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The Scottish Nation

REID, WILLIAM, poet and song-writer, was born at Glasgow, 10th April, 1764. He was the son of Robert Reid, baker in that city, and Christian Wood, daughter of a farmer at Gartmore, Perthshire. He received a good education, and was first employed in the type-foundry of Mr. Andrew Wilson. He afterwards served an apprenticeship with Messrs, Dunlop and Wilson, booksellers in Glasgow. In 1790 he commenced business as a bookseller in partnership with Mr. James Brash, (born 1st January 1758, died 9th October 1835), and for a period of twenty[seven years they carried on a successful business, under the firm, well known in their day, of Brash and Reid. Between the years 1795 and 1798, they issued, in penny numbers, a small publication under the title of ‘Poetry, Original and Selected,’ which extended to four volumes. In this publication several pieces of Mr. Reid were inserted. Most of his compositions were of an ephemeral kind, and no separate collection of them was ever printed. His partner, Mr. Brash, also contributed two or three original pieces to its pages. Mr. Reid died at Glasgow, 29th November 1831.

From an obituary notice which appeared in the Glasgow papers, soon after his death, the following is extracted: “In early and mature life Mr. Reid was remarkable both for vivacity, and no mean share of that peculiar talent which, in Scotland, the genius of Burns and its splendid and dazzling course seemed to call forth in the minds of many of his admiring countrymen. He not only shared in the general enthusiasm the appearance of that day-star of national poetry elicited, but participated in his friendship, and received excitement from his converse. In Scottish song, and in pieces of characteristic humour, Mr. Reid, in several instances, approved himself not unworthy of either such intimacy or inspiration. These are chiefly preserved in a collection, entitled, ‘Poetry, Original and Selected,’ which appeared under the tasteful auspices of himself and partner. It is now scarce, but highly valued. Even, however, when it shall have altogether ceased to be known but to collectors, many of the simple and beautiful lines of Mr. Reid’s earlier compositions, and racy, quaint, and original thoughts and expressions of his riper years, will cling to the general memory. Perhaps, of these, the humorous will be the longest lived.”

In Stonehouse’s edition of Johnson’s Musical Museum (6 vols, 8vo, Edinburgh, 1839) are some additional stanzas, by Mr. Reid, of ‘My ain kind Deary, O,’ grounded on the old verses of ‘The Lea-rig;’ and of ‘Cauld Kail in Aberdeen,’ in continuation. He also wrote some additional stanzas to ‘John Anderson my Jo,’ and the fine songs of ‘Fair modest Flower,’ ‘Kate o’ Gowrie,’ ‘Upon the Banks of flowing Clyde,’ and a portion of ‘Of a’ the Airts the wind can blaw.’ In the edition of Burns’ Poems published by Fullarton & Col, and edited by the Ettrick Shepherd and Motherwell the poet, the latter has inserted (vol. v. p. 282) a ‘Monody on the Death of Robert Burns,’ by Mr. Reid, of whom it is stated, in a note, that he “was a most enthusiastic admirer of burns, possessed a rich fund of native humour, and was the author of several poems in our vernacular dialect that merit preservation.”

Mr. Reid married Elizabeth, daughter of James Henderson, linen printer, Newhall, who, with two sons and five daughters, survived him.

REID, SIR WILLIAM, K.C.B., a distinguished public officer, eldest son of the Rev. James Reid, minister of Kinglassie, Fifeshire, was born there in 1791. He was educated at Musselburgh, and was afterwards sent to Woolwich Royal military academy, to be trained for the corps of Royal Engineers. He obtained his first commission 10th February, 1809, and was engaged during the last four years of the war in the Peninsula, under the duke of Wellington. He was at the three sieges of Badajoz, where he was wounded, the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo, where he was again wounded, the siege of the Forts and the battle of Salamanca, the sieges of Burgos and San Sebastian, at the latter of which he was a third time wounded, and at the battles of Vittoria, Nivelle, Nive, and Toulouse. At the peace he served on the coasts of America under General Lambert, until the termination of the war there, and rejoined the British army in Belgium in 1815. The following year he served in the expedition under Lord Exmouth, against Algiers. For some years he was adjutant of the corps of sappers.

In 1838, being then lieutenant-colonel, he was appointed to the governorship of the Bermudas, where he introduced many important and beneficial improvements. On his arrival there he found agriculture far behind; corn and hay were imported. There was little fruit. Bitter citron-trees grew everywhere, and in sight of the government-house was a wide swamp. Colonel Reid immediately set about amending all this. He grafted a sweet orange on a bitter citron-tree in front of the government-house. It bore good fruit, and in due time all the bitter trees were grafted. He drained the swamp, imported ploughs, had ploughing taught, gave prizes for the best productions, and, in 1846, held a grand agricultural fete in a fine dry meadow-field – the old swamp. It was emphatically said of him, that “he gave new spirit to the people, showed them how to work out their own prosperity, changed the face of the island, took great interest in popular education; and won the title of ‘the Good Governor,’ by which he became affectionately remembered in Bermuda.” His government of Bermuda was the subject of an article, entitled ‘A Model Governor,’ in Dickens’ ‘Household Words.’

In 1846, Colonel Reid was appointed governor of the Windward West India Islands, where, also, by his firm and conciliatory conduct, he gained the confidence and good will of the entire population. In 1848, he returned to England, and in the following year was appointed commanding engineer at Woolwich, and directed the engineer officers and sappers and miners at the great Exhibition at London in 1851. On the resignation of Mr. Robert Stephenson, Colonel Reid was requested by the Royal Commissioners to become, in his room, chairman of the executive committee, and the success of the Exhibition, in its early stages particularly, and above all, in its punctual opening, at the appointed time, was, in a great degree, owing to his tranquil energy and determination. He declined all remuneration for his services, and in September of that year he received the unsolicited appointment of governor of Malta. On that occasion he was created a knight commander of the Bath. On 30th May 1856, he became major-general. In 1857 he returned to England.

His name will be enduringly known for his valuable labours in aiding the investigation of the law of storms, by a careful analysis of the various hurricanes of the Atlantic and Indian oceans. When employed as major of engineers in Barbadoes, restoring the buildings ruined in the hurricane of 1831, he was led to inquire into the history of former storms; but the West Indian records contained little beyond d4tails of losses in lives and property, and furnished no data whereby the true character or the actual courses of these storms might be investigated. In the ‘American Journal of Science,’ a paper by Mr. Redfield had appeared, on the ‘Gales and Hurricanes of the North Atlantic,’ a copy of which came under the notice of colonel Reid. Impressed with the importance of the subject, he became satisfied of the rotative character and determinate progress of these storms as maintained by Mr. Redfield, and having been able to devote more attention to these inquiries, he published, in 1838, his first paper ‘On Hurricanes,’ in the second volume of ‘Professional Papers of the Royal Engineers.’ His valuable work, entitled ‘An Attempt to Develop the Law of Storms by means of Facts arranged according to Place and Time,’ appeared the same year, and three large editions of it rapidly issued from the press. A more extensive work, entitled ‘The Progress of the Development of the Law of Storms and of the variable Winds, with the practical Application of the subject to Navigation,’ was published in 1849. The work is not merely a theoretical investigation, but of eminently practical value to all who have to navigate in the seas both of the East and West Indies. The mid of Sir William Reid was one that could not be idle, or fail to be impressed with any phenomena either of the natural or moral world with which he was brought into contact. He possessed the placid and calm temper of a true philosopher, combined with a rare talent for conducting business. He died in London, in the end of October, 1858. He had married a daughter of Mr. Bolland of Clapham, and left five daughters.

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