Songs of Allan Ramsay

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Bound up with an extra-illustrated copy of Ramsay's The Gentle Shepherd (Glasgow, 1788), etc. The manuscript, which has many alterations, contains the following, with the numbers as given:

  • (a) Air 11 Oer Bogey. Well I agree...;
  • (b) Song 12 Wat ye wha I met yestreen. But from Rusticity... ;
  • (c) Tunne 14 (from 12) Kirk wad let me be. Duty and part... ;
  • (d) 14 song Waes my heart. Speak on...;
  • (e) Song 15th Tweed Side. When hopes wer all sunk... ;
  • (f) Song 16 Bush aboon Traquair. At seting day... ;
  • (g) Air 8th Happy Clown. Hid from himself... ;
  • (h) 41 Air 9th Auld Lang Syne (heading only) ;
  • (i) 47 Air 10th Hap me with thy Peticoat. Wer I assurd you'll constant prove... .

Administrative / Biographical History

Allan Ramsay (1684-1758), was a Scottish poet and wigmaker. In his youth he was captivated by the folklore, poetry, and popular history of the Scotland. Following his mother's death, about January 1701 Ramsay went to be apprenticed to a wigmaker in Edinburgh, receiving back his indentures in either 1707 or 1709, after which he opened his own business. Inspired by William Hamilton's poem The Dying Words of Bonnie Heck (1706), Ramsay decided to write in the dialect of his own country. By 1711 Ramsay was writing in the Scottish vernacular, and his Elegy on Maggy Johnston dates from this time.

In 1712, Ramsay became one of the original members of the Easy Club, a quasi-Jacobite grouping typical of the convivial Scottish urban clubs of the eighteenth century which did so much to promote the Scottish Enlightenment. The club was soon Ramsay's literary patron, on 2 February 1715 appointing him its poet laureate. According to the custom of the club, he adopted a fictitious name; in his case Gavin Douglas.

Ramsay began working as a bookseller and issuing his own work, including Scots Songs (1718), in which some compositions are probably adaptations rather than original pieces, following a practice which became standard in the Scottish vernacular revival. Ramsay went on to publish a large number of works in the Scottish vernacular, including The Gentle Shepherd, first published in 1725. Although he wrote poetry, it was not for market; indeed, Ramsay stated that he would wish to destroy half his printed works, so that the other half would gain in value by their rarity. By the 1730s he was the favourite of many of the great Scottish families, and popular in London and Dublin. Deeply interested in the visual arts, the theatre, and Scotland's historic literature, he sought to preserve the country's status as a cultural centre. It was Ramsay who helped a distinctive Scottish literature to survive by yoking the Jacobitical discourse of heroic valour to the poetic productions of the Scottish past, and through identifying the folk vernacular with the idea of a national literature in the present.

Source: Murray G.H. Pittock, 'Ramsay, Allan (1684-1758)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press - http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/23072.

Conditions Governing Access

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Acquired by the John Rylands Library as part of Mrs Rylands's bequest.

Note

Description compiled by Henry Sullivan, project archivist, and Elizabeth Gow, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Allan Ramsay.