Robert Fergusson

Robert Fergusson was born in Cap and Feather Close, a vennel off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile on 5 September 1750. The third of three surviving children, Robert attended Edinburgh’s Royal High School, the High School of Dundee and the University of St Andrews with the assistance of a Clan Fergusson bursary in 1765. In 1768, he returned to Edinburgh and worked as a copyist. In 1771, he anonymously published the first of a trio of pastorals in Ruddiman’s Weekly magazine, entitled ‘Morning’, ‘Noon’ and ‘Night’. Fergusson subsequently enjoyed two years’ patronage from the Ruddimans, and submitted the periodical’s first Scots poem, ‘The Daft Days’, printed on 2nd January 1772. From that moment, vernacular Scots had a poetic voice in the magazine’s pages. Fergusson’s Poems on Various Subjects appeared in 1773. Fergusson may have been afflicted by depression, and following a head injury he was admitted to Edinburgh’s Bedlam madhouse. He died there on October 17th, 1774, aged just twenty-four. Fergusson was buried in an unmarked grave in Edinburgh’s Canongate Kirkyard. In 1787, Robert Burns erected a monument at his grave, commemorating Fergusson as ‘Scotia’s Poet’ and calling him ‘my elder brother in misfortune and by far my elder brother in the muse’.