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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - August/September 2005
The Other 70%

By Judith

When looking up names of visitors to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Linville, NC this past weekend, I met a young man from the district of Ettrick which is in the borders near Moffat and Grey Mare’s Tail and Annandale, about as far from the Highlands as you can get in Scotland. The area is very rural and even today all main roads bypass it.  It is an agricultural area on the River Ettrick which is a tributary of the Tweed.  Though it is a small district it does have its own tartan.

The name this young visitor to my tent that he was associated with the Ettrick District was Hogg.  He had done a lot of research on the name itself, including learning much about The Ettrick Shepherd (my first indication that there was such a person).  The Ettrick Shepherd was the title given to James Hogg, who was born in Ettrick Hall in 1770 in the small parish of Ettrick.  James was born to a farmer and had no more than 6 months of formalized schooling, however he had a great desire to learn.  When he became the shepherd for William Laidlaw he was given full access to the house library.   He wrote several poems of his own and also collections of other contemporary poets, including Sir Walter Scott, whom James had met when he (Scott) was the sheriff of nearby Selkirk.  They were friends for much of their adult life and Scott also included some of James Hogg’s works in his own collections.   Apparently James was better known in his own time than Robert Burns, but today he is not well known at all.   One of his most popular works was “The Queen’s Wake” (with a wake being described as a poetry competition) which depicted the state of Scotland at the time of Queen Mary’s return to lead Scotland in 1561 through the eyes of several poets performing in a wake at Holyrood in Edinburgh.  One of the poets was fashioned after a peer of James with whom he apparently  had a rocky relationship, and the poetry pertaining to this person sounds much like a flyting (a contest where poets flung insults at each other with the use of poetry only).  Another favorite was “The Mountain Bard” which was a collection of several of his poems and songs and ballads of the area he lived in.  His mother was apparently his source for many of the old songs from the area.

James spent much time in Edinburgh but lived most of his life in the parish of Ettrick where he died in 1835.

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