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Significant Scots
Sir William Mure


MURE, (SIR) WILLIAM, of Rowallan, a poet, was born about the year 1594. He was the eldest son of Sir William Mure of Rowallan, by a sister of Montgomery, the author of the "The Cherry and the Slae." The family was one of the most ancient of the order of gentry in that part of the country, and through Elizabeth Mure, the first wife of Robert II., had mingled its blood with the royal line: it recently terminated in the mother of the late countess of Loudoun and marchioness of Hastings. Of the poet’s education no memorial has been preserved, but it was undoubtedly the best that his country could afford in that age, as, with a scholar-like enthusiasm, he had attempted a version of the story of Dido and AEneas before his twentieth year. There is also a specimen of Sir William’s verses in pure English, dated so early as 1611, when he could not be more than seventeen. In 1615, while still under age, and before he had succeeded to his paternal estate, he married Anna, daughter of Dundas of Newliston, by whom he had five sons and six daughters. The eldest son William, succeeded his father; Alexander was killed in the Irish Rebellion, 1641; Robert, a major in the army, married the lady Newhall in Fife; John was designed of Fenwickhill; and Patrick, probably the youngest, was created a baronet of Nova Scotia in 1662. One of the daughters, Elizabeth, was married to Uchter Knox of Ranfurly. Sir William Mure married, secondly, dame Jane Hamilton, lady Duntreath; and of this marriage there were two sons and two daughters; James, Hugh, Jane, And Marion.

The earliest of Sir William’s compositions to be found in print is an address to the king at Hamilton, on his progress through the country in 1617, which is embodied in the collection entitled, "The Muse’s Welcome." Such productions of his earlier years as have been preserved are chiefly amatory poems in English, very much in the manner of the contemporary poets of the neighbouring kingdom, and rivalling them in force and delicacy of sentiment. Sir William seems to have afterwards addicted himself to serious poetry. In 1628, he published a translation, in English Sapphics, of Boyd of Trochrig’s beautiful Latin poem, "Hecatombe Christiana;" and in the succeeding year produced his "Trve Crucifixe for Trve Catholickes," Edinburgh, 12mo.; intended as an exposure of the prime object of Romish idolatry. By far the larger portion of his writings remain in manuscript.

Like his contemporary, Drummond of Hawthornden, Mure seems to have delighted in a quiet country life. A taste for building and rural embellishment is discoverable in the family of Rowallan at a period when decorations of this nature were but little regarded in Scotland: and in these refinements Sir William fell nothing behind, if he did not greatly surpass the slowly advancing spirit of his time; besides planting and other ameliorations, he made various additions to the family mansion, and "reformed the whole house exceedingly."

At the commencement of the religious troubles, Sir William Mure, though in several of his poems he appears as paying his court to royalty, took an interest in the popular cause; and, in the first army raised against the king, commanded a company in the Ayrshire regiment. He was a member of the parliament, or rather convention of 1643, by which the Solemn League and Covenant was ratified with England; and, in the beginning of the ensuing year, accompanied the troops which, in terms of that famous treaty, were despatched to the aid of the parliamentary cause. After a variety of services during the spring of 1644, he was present, and wounded, in the decisive battle of Long Marstonmoor, July 2nd. In the succeeding month, he was engaged at the storming of Newcastle, where, for some time, in consequence of the superior officer’s being disabled, he had the command of the regiment. Whether this was the last campaign of the poet, or whether he remained with the army till its return, after the rendition of the king, in 1647, is not known. No farther material notice of him occurs, except that, on the revision of Roos’s Psalms by the General Assembly in 1650, a version by Mure of Rowallan is spoken of as employed by the committee for the improvement of the other. Sir William died in 1657. Various specimens of his compositions may be found in a small volume entitled, "Ancient Ballads and Songs, chiefly from tradition, manuscripts, and scarce works, with biographical and illustrative notices, including original poetry, by Thomas Lyle: London," 1827; to which we have been indebted for the materials of this article.


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