National Records of Scotland

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Robert Fergusson (1750-1774)

Robert Fergusson (1750-1774)

Poet

Robert Fergusson was educated in Edinburgh, Dundee and at St Andrews University where he started writing poetry. He left the university without graduating in 1768. After spending time on his uncle's farm in Aberdeenshire he returned to Edinburgh where he found work in the Commissary Office. He became involved in music and theatre and wrote poems in English and Scots for various periodicals. In 1773 a volume of his work was published - he inscribed one of the copies to James Boswell - as well as his most famous poem, 'Auld Reekie'. At the end of that year he became seriously ill and was admitted to the Darien House Asylum where he later died. He was buried in the Canongate Kirkyard. Robert Burns, who admired his poetry, arranged for a headstone and provided the inscription. In 2004 a statue of Robert Fergusson was unveiled at the kirk gate.

Birth in 1774

Robert Fergusson was born on Wednesday 5 September 1750, the son of William Fergusson, clerk to Baillie Robert Baillie, merchant in North Kirk parish (NKp) and Elizabeth Forbes, his spouse. The entry in the Old Parish Register (OPR) for Edinburgh shows he was baptised the same day - ’Robert said by the a[fore]mentioned parent to have been born this morning’. The witnesses (W) were David Lindsay, indweller in South Kirk parish (SKp) and James Farquharson, clerk to James Fullarton, merchant in Leith.

Birth and baptism entry for Robert Fergusson

Birth and baptism entry for Robert Fergusson (74 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 685-1/27, page 18

Death in 1774

Robert Fergusson, writer in Edinburgh, was buried on 19 October 1774. The entry in the Old Parish Register for Canongate gives the place of burial as 'out side Hays Bur[ial] place' and his age at death as '24 years'. His surname was spelt with only one 's' and is indexed under Ferguson.

Burial entry for Robert Fergusson

Burial entry for Robert Fergusson (22 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 685-3/23