BUCHANAN, DUGALD, an eminent Gaelic poet, was born in the year 1716, in the parish of
Balquidder, Perthshire. His father was a small farmer who also rented a mill, and who appears
to have given him a better education than was commonly taught in country schools.
Having been sent, at the early age of twelve, to teach in a family, he was tainted by the bad
morals of his associates, and fell into vice, of which he afterwards deeply repented.
He was afterwards apprenticed to a house-carpenter in Kippen, whence he removed to
Dumbarton. Having afterwards become a sincere Christian, he was appointed schoolmaster
and catechist at Kinloch-Rannoch, on the establishment of the Society for Propagating
Christian Knowledge, where he composed those hymns which will make his name known
while the language in which they are written endures.
His mental powers were of a high order, and during many years he laboured, with extraordinary zeal and devotedness,
in enlightening and instructing the inhabitants of that remoter district.
At that period the extensive tract of country which surrounds Loch-Rannoch was under the
charge of but one minister, who, in consequence of the wide circuits he was obliged to make,
could only perform divine service at the end of the loch, where Buchanan was stationed,
once in three weeks.
On those Sabbath days, however, that the clergyman was absent, Buchanan used to assemble
the people together, and after prayer and an exhortation, he read to them a portion
of the Scriptures. He is said to have rendered essential service to the Rev. James Stewart of
Killinl, in translating the New Testament into the Gaelic language; and that he accompanied
him into Edinburgh for the purpose of aiding in correcting the press. While there, he availed
himself of the opportunity to attend the university, where he heard lectures on anatomy,
and the various departments of natural philosophy. Some gentlemen, struck by his
talents, endeavoured, unknown to him, to procure him a licence to preach the gospel;
but without success. He published his hymns about the year 1767. Of these upwards
of fifteen editions have been printed. He died June 2, 1768, of fever, in the fifty-second year
of his age. €œDuring his illness he was frequently delirious, and in that state would sing
of the €˜Lamb in the midst of the throne.€™ In his lucid intervals he expressed his full hope
in the resurrection of the just, and his desire to depart and be with Christ.
The people of Rannoch wished his remains to be buried among them, but his relations carried
the body away to their own country, and he was buried in the burying-ground of the
Buchanans at Little Lenny, near Callander. In his person he was considerably above the middle
size, and rather of a dark complexion, but upon a close inspection his countenance
beamed affection and benevolence Among his intimate acquaintance he was affable, free,
jocular and social, and possessed much interesting information and innocent anecdotes,
in consequence of which his company was much sought after by all the families in the country.
In his dress he was plain and simple, wearing a blue bonnet and a black dress, over which
he generally wore a blue great-coat. After his death his widow removed to Ardoch,
where she remained till the time of her death. He left two sons and two daughters;
one of the latter was alive in 1836.
The Day of Judgment, says the editor of the Beauties of Gaelic Poetry, displays great
force of imagination, and fixes the mind on the sublime and awful scenes of a world
brought to an end, amidst the wreck of elements, and the assemblage of the whole
human race to judgment.
The Scull™ is full of good poetry, with appropriate reflections on the vanity of mortal
enjoyments. It shows the fierce tyrant and the lowly slave the haughty chief and the
humble tenant the mighty warrior and the blooming virgin the mercenary judge and the
grasping miser all reduced to one level, the grave; to feed the lowly worm
and the crawling beetle.
The Dream€™ contains useful lessons on the vanity of human pursuits, and the
unsatisfactory rewards of ambition. The following lines ought to be remembered by every
one who envies greatness:
˜Cha ˜n ˜eil neach o thrioblaid saor,™
A™ measg a™chinne-daonn™ air fad
˜S co lionmhor osna aig an righ,
Is aig a neach is isle staid.™
The Winter begins with a vivid description of the effects of that season, and the preparation
of men and animals to provide food and shelter. The poet then draws a comparison between
the winter and the decline of human life, warning the old man to prepare for his future state,
as the husbandman prepares food and fuel for winter to imitate the prudent foresight of
the ant and the bee, and not the idle and improvident fly, dancing joyously in the sunbeams
till he perishes by the winters frost. This excellent poem is deservedly admired as one of the
finest specimens of didactic poetry in the Gaelic language. Mackenzie Beauties of Gaelic Poetry, 1841.