James Hogg - The Ettrick Shepherd

A man of humble origins, James Hogg, became one of south west Scotland's greatest poets, songwriters and authors. Born in 1770 at Ettrick Hall in the Scottish Borders to a poor farming family, Hogg had no formal education and set about educating himself finding out along the way that he had quite a gift with language and prose and soon found himself in print. Although success followed he remained more at home amongst his own family and friends in Dumfriesshire and the Borders than amongst the great and the good in Edinburgh earning him his nickname "The Ettrick Shepherd.

Hogg wrote enthusiastically, collecting and retelling old legends and fables from his local area. Among his most famous poems are 'Kilmeny', 'The Ballad of Mess John' and 'Donald M'Donald' and his most famous book 'The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)'. A talented fiddle player, Hogg also wrote songs. Hogg became respected as a poet and writer throughout Scotland and beyond, Charles Duke of Buccleuch even gave him free tenancy in 1815 of a seventy acre farm where he lived with his wife Margaret Phillips (m.1820). Well known for his hospitality he was visited by many admirer's of his work from far afield including Sir Walter Scott (of whom he became a close and treasured friend), and  William Wordsworth, who even immortalised Hogg in rhyme: 

"When first descending from the moorlands 
I saw the stream of Yarrow glide, 
Along a bare and open valley, 
The Ettrick Shepherd was my guide." 

True to his humble roots, Hogg refused a knighthood offered by the King, George IV, in 1832. He died a few years later in 1835 and is buried in the Kirkyard at Ettrick. 

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