Papers of Alexander Anderson (1845-1909)

Scope and Content

The papers in the collection consist of: 15 letters to David Macrae and 3 poems The lost Eden found again, She has left the home of her own dear youth, and Sonnet, 1873-1875; letters to John Wilson, 1901-1905 including holograph manuscript of Cuddle doon; photograph; signed quotation from Heine, 1900; and, other correspondence, 1908, as well as letters 1892 and 1905 at E92.55 and E92.106.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Scottish poet, Alexander Anderson, was born in Kirkconnel, a village by the River Nith, in Dumfriesshire, on 30 April 1845. He was educated at Crocketford, Kirkcudbrightshire, to where the family had moved when he was aged three. Later on, when he was sixteen, the family moved back to Kirkconnel. Anderson first started his working life at a quarry, then he became a surfaceman, or navvy, on the Glasgow and South-Western Railway. During the sixteen years he worked as a surfacemen he read and studied and taught himself French language and grammar, acquired a knowledge of German, Italian and Spanish, and wrote poetry. On his first appearance in print - in The People's Friend a Thomson title, in Dundee - he became recognised as a local poet. By the early-1880s, Anderson was in Edinburgh. He was Secretary to the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution, 1883-1886, and he was also Assistant Librarian at Edinburgh University, 1880-1883, and 1886-1905. His publications include A song of labour and other poems (1873), The two angels and other poems (1875), Songs of the rail (1878), and Ballads and sonnets (1899). Also, while still a surfaceman, he translated several of the poems of Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) from German. Anderson travelled widely in Scotland and many of his poems reflect this, with titles such as A Nithsdale idyll and The hills and burns at hame. Many of his Scottish poems were about child life, Cuddle doon, The bogie man, and The sand man. Alexander Anderson died on 11 July 1909. His Later poems were published in 1912 after his death.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Letters to John Wilson purchased Glasgow, 20 April 1983, Accession No. E83.26. and E83.27.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Cuthbertson, David. The life-history of Alexander Anderson ("Surfaceman"). Edinburgh: Privately printed by J. and J. Gray, 1929. (2) Who was who. A companion to Who's who ... 1897-1916. A. and C. Black: London, 1920.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various references to Anderson related material (check the Indexes for more details): letters to Alexander Anderson, and mention in correspondence, 1880-1929. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: correspondence and literary MSS, for the location of these papers see Location register of 20th century English literary MSS 1988; letters and poems, Edinburgh Central Library, Ref. NRA(S)0870 NRA 17573 Edinburgh Pub L; letters to Samuel Brown, 1883-96, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Ref. MS 1890; letters (21) to Thomas Fraser, 1889-97, Hornel Library, see Location register of 20th century English literary MSS 1988.