Tis the flower that laughs at the storm as it blows,
For the stronger the tempest the greener it grows !

Round the love-lighted names o' our ain native land
On the bonnetted brow, on the hilt of the brand
On the face o' the shield, 'mid the shouts of the free,
May the thistle be seen where the thistle should be !

Hale hearts we ha'e yet to bleed in its cause ;
Bold harps we ha'e yet to sound its applause ;
How then can it fade, when sic chiels an' sic cheer,
And sae mony braw sprouts o' the thistle are there ?

Then hurrah for the thistle, the brave Scottish thistle,
The evergreen thistle of Scotland for me !
A fig for the flowers in your lady-built bowers
The strong-bearded, weel-guarded thistle for me !


A CRONIE O' MINE.
by Alexander Maclagan

Ye'll mount your bit naggie, an' ride your wa's doun,
'Bout a mile an' a half frae the neist borough toun,
There wons an auld blacksmith, wi' Janet his wife
An' a queerer auld cock ye ne'er met i' your life
As this cronie o mine, this cronie o' mine ;
O! be sure that ya ca' on this cronie o' mine.

Ye'll find him, as I do, a trustworthy chiel',
Weel tempered wi' wit frae his head to his heel,
Wi' a saul in his body Auld Nick ne'er could clout,
An' a spark in his throat, richt ill to droon out
This cronie o' mine, this cronie o' mine,
For a deil o' a drouth has this cronie o' mine.

His smiddie ye'll ken by the twa trough stanes
At the auld door-cheeks, an' the black battered panes
By the three aim cleeks that he drave in the wa',
To tie up wild yad's when high customers ca' ;
O! this cronie o' mine, this cronie o' mine !
Sure the hail country kens him, this cronie o' mine.

Up agen the auld gable 'tis like you may view
A tramless cart, or a couterless plough,
An auld teethless harrow, a brechem ring rent,
Wi' mae broken gear, that are meant to be men't
By this cronie o' mine, this cronie o' mine ;
He's a richt handy craftsman, this cronie o' mine.

There's an auld broken sign-board looks to the hie road,
Whilk tells ilka rider where his naig may be shod ;
There's twa or three wordies that ye'll hae to spell,
But ye needna find fault, for he wrote it himsel' ;
This cronie o' mine, this cronie o' mine,
He's an aul'-farrant carle this cronie o' mine.

When ye find this auld smiddie, ye'll like, there's nae doot,
To see the inside o't as weel as the oot ;
Then stap ye in bauldly, altho' he be thrang,
Gif the pint-stonp but clatter, ye'll ken him ere lang,
This cronie o' mine, this cronie o' mine,
Baith wit, fun, and fire has this cronie o' mine.

Twa or three chiel's frae the toon-en' are sure to be there
There's the bauld-headed butcher, wha tak's aye the chair,
'Mang the queerest auld fallows, ae way an' anither,
That ere in this warld were clubbit thegither ;
A' cronies o' mine, a' cronies o' mine,
They'll a' mak' ye welcome, thae cronies o' mine.

There's Dominie Davie, sae glib i' the mou',
But it's like ye will fin' the auld carle blin' fou' ;
Wi' the wee barber bodie, an' his wig fu' o' news,
Wha wad shave ony chap a' the week for a booze ;
A' cronies o' mine, a' cronies o' mine,
They'll a' mak' ye welcome, thae cronies o' mine.

There's our auld Town Clerk, wha has ta'en to the pack,
That is naething in bulk to the humph on his back ;
His knees are sae bow'd, his splay feet sae thrawn,
Troth it's no easy tellin' the road whilk they're gaun,
Tho' a cronie o' mine, a bauld cronie o' mine,
They'll a' mak' ye welcome, thae cronies o' mine.

There's Robin the ploughman, wha's cram'd fu' o' fun ;
Wee gamekeeper Davie, wi' bag, dog, an' gun ;
An' the miller, wha blythely the pipes can play on,
So you're sure to fa' in wi' the " Miller o' Drone "
A' cronies o' mine, a' cronies o' mine,
They'll a' mak' ye welcome, thae cronies o' mine.

Then wi' thumpin' o' hammers, an' tinklin' o' tangs,
Wi' auld-fashioned stories wrought into queer sangs,
Wi' this soun' and that, ye'll aiblins be deaved
An' tak' care o' your breeks that they dinna get sieved
Wi' this cronie o' mine, this cronie o' mine,
For an arm o' might has this cronie o' mine.

Then the Vulcan his greybeard is aye sure to draw
Frae a black sooty hole whilk ye'll see i' the wa',
An' lang ere its empty, frien', I meikle doubt,
Gif the tae chap kens weel what the tither's about.
Wi' this cronie o' mine, this cronie o' mine,
O ! be sure that ye ca' on this cronie o' mine.

Come now, my gude frien', gie's a shak' o' yer haun',
The nicht's wearin' thro', an' ye maun be gaun ;
The callan' will bring down your naig in a blink,
But before that ye mount, again let us drink
To this cronie o' mine, this cronie o' mine,
Here's lang life an' pith to this cronie o' mine.


MY AULD GRANNIE'S LEATHER POUCH
by Alexander Maclagan

Dear frien's, ye'll think me daft, nae doubt,
My wee bit blink o' wit blawn out,
To deave your learned lugs about
My auld grannie's leather pouch !

I mind in life's sweet sunny springs.
When we were laughin', toddlin' things,
How blythe we were to loose the strings
O' auld grannie's leather pouch !

Sae queer it's look sae strange the shape,
Sae strongly bound wi' red silk tape,
Sae awfu' wide the mou' did gape,
O' auld grannie's leather pouch !

There's preens, an' sweeties, raisins, rock,
There's A B abs, for Will and Jock,
There's ribbons for a braw wee frock,
In auld grannie's leather pouch !

A pair o' specks, a pair o' shears,
A preen-cod, aged fifty years,
Aye danglin' at the side appears
O' auld grannie's leather pouch !

There's bodkins, thummels, hanks o' thread,
There's awfu' whangs o' cheese an' bread,
The beggars' bairns an' hens to feed,
In auld grannie's leather pouch !

There's sangs that sing o' Scotland's richt,
O' Wallace, wi' his arm o' micht,
O' Bruce's battle-axe sae bricht,
In auld grannie's leather pouch !

Some ditties hae a favoured place,
Sir James the Rose, an' Chevy Chase,
An' some about the Stuart race,
In auld grannie's leather pouch !

We kent to time her kind, kind look,
When she took up the Holy Book,
We kent the time when we micht pook
At auld grannie's leather pouch !

But gif we broke decorum's laws,
We had to flee like frichtit craws,
A' tremblin', for the lang-taed tawse
In auld grannie's leather pouch !

An' if we went to open strife,
When taunts an' blows were rather rife,
We fled before the "Butcher's knife,"
In auld grannie's leather pouch !

We kent richt weel to wale ilk word,
We kent there was a "little bird,"
Whilk blabbit ilka thing it heard,
In auld grannie's leather pouch !

E'en pussie durstna mak' a din,
When she sat doun to read or spin,
For fear it wad be stappit in
To auld grannie's leather pouch !

Gif kames or buckles went astray,
When lads and lasses made the hay,
'Twas queer that a'thing faund its way
To auld grannie's leather pouch !

I've kent o' pouches rather queer,
Some fou' o' wun', some fou' o' gear,
But never ane that e'er cam' near
My auld grannie's leather pouch !

When ye want sermons, salves, or saws,
For mendin' heads, or hearts, or laws,
Mak' up your minds, an' gang your wa's
To auld grannie's leather pouch !



TIBBY AND THE LAIRD
by Alexander MacLagan

Auld Robin, our laird, thoeht o' changin' his life,
But he didna weel ken whaur to wale a gude wife.
A plump quean had he, wha had served him for years ;
"Ho, Tibby ! '' he cried. Lo ! douce Tibby appears.
"Sit doun," said the laird ; "ye are wanted awee,"
"Very weel, sir," quo' Tibby, "sae let it be."

"Noo, Tibby," quo' he, "there's a queer rumour rins,
Through the hale country-side, that there's naebody spins,
Bakes, washes, or brews, wi' sic talents as you ;
An' what a' body says, ye ken, maun be true,
Sae ye ought to be gratefu' for their courtesie ;"
"Very weel, sir," quo' Tibby, "sae let it be."

"Noo, it seemeth but just, an' richt proper to me,
That ye milk your ain cow 'neath your ain fig-tree ;
That a servant sae thrifty a gude wife will mak',
Is as clear as daylicht, sae a man ye maun tak',
Wha will baud ye as dear as the licht o' his e'e,"
"Very weel, sir," quo' Tibby, "sae let it be."

"The pearl may be pure, Tib, though rough be the shell
Sae I'm determined to wed ye mysel
An' a' that a lovin' an' leal heart can grant
O' this warld's wealth, lass, troth, ye shall nae want ;
Sae a kiss to the bargain ye maun gie to me,"
"Very weel, sir," quo' Tibby, "sae let it be."

The weddin'-day came, wi' bride-cake an' ban's,
Fund Tib i' the kitchen, 'mang tubs, pats, an' pans ;
"Bless me," quo' the laird, "what on earth hauds you here ?
Our frien's a' are met, in their braw bridal gear ;
Ye maun busk in your best, lass, an' that speedilie,"
"Very weel, sir," quo' Tibby, "sae let it be."

When the blessin' was said, an' the feastin' was dune,
Tib crap to her bed i' the garret abune ;
When she heard the laird's fit, an' his tap at her door,
She wonder'd he ne'er took sic freedoms before.
"Come, Tibby, my lass, ye maun listen to me,"
"Very weel, sir," quo' Tibby, "sae let it be."

"Noo Tibby, ye ken, we were wedded this nicht,
An' that ye should be here, haith, I think is no richt.
It canna be richt ; for, when women an' men
Are wedded, they ought to be bedded, ye ken ;
Sae come doon the stair, Tib, an' e'en sleep wi' me,"
"Very weel, sir," quo' Tibby, "sae let it be !"


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