John Milne, son of William Milne, sailor, and his wife, Catherine Campbell, was born in Dunnottar, Kincardineshire in 1792. Both parents died young and John and his 4 brothers were brought up by their grandfather, Joseph Milne, a blacksmith in Netherley, Fetteresso. He was apprenticed as a shoemaker in Aswanley, Fetteresso, and afterwards set up in business at Bogenwreth, Durris and later Demick, in Glenlivet, Banffshire, where he supplemented his income through smuggling in the illicit whisky trade.
He began composing poetry at the age of 18, and had his first work, Johnny Cope, printed as an 8 sheet piece, in 1826. Recurrent ill health, combined with the growing popularity of his works (Noughty Glens (1826) earned him the title of The Poet of Glenlivat (sic), or The Poet of Livat's Glen) led him to abandon his trade in favour of his poetry. For the following 30 years he travelled extensively throughout the eastern counties of Scotland, visiting local fairs and markets, where he recited and sold his poetry to an audience composed principally - though not exclusively - of farm servants and labourers. The subjects covered in his works were wide ranging in nature, including religious, political and social issues (e.g. On the Repeal of the Corn Laws, A Song on the Corn Bill, A New Song for the Free Church, Lecture to Chartists). A selection, with short biographical sketch, is published in Selections from the Songs and Poems of John Milne of Glenlivat (Aberdeen: Free Press Office, 1871).
He married a native of Glenlivet and had 10 children, outliving all but 4 of them. In his later years his hands were crippled by erysipelas. He died on the 21 Jan 1871.