Allan Ramsay: Makar of Edinburgh


By Sian Mackay

The author vividly evokes the hustle and bustle of 18th century Edinburgh and restores to his rightful place the poet Allan Ramsay, too often eclipsed by his son, the painter of the same name, a great read…

Ray Perman, author of The Rise and Fall of the City of Money
This first biography of the poet, Allan Ramsay (1684-1758) takes the form of an historical novel set in the tumultuous world of early 18th century Edinburgh. All the known facts of the Makar’s shapeshifting life are here, interwoven with the author’s original research and imaginative passages based on her extensive knowledge of the locations he inhabited.
Allan Ramsay Oil Painting
Gentle Shepherd Illustration
Exponential sales of his masterwork, The Gentle Shepherd (1725), enabled Allan Ramsay to quit wig making and to establish a bookshop containing Britain’s first subscription library, adjacent to St Giles Cathedral. Not content with this meteoric rise, and influenced by John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, he opened his New Theatre in the High Street.
Disaster soon struck, forcing the poet ingeniously to re-invent himself with the support of his family, friends, and notables of the day including the young David Hume, Clerk of Penicuik, Forbes of Newhall, the Dicks of Prestonfield, John Gay, the Duke of Argyll, the Countess of Eglintoun, and William Adam.
David Hume and Adam Smith
Guse Pye House
Then, as now, the thorny subject of Union divided the country. Taverns and coffee houses rang with the harangues of Jacobites and Whigs before Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Tartan Army invaded Edinburgh in 1745 and attempted to seize the Castle from the garden of the Makar’s ‘country villa’, the Guse-pye House on the slopes of Castlehill. There he died, just before drainage of the Nor’ Loch made way for the construction of Edinburgh’s New Town.

This book is a tremendous achievement – so much research, so much information but not only that: a seamless interweaving of fact and fiction to create an imagined life for the man which comes leaping out of every page with its authenticity intact.

Elizabeth Adam of Blairadam
Allan Ramsay: Makar of Edinburgh is available to order through Blackwell’s or via Amazon.