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Timeline of Scottish History

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Allan Ramsay

  • Name  : Ramsay
  • Born  : 1684
  • Died  : 1758
  • Category  : Poets
  • Finest Moment : 'The Gentle Shepherd' 1725

A native of Leadhills in Lanarkshire, Ramsay move to Edinburgh in 1700 as an apprentice wigmaker. Gradually realising that his interests lay more in what was to be made under a wig than over a skull, he started out as a bookseller. One of his bookshops in the Luckenbooths, in the High Street, became, in 1725, probably the first circulating library in Britain.

Ramsay published his first quarto collected version of verses in1721. Here he was at his best as a master of vernacular satiric humour. Perhaps one of his enduring attributes is that he preserved and passed on earlier Scottish poetry. One of these was The Ever Green, an anthology of Middle Scots verse. Another publication, in five volumes, was the Tea-Table Miscellany (1724-37), which included compositions of his own, as well as many traditional songs and ballads of Scotland.

His best known work is a pastoral comedy, The Gentle Shepherd (1725). This was known and admired by Boswell and Burns amongst others, and was even rewritten as a ballad opera. He opened theatre, subsequently closed by the Edinburgh magistrates.

Although retiring about 1740, he continued to make input to the literary world of Scotland. Living a life of relative ease, he was obviously a man who had it all worked out. One of his sons, Allan, went on to become one of Britain's best portrait painters.

The following four lines are from one of Ramsay Senior's poems, My Peggy is a Young Thing.

'My Peggy smiles sae kindly, Whene'er I whisper love, That I look down on a' the town, That I look down upon a crown.'

(He built a house on the Castle Hill.)

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