This is a republication of the autobiography & poetry of Robert Davidson (1778-1855) “The Morebattle Poet”. A modern introduction to accompany this new edition of Davidson’s works has been written by David Welsh of Northumbria University. Davidson’s collection of poems Leaves from a Peasant’s Cottage Drawer was originally published in 1845. The poems are sometimes humorous and sometimes grave reflections upon Davidson’s life and times.
Davidson provides us with an important insight into the major effects which the agricultural revolution had upon rural life in the south of Scotland. Born at Lempitlaw in Sprouston Parish, he started his working life herding cows before becoming a ploughman or ‘hind’ subsisting with his family on what was then the ‘Boll Wage’ – a form of remuneration in which the agricultural worker was paid principally in the form of oatmeal and potatoes. From time to time Davidson also worked as an agricultural ‘day labourer’, a form of employment in which the worker was paid a weekly wage in cash. This gave Davidson greater freedom to spend (or save) his income as he wished – an arrangement which he ‘greatly preferred’.
Having spent most of his working life living in Morebattle village near Kelso in the Scottish Borders, he ended his days at the farm of Upper Chatto in Hownam Parish as a recipient of parochial relief. Few people from Davidson’s station in life have left us their thoughts upon the world that they knew. It is important therefore to recover and to republish such thoughts where we can.
Davidson’s poems are in accessible vernacular Scots. A modern glossary of the more difficult terms has been provided.