South Scotland

'Unsung' poet Allan Ramsay celebrated in pub festival

Pub sign Image copyright Dean R Woodhouse
Image caption Ramsay will be celebrated in a festival at the pub which carries his name

A two-day festival is being held in a pub in the Scottish Borders to celebrate the life and works of an "unsung" 18th century Scottish poet.

Academics, politicians and fans are expected at the Allan Ramsay hotel to honour the man it is named after.

The coaching inn at Carlops was built in 1792, more than 30 years after his death.

The festival will also see the launch of a new cultural heritage resource centre dedicated to the poet.

Prof Gerard Carruthers, of the University of Glasgow, who will be a guest at the festival, said Ramsay was a hugely influential figure.

"Without doubt Allan Ramsay is an unsung hero of Scottish poetry," he said.

"He doesn't get sufficient praise or recognition for what he achieved during his lifetime, but the impact he had on others around him at the time was monumental, and that is what this festival is all about.

"It is fair to say without Ramsay there would be no Robert Burns."


Who was Allan Ramsay?

Allan Ramsay was born on 15 October 1686 at Leadhills in South Lanarkshire.

He wrote poetry in Scots and also worked to preserve the works of earlier Scottish poets. He was admired by Robert Burns as a pioneer in the use of Scots in contemporary poetry.

Ramsay settled in Edinburgh about 1700 and in 1701 became an apprentice wigmaker. He married in 1712 and established a reputation as a prolific composer of verse in both English and Scots.

In 1721 Ramsay published a subscriber's edition of his own poems and changed from wigmaker to bookseller, his shop becoming a meeting place for both locals and visitors.

He founded Britain's first circulating library in 1726, the Academy of St Luke for instruction in painting and drawing in 1729 and a theatre in 1736.

He retired in 1740 and died on 7 January 1758 in Edinburgh.

Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica


Another festival guest, Prof Murray Pittock, also of the University of Glasgow, said the poet deserved wider recognition.

"Allan Ramsay was not only a pioneer of the Romantic movement and a collector and editor of Scots songs; he was also a cultural innovator of the Enlightenment," he said.

"In his poetry he developed modern literary Scots.

"Ramsay invented the term 'Doric' to describe Scots and was a huge influence on Robert Burns and all those who came after."

On the opening day of the festival, MSP Christine Grahame will unveil an Historic Environment Scotland plaque at the Allan Ramsay Hotel commemorating Ramsay.

Pub licensees, Rosemary Brown and Kenny Hall, received support from the Pub is the Hub scheme to establish the cultural resource centre.

'Major assets'

John Longden, chief executive of the organisation to help rural pubs, said it was their first project in Scotland and it was apt that it should celebrate the life of the poet and his son, also named Allan, who was an artist.

"Pub names reflect the times in which they were built and it is fantastic that Rosemary and Kenny are helping to reinvigorate the Ramsay links with overwhelming encouragement from their community," he said.

"I am delighted that we have been able to guide and support their efforts."

Councillor Stuart Bell also welcomed the inaugural festival.

"The Scottish Borders' literary and artistic heritage is one of our major assets, and I'm pleased to see Allan Ramsay, father and son, celebrated in this way," he said.

The festival is being staged on 15 and 16 October.

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