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Kirkintilloch Town and Parish
William Freeland, Poet

Editor of the Glasgow Evening Times, and founder and president of the ‘Glasgow Ballad Club/ was born in the venerable town of Kirkintilloch, Dumbartonshire, in March, 1828. In far past years his forbears were landed proprietors in the district, but when the subject of our sketch first saw the light, like the MacGregors of the song, the family were landless and fallen from their high estate.

Young Freeland's early education under these circumstances was confined to the famous three R’s, but it is amazing what can be done with these by an ambitious, persevering, talented Scot. They are sufficient to open for him the golden gates of fame. Early in life he was apprenticed to the art of block cutting in a local calico print work. After the lapse of a few years he removed to Glasgow, where his insatiable thirst for knowledge and literary acquirements was in some measure satisfied. In that city he was employed by Messrs. Henry Monteith & Company, Bridgeton. He began early in manhood to contribute poetry to the newspapers, principally to the columns of the Glasgow Weekly Citizen} in which so many men of mark in the literary world essayed their first poetic flights. Mr. Freeland's trade of block-cutting showing symptoms of decay, he applied to Mr., now Dr. Hedder-wick, to whom he was known, for a post on the Citizen, and he was successful in securing the sub-editorship of that journal. From this period Mr. Freeland became a member of the great republic of letters. The influence of such a fine mind as that of Mr. James Hedderwick upon his sensitive, poetic, gifted sub., must have been of the most important nature, and eminently calculated to equip him thoroughly for the honourable and onerous position he now holds. At this period William Freeland and David Gray of ‘ Luggie9 fame, became unto each other sworn brothers, and the tender tie was only broken on the lamented death of the latter. Very beautiful were they in their lives and in their loves. In 1866 Mr. Freeland transferred his services to the Glasgow Herald\ and there, with the exception of a brief interval, he has remained. His newspaper leaders have a cultured poetic ring about them, and being further informed with sound judgment and common sense, they add much to the popularity of the Evening Times, over the columns of which he presides. In 1870 he published a three-volume novel, yclept ‘ Love and Treason/ founded on the Radical Rising of 1820, which was handsomely received. In 1882 there was published for him by Maclehose, Glasgow, a selection of his poems, which bears the title of ‘A Birth Song, and other Poems.’ These are most musical and diverse in ring, very high-toned, and tend to make those who peruse them better men and women. This volume has also been a success, and has added much to its author's popularity. William Freeland is one of out foremost living Scotch bards, and one of the most lovable of men. In addition to the above, he has written hundreds of poems, but those subjoined are from his published works:—


The last verse of this fine product of the poet’s fancy has been honoured with a place on the title-page of Princess Beatrice’s charming Birth-day Book, published in 1881:—

Up, mortal, and act, while the Angel of Light
Melts the shadows before and behind thee;
Shake off the soft dreams that encumber thy might,
And burst the fool’s fetters that bind thee:

Soars the sky-lark—soar thou; leaps the stream—do thou leap;
Learn from nature the splendour of action.
Plough, harrow, and sow, or thou never shalt reap;
Faithful deeds bring divine benefaction.

The red sun has rolled himself into the blue.
And lifted the mists from the mountain;
The young hares are feasting on nectar of dew,
The stag cools his lips in the fountain;

The blackbird is piping within the dim elm,
The river is sparkling and leaping;
The wild bee is fencing the sweets of his realm,
And the mighty limbed reapers are reaping.

To spring comes the budding; to summer the blush;
To autumn the happy fruition;
To winter repose, meditation and hush;
But to man every season’s condition:

He buds, blooms, and ripens, in action and rest,
As thinker, and actor, and sleeper;
Then withers, and wavers, chin drooping on breast,
And is reaped by the hand of a reaper.”


Since first I wandered hence, the grave
Has swallowed many a saintly face,
And many an honest fool and knave—
God take them all into his grace!
And where are they with whom I played—
Gay schoolmates of my early prime?
Not one now fills his native shade;
To mock the scattering hand of Time;
They voyage wide with restless feet,
Through polar cold and tropic heat.

Ah, comrades ! were you here awhile,
Where Kelvin rolls his tremulous flood,
Anew both heaven and earth would smile,
And love's old vintage warm our blood:

Again our laughter and our glee
Would shake the drowsy echoes up;
Our joy would spite cold Destiny,
And spill the poison from his cup:
But far by other vales and streams
Ye seek fulfilment of your dreams.
And where is he, dear son of song,
Who walked beside me, bright as morn,
Burning to cope with that high throng
Of men, the first and mightiest born?

I heard him sing; I saw him shine,
The moon of love, the sun of truth;
He thrilled me with his tender line,
The beauty of his mortal youth :
God loved him most—the sweet lamb-souled—
And took him to his starry fold.
One joy the less, one grief the more,
Are mine, since Life's pale shadow, Death,
Met him on fame’s illusive shore,
Wailing to heaven a passionate breath—

“Oh! to be known among my kind!”
That wish was like bewildering fire;
It blurred the beauty of his mind,
And clouded each divine desire,
Said Death— “So be it; yet thou must die
To gain thine immortality
A sudden and a fearful phrase,
With double scope, and doubly true;
For in his soul was nothing base—
So God made Paradise his due.

And now that he is known in heaven,
His name is dearly loved on earth—
A may-white bloom untimely riven
In the green valley of his birth :
The earnest songs he warbled then
Still sing within the hearts of men.
He sleeps between his native streams,
In that “Auld Aisle" that fronts the south,
Where he was lapped in living dreams;
Where low he lies with songless mouth,

The Luggie flows by Oxgang woods,
The Boihlin burn by Woodilee,
In whose enchanting solitudes
He woo’d his darling Poesy,
Who, sorrowing, sits by Bothlin burn,
Or broods beside her hero’s urn.

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