Biography

Robert Fergusson (1750 - 1774) : was born in Edinburgh on 5th September 1750, where he attended the High School before obtaining a bursary to Dundee Grammar School in 1762. this also took him to the University of St Andrews in 1765, but two years later, his father died and he had to return without a degree to support his family. He took a humble position as a clerk to the Commissary Office.

During his student days, Fergusson wrote his first poem, Elegy on the Death of Mr David Gregory, late Professor of Mathematics in the University of St Andrews. This mock elegy was written in Scots, at a time when most educated Scotsmen used English models in their writing. His poetry appeared in The Weekly Magazine or Edinburgh Amusement and in his vivid social life he was also a member of the Cape Club, which embraced a wide range of professions and social classes in its celebration of poetry and song.

His first magazine contributions were in English, but he soon showed his genius for Scots poetry, developing a flexible use of the language and a unique combination of the vernacular and the classical. He is best remembered for his long poem on Edinburgh, Auld Reikie.

Fergusson’s language shows a range and assurance not seen in Scots since the Makars. He died young in 1774, but managed to establish Scots poetry and make the poetry of Burns possible.