William Nicholson

William Nicholson, the 'Bard of Galloway', was born near Borgue, Kirkcudbrightshire in 1783. Through his mother he developed a fascination with local songs and stories and he began composing his own songs at an early age. Short-sightedness made him unfit for farm work so he became a packman, travelling throughout Ayrshire and Galloway with a stock of combs, thimbles and fabrics. He played dances and songs on a pair of pipes to attract and entertain his audiences.

In 1813, after a series of personal and financial calamities, he decided to try his hand at writing. His first collection of verse, Tales in Verse and Miscellaneous Poems: Descriptive of Rural Life and Manners, was published in 1814 and was well received. Its success brought him to the attention of established literary figures such as James Hogg and he spent time in Edinburgh selling and promoting his work. But this initial success led him to drink and the rest of his life wasmarked by periods of alcoholism, religious fervour and occasional bouts of poetic genius. He died a gabberlunzie or beggar in 1849and was buried at Kirkandrews near Borgue. 

His most famous poem is the Brownie of Blednoch which appeared in the Dumfries Monthly Magazine in 1825. Written in Galloway dialect, the poem tells the story of Aitken Drum the brownie or household sprite: 

There cam a strange wight to oor town-en 
And feint of a body did him ken; 
He tirled na land, but he glided ben, 
Wi a dreary, dreary hum. 
His face did glare like the glow o' the west 
When the drumlie clud has it o'ercast 
Or the struggling moon when she's sair distrest. 
O Sirs! Twas Aitken Drum. 

His complete poems, The Poetical Works of William Nicholson, were published by Malcolm McL Harper in 1878. 

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