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Lodge Bards

Poets and Songwriters

Lodge 'Three Yins' has had a good number of poets and songwriters of local fame as members, here a just a few of that group who have composed some of Hawick's finest songs and poems.

William Scott Easton (1853–1877) son of hairdresser George and Elizabeth Jane Scott. He was related on his mother’s side to local poet William Scott. He was well known for writing satirical rhymes and doggerel, leaving us with the familiar ‘Kinly Stick’ and ‘The Anvil Crew’, as well as ‘Run Them In’. Robert Murray says that ‘his best pieces are now lost, never having been committed to paper’. He was Bard of Masonic Lodge St. John 111, but could not have lived long in that position. He died tragically at age 23 in a shooting accident when training with the Volunteers. He had apparently stood in to replace someone else as a marker during practice at the Whitlaw Range near Hummelknowes. A poem ‘Alane’, found in his private notebook, was published after his death, but essentially nothing else survives.

George Davidson (1846–1923) writer of many poems, including ‘Auld Hawick where I was Born’, which was adapted as a song by Adam L. Ingles in 1950. He was born in Hawick, son of William and Mary Tait. He worked as a plasterer, following his father’s trade. Developing an interest in poetry he became Masonic Bard to Lodge 111, where he would often recite his own pieces. He died at 24 Bridge Street and is buried in the Wellogate Cemetery.

Adam Grant (1859–1938) composer of the music for several Hawick songs and compiler of others. Born in St. Andrews, he spent his early years in Edinburgh, and at the age of 12 was apprenticed as an organ builder and piano tuner. He came to Hawick at 19 to be organist at St. Cuthbert’s. He moved to St. John’s in 1891 and remained there until 1936, serving the same church for 45 years. He also set himself up as a piano tutor and tuner and in 1882 as well as publisher of local music. He was offcial Common-Riding accompanist for more than 40 years (at least 1896 until 1937), and Callants’ Club accompanist for over 30 years He also wrote non-Hawick music, sometimes under the name ‘Rosenberg’. He also helped James Sinton with the musical part of his Hawick-related bibliography. His music shop finally closed in 1933. He was also a keen Volunteer, served as Captain of the Teviotdale Amateur Cycling Club and was a member of the Archćological Society and Golf Club. A member of Lodge St. John 111, he was Grand Organist to the Provincial Grand Chapter of Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles. His musical output included composition or significant arrangement of ‘Up wi’ Auld Hawick’, ‘Hawick’, ‘Oor Ain Auld Toon’, ‘The Anvil Crew’, ‘Clinty’s Song’, ‘Bonnie Teviotdale’, ‘Meda’s Song’, ‘Invocation’ and ‘The Wail of Flodden’. He also provided arrangement and acted as publisher for many others. His most serious piece of piano music was ‘The Branxholm Waltz’ and he also wrote music for plays in collaboration with J.E.D. Murray (Lodge 424), specifically ‘The Witch o’ The Wisp Hill’, ‘The Caddie’s Ghost’, ‘Kirsty o’ Cocklaw Castle’, ‘Turning Back the Clock’ and ‘The Gutterbludes’, as well as the Quater-Centenary Pageant. He probably contributed more than anyone else to Hawick’s musical heritage, his publication of compilations of local songs perhaps being his lasting legacy, since this saved many songs and popularised others. He married Bessie Briggs Hall and their son Adam R. carried on the family business. His daughter Agnes Wight Hall (‘Nan’) died in 1912, aged 25. There is a commemorative plaque for him at 2 High Street, the site of his first music shop, designed by Willie Landles, and unveiled in 1999. He is buried in the Wellogate Cemetery, and since he lived to a good age and fell on hard times, there were apparently only 35 mourners at his funeral; however, traffic was stopped on the High Street at the unveiling of the plaque.

Robert Hunter (1854–1905) writer of poems such as ‘An Auld Man’s Common Riding’, ‘Hawick Common Riding’, ‘Oor Ain Kailyaird’ and ‘The Teri Test’, as well as the words for the song ‘Oor Bonnie Border Toon’. Born in Hawick, he was son of James and brother of J.Y. and Thomas. On leaving school he worked for William Watson’s as a power loom tuner, and spent some time working in Banff and Carlisle. He then became a cashier at Wilson & Glenny’s and was manager there for 25 years. He was an ardent Temperance supporter, elder of East Bank Church, Sunday School teacher and President of the local Band of Hope. He was also Masonic Bard (for Lodge 111) and won second prize in a poetry competition for the Burns statue dedication in Dumfries. He married Margaret Douglas Turnbull, who died in 1919, aged 63. Their son James Young also composed local poetry, and wrote a biographical sketch of his father for the Archćological Society Transactions. He died at 13 Beaconsfield Terrace and is buried in the Wellogate Cemetery, where his refurbished gravestone was unveiled at a special ceremony in 2005.

Thomas ‘Tom’ Ker (1856–1932) writer of ‘I Like Auld Hawick the Best’, ‘The Fairest Spot o’ A’ ’, ‘Where Slitrig and Teviot Meet’, and many poems, such as ‘Roond Aboot Hawick Moat’ and ‘Under the Shadow of the Moat’. He was born in Kelso, but raised in the schoolhouse of Drumlanrig school in Hawick, where his father James was head teacher. He trained as a draper and then worked in the hosiery trade, with John Laing’s and then Pringle’s, where he was a traveller. He was a keen sportsman, particularly of cricket, rugby and cycling. He played in the first offcial rugby game in Hawick, a match with Langholm in 1874, and captained the Greens 1877/8 (being only the second Captain) and 1880/1, as well as acting as club secretary. He was a Town Councillor for North High Street Ward for 12 years from 1900. He was a great Common Riding supporter, being Secretary of the Committee 1908–23, as well as Treasurer for many years. He was also a founder member and first President of the Callants’ Club; he was additionally responsible for honouring the annual dinner guest with an acrostic verse. He was a member of Lodge 111, writing their history in 1898, and acting as their Bard. Enjoying singing, he was a member of Hawick Choral Union, and sung some of his own compositions at gathering of the Teviotdale Amateur Bicycle Club; ‘The Fairest Spot o’ A’ would be later transcribed from memory by Adam R. Grant, and ‘Where Slitrig and Teviot Meet’ recovered from notes found after the death of Adam Grant (senior). He also wrote episode 7 of the 1914 Pageant, based on the story of ‘Hab o’ Hawick’. He was a regular contributor of verse to the local press and the Border Magazine, often using the pseudonym ‘Tee Kay’. His poetry is collected in the book ‘Some Thouchts o’ Mine in Song and Verse’ (1924); it contains 66 poems and 26 acrostics. Late in life he moved to Edinburgh and then to Glasgow (to be near his daughter), where he died. He is buried in Wellogate Cemetery, with a verse from ‘I Like Auld Hawick the Best’ on his gravestone.

Daniel Neil ‘Neil’ MacKay (1928–96) born at 10 Slitrig Crescent, where his father was Burgh Foreman, he was son of draper William Gibson. He was educated at Hawick High School and the Royal High School in Edinburgh and served with the Royal Signals in Sri Lanka. On returning to Hawick he ran the family draper’s shop in Croft Road, and later moved it to North Bridge Street, near the Baptist Opening. He was elected Town Councillor in 1969 and served the Town as Dean of Guild. He was also a Justice of the Peace and later a county councillor, as well as Vice-Chairman of Roxburgh District Council until 1980. He was additionally Chairman of Hawick Chamber of Trade and was an instigator for the twinning of Hawick with Bailleul. He was a member of Lodge St. John 111. He was a keen writer, originating the ‘Janus’ column in the Hawick News. He also played piano and wrote the song ‘Home By Burnfoot’. He was Town Councillor for Burnfoot Ward when he wrote the song, which won a contest set by Burnfoot Residents’ Association. He died at 5 Wilton Glebe and is buried in Wilton Cemetery.

James Ruickbie (rik-, rook-bee) n. James ‘Jamie’ or ‘Reubie’ (c.1757–1829) born in Innerleithen, he lived much of his life in and around Hawick. He was a miller to trade, being the assistant at Nisbet Mill and then working at Newmill. After this he became a toll-keeper, at Haremoss (for a year), then Colterscluech (for 12 years), then at Langholm and finally at the West-End tollbar in Hawick. Entirely self-taught, he wrote a good deal of poetry, and also played the fiddle. He settled in Hawick as landlord of the Harrow Inn (at 12 High Street), where he enjoyed the friendship of other more distinguished writers. He belonged to the Burgher (East End) congregation in Hawick ans started a Sunday School at Newmill. He was also listed as a volunteer in 1803.

He was one of the earliest local poets to publish his work, some of it in dialect. An 8- page pamphlet of his, ‘An Elegy on the death of Whisky’ was printed in Hawick by Robert Armstrong in 1801. His 3 published collections are ‘Way-side Cottager, consisting of pieces in prose and verse’ (1807, while he was still at Colterscleuch), ‘Poems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect’ (1815, while he was at the Harrow Inn), and ‘Poems’ (1826). This last volume contained tributes from some of his contemporaries. A few of his poems were quite popular locally, particularly ‘The Bottomless Pit, or the Lawyer Outwitted’ and ‘The Vulture and Raven or the Dinner Arrested’. He also wrote some lines about his contemporary, James Hogg (of ‘Teribus’). He married Margaret Govenlock in 1787 and their daughter Margaret married Robert Govenlock of Mosspaul Hotel. The first Mrs. Ruickbie may have died in 1797. He probably later married Jean (or Jane) Wilson, who died in 1836 and their children included Alexander.

There seems to be uncertainty about whether he died in 1828 or 1829. He is buried at St. Mary’s, although the grave appears to have been unmarked. A portrait of him exists, painted when he was about 50, and the Museum has at least one of his original manuscripts – ‘Farewell, then, Old Bard! I have learned by the fate That goodness and genius conjoined cannot save From neglect the possessor, but often await On him scorn and contempt, til shut out by the grave’. (it is uncertain how his name would have been pronounced by his contemporaries, ru-bee also being possible)

James Ruickbie (as spelt in ‘The History of Freemasonry in the Province of Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire’ by W. Fred Vernon) was the Tyler of St. John’s Lodge No. CXI as the Lodge was then known. He wrote numerous Masonic Poems and Songs, the earliest we have is for the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone of the James Thomson Monument near Ednam, near Kelso on June 24th 1819. The poem was read by the RWM of the Hawick Lodge and called, ‘To The Shade of Thomson the Poet.’ In June 30th 1821 he wrote to a Brother in Kelso and included a song sung at the Lodge the previous Thursday on the occasion of the ‘On laying the Foundation Stone of the Public Building Hawick.’



The History of Hawick Lodge 111 – PM A. Burgon. 1994

A Hawick Word Book – Douglas Scott. Version 2013.

History of Freemasonry in the Province of Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire - W. Fred Vernon. 1893.


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