James Paterson
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Contributed by Cooper Hay of Cooper Hay Rare Books.

Paterson, James 1805-1876, antiquary and miscellaneous writer, was the son of James Paterson, farmer at Struthers, Ayrshire, where he was born on 18 May 1805. Although his father was compelled by pecuniary difficulties to give up his farm and experienced various vicissitudes, the son received a fairly good education. Ultimately he was apprenticed to a printer at the office of the Kilmarnock ‘Mirror,’ and in his thirteenth year began to contribute to Thomson's ‘Miscellany.’ Subsequently he was transferred to the ‘Courier’ office in Ayr, and on completing his apprenticeship he went to Glasgow, where he joined the ‘Scots Times.’ In 1826 he returned to Kilmarnock, and, having taken a shop as stationer and printer, he, in partnership with other gentlemen, started the Kilmarnock ‘Chronicle,’ the first number appearing on 4 May 1831, in the midst of the reform agitation, and the paper expiring in May 1832. In 1835 he left Kilmarnock for Dublin, where for some time he acted as Dublin correspondent of the Glasgow ‘Liberator.’ Thence he went to Edinburgh, and ultimately found employment at a small salary in writing the letterpress for Kay's ‘Edinburgh Portraits,’ 1837-9, the majority of the biographies being contributed by him. Failing to find further employment in Edinburgh, he accepted in 1839 the editorship of the Ayr ‘Observer.’ In 1840 he published ‘Contemporaries of Burns and the more recent Poets of Ayrshire,’ and in 1847 a ‘History of the County of Ayr.’ Disappointed with his prospects on the Ayr ‘Observer,’ he again returned to Edinburgh, where he supported himself chiefly by miscellaneous writing. In 1871 he published ‘Autobiographical Reminiscences.’ Shortly after this he was attacked by paralysis, and he died on 6 May 1876. His works are not characterised by much literary merit, and are popular rather than scholarly.


Paterson's publications, other than those mentioned, were: 1. ‘The Obit of the Church of St. John the Baptist at Ayr,’ with a translation and historical sketch, 1848. 2. ‘The Poems of the Sempills of Beltrees,’ with notes, 1849. 3. ‘The Poems of William Hamilton of Bangour,’ with a life of the poet, 1850. 4. ‘Memoir of James Fillans, Sculptor,’ 1854. 5. ‘Origin of the Scots and of the Scottish Language,’ 1855; 2nd ed. 1858. 6. ‘History of the Regality of Musselburgh,’ 1857. 7. ‘Wallace and his Times,’ 1858, and several subsequent editions. 8. ‘The Life and Poems of William Dunbar,’ 1860. 9. A. Crawfurd's ‘The Huntly Casket and other Poems,’ 1861. 10. ‘James the Fifth, or the Gudeman of Ballengich, his Poetry and Adventures,’ 1861. 11. ‘The History of the Counties of Ayr and Wigton,’ 1863. 12. ‘A Contribution to Historical Genealogy: The Breadalbane Succession Case & how it arose and how it stands,’ 1863. He had also some share in the production of P. H. McKerlie's ‘History of the Lands and their Owners in Galloway,’ 1870, about which he had a dispute with the author.


Extract from “Autobiographical Reminiscences” by James Paterson, regarding his early life in Maybole, his family moved from Struthers Farm, near Kilmarnock, when he was aged seven.



Sun Inn.


We were allowed to occupy the Struthers house from Martinmas to Whitsunday, during which period my father occupied himself in various ways. Amongst others, I think, he had something to do with the tram-railway between Kilmarnock and Troon, which had not then been completed. At length we left for Maybole, where my father had rented the Sun Inn, then a sort of second-rate house in town. We got to Ayr by some means, I do not recollect how; but there my father and mother got into a gig, while I was stowed away somewhere behind. It was night, and cold; but at length we got to Maybole before morning. It was a novel thing for my father and mother to become the landlord and landlady of an inn; but they adapted themselves wonderfully to this new calling, and in a short space of time the house wore all the appearance of an old established place of business. Freemasonry was then the hobby in Maybole, and I suppose my father joined the fraternity, chiefly that it might bring “grist to the mill.” I used to wonder at the tiler, armed with a huge basket-hilted sword, keeping watch and ward at the door of the apartment in which were the company masonic; and as I slept in a small apartment on the same floor, I used to lie trembling in bed, at the clapping of hands and other noisy demonstrations; for I had heard so much of masonry as to believe that they sometimes raised the devil! We were not without the annoyances common to public-houses. A person of the name of Gerrand, a poetical blacksmith, took up his quarters with us. His object in visiting the neighbourhood was to canvass for subscribers to his volume, a neat little book, with two or three engravings in it, illustrative of  “the Peatmoss,” one of the leading poems. He was understood to be pretty successful. Gerrand, however, was a thorough victim to the poet’s follies. He was addicted to strong drink, and one night was so helplessly drunk that he lay for a length of time on the kitchen floor. I lately saw one of his volumes in an old book shop, and scanned it very curiously, having the Sun Inn reminiscence of the author in my memory. Another Galloway gentleman used to visit the Sun Inn occasionally. His name was Hawthorn, and he had a brother a doctor in Maybole. It was said he used to go wrong mentally at times, and my mother was afraid for me, for he frequently took me on his knee, and pressed me so close to him, through kindness, that she felt uneasy.

Towards winter, following our arrival in Maybole, a party of three cavalry soldiers remained with us for several weeks. They belonged to Fullarton’s Horse, a regiment of that name having been embodied by Colonel Fullarton of Fullarton, which estate was afterwards purchased by the Duke of Portland, and the house became his summer residence. The soldiers had no horses with them, and were probably on a recruiting excursion. I recollect I used to feel proud when they took me along with them in their hand to the ice on some of the numerous bogs about the place.


Old Boggy


My father’s usual ill luck seemed to attend him even in Maybole. The proprietor of the inn, Old Boggy, as they used to call him, from the name of his farm, Bogside, did not bear the best reputation. He conceived the idea making money out of him, and by way of friendship advised him to secure the furniture, by disposing of the whole to him. Whether the trust-estate had been fully realised by this time we know not, but there were, no doubt, some outstanding claims against him still unsettled. These he had reason to be afraid of, and Boggy, had he been sincere, was unquestionably in the right. The sale was completed in regular notarial form, which had scarcely been done, when, forgetting his assurances, he claimed the whole. This was much to be regretted – and I am not satisfied that it was legal; for the house had every appearance of becoming successful; and it was a severe trial to my mother, who had so soon to deplore the displenishing of her home, through the simplicity of the one man, and the roguery of the other. There was little time for inactivity or despair, however; for at about this time a great many troops, both cavalry and infantry, were constantly pouring into Maybole on their way to Ireland, to be shipped for Belgium, preparatory to the short campaign of 1815. A number of the officers messed regularly in the Sun Inn, and it is surprising how appearances were kept up, notwithstanding the roguery of Boggy. But such doings it would seem, were not unusual to him.


Some time before we had gone there, it is said that Pow, well known afterwards in Ayr as a poacher, had suffered at his hands so much, that he waylaid him several nights on the road to Bogside, resolved to shoot him if he happened to come in his way; and there is little reason to doubt, from the desperate character of the man, that he would have done it.


Reappearance of Old Henry Hamilton


We had scarcely been well settled in Maybole when old Henry Hamilton found his way to us. He was welcomed by all, and needed little urging to become what he had been before, a sort of man of all work. Whether he continued to carry his purse of guineas with him we do not know; but rather think he did. He was not long at Maybole till he took ill, we suppose from age and decay; and having gone into private lodgings, where he soon after died, it is probable that the woman he boarded with would get the prize; for it never was known that he had any relations, or any one in Ireland, to look after him. So long as he was able to walk about, Henry was rather a favourite; but it used to be remarked that of late he had grown amazingly stupid. He was in great haste one day to get away to the heugh for a cart of coals. He came quite excited into the kitchen, demanding whether any of the maids had seen his hat? “‘Why,” said the one addressed, “what is that on your head ?“ Up went his hands, and having felt all over, “why, sure enough,” said he, “and it is there !”


Noddy to Ayr


 Soon after entering the Sun Inn, my father started a noddy to Ayr. It ran twice a-week between Maybole and the county town. Robert acted as driver, for John had gone to the Woodhill to his grandfather, where he was regularly engaged in agriculture. It is curious that both my brothers stuck to what they at first had formed a notion of—working amongst horses.


The Effects of Boggy’s tricks


The family did not easily get over old Boggy’s trick. The laird was himself in difficulties, and the Sun Inn had to be sold; but the displenishing of the house could not easily be made up; and when Whitsunday came we had to remove to a small house in the Whitehall. Here we passed many a day, with poverty for our companion. Hand­sewing was then the chief employment for females. It was, however, pretty well paid; and I have heard my mother say that she could easily make six shillings a-week. By this time Robert had also gone to the Woodhill, and I alone was left at home with my mother. My father was frequently away—no doubt endeavouring to get into some way of employment. All this time my education was much ne­glected. I had been at school in Maybole, sometimes here, and sometimes there. I could read a little, and attempted to write, occasionally acting as amanuensis to my mother in writing letters to my father, who had found his way to Ireland as overseer to a gentleman in the north. But somehow or other I had picked up a strong notion of draw­ing, and many an hour I spent in painting flowers. I soon found myself acquiring fame as an artist, and used to strut about with a keelavine in my vest pocket, quite proud of the sort of deference paid to me. Wherever my mother visited—and she frequently made excursions amongst her friends and acquaintances in the country—I used to find something of interest in the clock-face paintings, for many of them were ornamented with baskets of flowers; or in the patterns of the delf plates arranged in the dresser; or, better still, the rooms were perhaps hung with paintings in oil or water-colours. In short, I found my fame as a limner grow so fast, that my inability to support the character grew almost intolerable. One morning the milk-maid came to the door with a rosy-cheeked, chubby little fellow. This was the farmer’s son—all the way from the farm, at least a couple of miles distant—for the purpose of having his portrait painted—the milk-woman having carried intelligence of my wonderful progress as an artist. What to do in this instance I really did not know. The boy remained, how­ever, till the maid had supplied her customers elsewhere, and by that time I had been able to paint a rosy-cheeked boy, as like the little fellow who sat for his portrait as it no doubt was of any other youth of the same age; but the painting pleased amazingly, and next morning the milkmaid brought me a shilling from her mistress.


Amusements at Maybole


My time, notwithstanding this pursuit, was chiefly devoted to outdoor pastimes—football, marbles, handball; and long excursions into the country were frequently indulged in. I found my way repeatedly to the Old Abbey of Crossraguel. I have climbed its ruined walls, and used to admire the wallflower as it grew so prettily out of the ruins. It occurred to me then, and it has often done since, that nowhere does the flower appear so appropriate as on an old ruin. The Chapter House, so celebrated for its architecture, had no particular attraction for me then ; but in it there was something in the form of a dish, with two long spoons. We had heard of the saying, that it required “ a long spoon to sup wi’ the deil,” and wondered how there should be two. There was an old dry well full of rubbish;  and many doubted not that, according to tradition, it was here where the priesthood had buried the golden calf at the Reformation. Baltersan, a neighbouring castle, belonging to a branch of the family of Cassillis frequently attracted our attention in returning from the Abbey. Like Crossraguel, it had long been in ruins.

In the summer season we used to stray as far as the seashore at Culzean and the Maidens: the distance might be about four miles. We used to pass the time in gathering “blae-berries” amongst the heather on the roadside as we proceeded. Only once do I recollect having visited the coast during winter. It had blown furiously the night before, and a report was current that a grain vessel had been stranded. We went on, and found the statement to be true. The vessel was a sloop from Belfast. She was “high and dry” on the sands, and the sea was smooth after the hurricane. It was a melancholy sight: some nineteen or twenty corpses had been recovered from the sea, and they were lying in a row in the outhouse of a fisherman’s cottage. There was a soldier amongst the dead, distinguished by his regimentals. In these days there were no steamers, and people availed themselves of the ordinary sailing craft wherever they found them.




No small portion of my time was passed at Lyonstone, then possessed by William Tilleroy as a nursery. The family were then young, and he was himself frequently from home. The boys and I used to gather haws, which they made use of as seed to propagate thorns. Much of our time was devoted to amusement as well; for with Princie, a little dog that followed us everywhere, we deemed ourselves thorough sportsmen, and used to follow him as he barked along between the rows of plants, as full of hope and expectation, as we have no doubt older and wiser heads are often actuated by.


Illumination for Waterloo


Time had flown pretty quickly, and it was now about the ever-memorable 18th of June 1815. Well do I recollect the occasion. I was at our own door in Whitehall, as the post-boy rode past in the morning, blowing his horn, and waving a small flag, as he exclaimed, “the French have been beaten at Waterloo! “ The town was in commotion, and a placard was issued by the magistrates, that at night every house should be illuminated, and bonfires kindled at certain places. In my memory, the Maybole demonstration for the victory of Waterloo lives so strongly, that nothing of the kind—and I have seen illuminations in larger towns—has ever approached it in magnificence.


A noddy – two wheeled carriage

Keelavine – black lead pencil

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