1859 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Ross

William Anderson, in Scottish Nation (1859-66) 8:370-71.



ALEXANDER ROSS, an eminent poet, the son of a farmer in the parish of Kincardine-O'Neil, Aberdeenshire, was born there, April 13, 1699. He studied at Marischal College, Aberdeen, where he obtained a bursary, and took the degree of M.A. in 1718. Soon after he was engaged as tutor in the family of Sir William Forbes of Craigievar, baronet, and, on quitting this situation, he became for some time teacher first at the parish school of Aboyne, and subsequently at that of Laurencekirk. In 1726 he married Jane Cattanach, the daughter of a farmer in Aberdeenshire, by whom he had a numerous family. In 1732, through the interest of Mr. Garden of Troup, he was appointed schoolmaster of Lochlee, in Forfarshire, where he spent the remainder of his life in the discharge of the duties of his humble office. His beautiful pastoral poem, entitled Helenore, or the Fortunate Shepherdess, was published at Aberdeen in 1768, together with a few Scottish songs, among which are the favourite ditties of Woo'd and Married and a'; the Rock and the wee Pickle Tow; The Bride's Breast Knot; To the Beggin we will go, etc. A second edition appeared in 1778, dedicated to the duchess of Gordon, and the work has since been frequently reprinted. A fifth edition of The Fortunate Shepherdess was published at Dundee in 1812, with a Life of the author, prefixed by his grandson, the Rev. Alexander Thomson, minister of Lentrathen, in Forfarshire. On the first appearance of the poem, a letter, highly laudatory of it, appeared in the Aberdeen Journal, under the fictitious signature of Oliver Old Style, accompanied by an epistle in verse to the author, from the pen, it is understood, of Dr. Beattie, being the latter's only attempt in the Scots vernacular. In the north of Scotland, where the Buchan dialect is spoken, The Fortunate Shepherdess continues to be as popular as the productions of Burns or Ramsay. Ross died May 20, 1784. He left in manuscript eight small volumes and other compositions, and account of which is given in Campbell's Introduction to the History of Poetry in Scotland.