BEFORE     the     advance     of     modern     civilisation     and     invention removed   from   Scotland   its   isolated   character,   this   country   was   " localised   "   to   an   extreme   degree.   Each   city,   each   town,   each   little country   village   was   separated   from   its   neighbours,   physically   and socially,   and   preferred   to   remain   wrapped   in   the   mantle   of   its   own aloofness,   apart   from   all   others   in   the   land.         In   this   way   rivalry and   competition   sprang   up,   and   in   one   respect   at   least   was   this sure   to   be   expressed   -   in   the   local   poet,   the   hero   bard   of   his companions.         From   time   immemorial   every   clan   had   its   bard;   he immortalised   the   deeds   of   the   chiefs   and   the   events   of   history, rendering    them    into    song    or    rhyme,    to    be    handed    down    from generation   to   generation,   forming   the   history   of   that   particular clan.         However,   as   time   advanced   and   printing   became   common, these   bards   were   able   to   record   their   works   in   book   form,   and   as they    were    eager    to    do    so,    Scotland    possesses    to-day    a    vast number   of   poems   and   songs,   far   before   any   other   land.         Very many   of   these   are   forgotten   ;   in   fact,   many   of   them   were   never heard   of   beyond   their   own   local   circle.   But   while   they   and   most   of their   works   have   long   been   lost   in   oblivion,   there   still   remain   to   us many    beautiful    lyrics    and    songs,    stamped    forever    with    that patriotic    effusiveness    or    sympathetic    sweetness    which    makes them lasting monuments of forgotten genius. THE   purely   local   nature   of   these   poems   was   in   itself   the   first cause   of   their   irretrievable   loss;   how   few   of   the   authors   could   rise above   the   petty   surroundings   and   common   everyday   life   and   give to    their    productions    that    cosmopolitan    perspective    with    local background   which   can   only   result   from   true   merit   !      They   must enlist   universal   sympathy.   in   the   local   theme,   they   must   render their   love   of   home   into   a   patriotic   devotion   to   homeland,   or   they must   choose   a   subject   of   such   wide   interest   as   to   appeal   to   all readers   who   are   likely   to   peruse   their   works;   only   then   can   they hope   for   life   ;   then   they   become   eternal.         Burns   made   himself   the darling    of    all    countries    by    appealing,    while    still    confining    his attention   to   local   deeds   and   characters,   to   that   part   of   human nature   which   expresses   itself   in   love   of   home,   love   of   the   home country, and love of the people of the homeland. BURNS    himself    was    in    the    van    of    an    advancement    towards enlightened    liberty,    intellectually,    socially,    ecclesiastically,    and physically.         Before   his   time   the   Kirk   dominated   the   land,   stifled individuality,   kept   the   people   under   the   stern   rule   of   superstitious dread   and   prevented   intelligent   development.         Under   its   rule   the noble   succession   of   the   old   Scottish   poets   had   come   suddenly   to an   end.         All   secular   verse,   or   verse   which   did   not   reflect   the doctrines   of   Protestant   theology   in   its   extreme   form,   was   banned   ; songs   were   regarded   as   the   enticement   of   the   devil,   and   even
The Village of Chryston - North Lanarkshire - Scotland
Walter Watson - 1780 to 1854
prose    confined    its    attention    to    ecclesiastical    subject    matter.          The   reaction   was   just   setting   in   when   Burns   began   to   write;   his genius   carried   it   on   in   the   face   of   all   opposition,   and   a   multitude of    lesser    poets    arose    after    him    to    continue    the    good    work, stamping    Scottish    poetry    with    a    universality    which    makes    it appeal   to   all,   and   secures   for   it   the   appreciation   of   every   country and clime where white men congregate. AMONG   these   minor   poets   who   followed   Burns   is   to   be   found Walter   Watson.         He,   like   the   majority   of   poets   who   wrote   in   the Scottish   dialect,   was   of   humble   station   in   life;   indeed   it   is   to   this fact    that    Scottish    poetry    owes    the    illustrious    position    it    now holds.         His   language   is   uncouth   and   rude,   yet   interesting   in   so   far as   it   was   the   everyday   tongue   of   rustic   Scotland   ;   but   we   must remember   again   how   poor   an   education   he   had,   and   how   he   was never   able   to   further   his   knowledge   or   develop   his   intellectual powers.         Of   all   languages,   however,   the   Scottish   tongue   is   rich   in musical   expressiveness,   in   terse   words   and   phrases,   in   quaint and   homely   sayings,   in   a   certain   kind   of   utilitarian   philosophy, and   in   an   expressive   method   of   giving   opinions;   Watson's   works abound     in     these     in     all     their     crude     and     rustic     baldness.            Nevertheless,   though   rich   in   this   respect,   they   all   seem   to   lack that    reflective    nature    so    common    a    property    of    most    of    our poetry.         They   tend,   in   the   main,   to   be   simple   narrations   and stories   in   rhyme,   and   lack   the   artistic   touch   of   the   spontaneous outpourings   from   a   poetic   heart.         Apart   from   some   of   his   songs, which    were    truly    inspired,    his    work    is    as,    a    rule    a    laboured production,    manufactured    for    the    occasion,    to    gain    applause possibly,   but   more   likely   with   a   view   to   monetary   advantage   -   but they   have   not   that   effusive   spontaneity   of   the   true   born   poet.        Burns says : Some rhyme a neibor's name tae fash, Some rhyme, vain thocht, for needfu' cash ! Some rhyme tae gain the kintra's clash An' raise a din : For me, an aim I never fash, I rhyme for fun."
WATSON,   the   humble   poet,   wrote   a   few   songs,   just   as   Burns   did, for    his    own    amusement;    these    came    to    the    knowledge    of    his companions,    and    they,    in    the    newly    found    liberty    from    kirk domination    and    brimstone    religion,    were    only    too    ready    to welcome   the   least   spark   of   genius   and   laud   it   to   the   heavens.        Watson's   head   was   turned   :   he   then   began   to   rhyme   for   the   gallery, "   to   raise   a   din,"   -   that   seems   to   have   been   almost   the   only   aim   of the   poetry   of   his   later   life.         His   poetry   shows   how   a   certain   point has   been   fixed   on,   thought   out   in   detail,   and   this   detail   translated, sometimes   to   its   loss,   into   rhyme;   this   he   called   poetry,   and   the jingle   brought   applause.         It   must   be   admitted   that   some   of   his songs   have   all   the   genius   of   perfection   of   true   poetry.         They   are human,    they    are    songs    of    the    simple    heart,    they    express    the passionate    feelings,    the    very    essence    of    inspiration.            Crude, perhaps,   in   language,   lacking   often   in   word   expression,   yet   the spontaneous   rhythm   is   there,   the   true   tone   of   effectiveness   that carries   the   reader   away.   "   Jockie's   Far   Awa',"         "   Sit   Down   My Cronie,"         "   The   Songs   of   the   Curlers,"         "   Push   About   the   Jorum," and    a    few    others    have    all    that    simplicity    of    sentiment,    that sweetness    of    rhythmic    expression    or    heart-felt    sympathy    that belongs   chiefly   to   the   poetry   of   the   land   of   the   Scot.         His   larger poems,   like   "   Chryston   Fair,"         "   Kilsyth   Bell,"         "   Minister   and   Janet's Hen,"    etc.,    are    all    fair    enough    reading,    pawky    in    their    quaint humour,     interesting     in     their     expressive     language     and     sharp phrases,   but   they   are   nothing   else;   they   are   rhymes   but   not   poetry. Read   through   the   other   poems   and   you   will   find   many   little   verses of   exceeding   excellence,   but   they   are   far   between   and   few   ;   these poems lack thoroughness in thought and clear reflection. SOME   of   those   who   read   the   poems   may   be   sorry   to   find   that   they are   often   of   a   Bacchanalian   tendency.         Reader,   they   are   not   to   be depreciated   because   of   that.         In   the   first   place,   that   was   but   the manner   and   custom   of   the   age   he   lived   in.         Poets,   again,   are   men of   deep   passions   ;   these   passions   may   express   themselves   in   one way   or   another,   but   they   cannot   be   kept   under.        Take   all   your   great men-poets,     inventors,     ministers,     men     of     letters,     temperance orators--all   are   one-sided,   all   bent   some   way   or   other,   all   with   one
absorbing   passion   which   blinds   them   to   propriety   in   other   things.        If   passion   of   any   kind   carries   people   with   it,   it   may   be   wrong,   but, in   fairness   to   everyone,   let   us   admit   that   there   are   other   forms   of intoxication   than   by   whisky.         Certainly   it   tends   to   be   a   degrading and   sordid   passion   ;   but   Watson's   Bacchanalian   poems,   which were   written   under   the   influence   of   this   overpowering   passion, reflect   sparks   of   true   merit   and   genius,   are   among   the   best   of   his productions,   and   so   we   cannot   say   it   was   degrading   in   his   case   - rather    the    opposite    effect;    under    inspiration    his    mind    was awakened to powerful expression and intellectual brightness. WATSON   had   a   life   of   hard   toil,   a   continual   bitter   struggle   with adversity;   six   of   his   sons   died   early   in   life;   his   old   age   was   fraught with    tasks    almost    beyond    his    strength.            This    bitterness    is displayed in all the poems of his later years. He says : " Play the man, Keep up your heart as lang's ye can," but   he   cannot   keep   up   his   own.         Disappointed   in   life,   borne   down by   bitter   adversity   and   the   severities   of   hard   toil,   he   was   directing others   to   the   sunshine   yet   ever   in   the   shadow   himself.         The brightest   flowers   grow   in   the   sun;   the   greatest   poet   lives   in   a glorious   realm   above   the   world.         Watson   allowed   circumstances to   overwhelm   him,   and   his   productions   are   the   worse   because the    world    oppressed    him.            While    his    later    poems    show    the effects   of   polish   and   refined   experience,   yet   the   true   poems   are those   of   his   early   life   ;   these   are   songs   of   the   heart,   the   warbling notes of a bird in Spring.
born 1780
WALTER   WATSON   was   born   in   the   village   of   Chryston,   near   Glasgow,   on   the   29th   of   March,   1780.         He   was   the   son   of   a handloom   weaver,   William   Watson,   an   honest   hardworking   man,   who   had   enough   to   do   to   bring   up   his   family   of   seven   and to   "   feed   and   cleed   "   them,   without   giving   them   any   of   the   luxuries   of   life.         A   thorough   education   in   those   days   was   a   luxury indeed,   and   so   it   was   that   a   full   course   of   learning   was   denied   our   poet.         Nevertheless,   he   got   as   much   education   as   any   of his   companions,   better,   indeed,   than   most   of   them,   and   he   was   able   at   the   end   of   his   school   career   to   read   and   write   - qualifications   which   were   not   the   lot   of   everyone   in   those   days.         His   mother   was   a   careful,   God-fearing   woman,   and   Walter was brought up to be honest and straightforward in all his dealings.
NOTHING   is   recorded   of   Walter   Watson   until   he   was   six years   of   age,   the   date   when   he   was   enrolled   in   the   village school.         The   teachers   of   those   day   set   about   their   tasks with   a   thoroughness   and   strenuousness   which   rendered   the path   of   education   anything   but   a   smooth   one   for   those   who were   not   "   gleg   in   the   uptak',"   and   so   we   find   Walter   leaving school   without   misgiving   after   a   year   and   a   half's   training,   to take   up   the   position   of   herd   boy   on   the   farm   of   Calder,   not far   from   Chryston.         Scotland   in   1788   was   very   different from    the    country    which    we    know    to-day;    fences    were uncommon   sights   and   the   neatly   trimmed   hedges   of   the present   day   were   not   dreamed   of   by   the   farmers.         There were   "   dykes   "   of   a   kind,   it   is   true,   but   these   were   useless, and   the   remedy   commonly   adopted   was   not   to   mend   the fence   but   to   engage   a   small   boy   "to   keep   the   kye   frae   the corn   an'   greencrop."         Walter's   fee   as   a   herd,   to   quote   his   own words,    was    "    three    white    shillings    an'    a    braw    peacock's feather   ";   more   often   the   fee   was   given   in   kind,   oatmeal   or   a piece   or   kebbuck   of   home-made   cheese   being   handed   over at   the   "   term,"   and   the   peacock's   feather   took   the   form   of   a few   small   favours   during   the   season.         Walter   spent   three long   summers   at   this   occupation;   long   days   they   must   have been   to   the   boy,   for   where   is   he   of   that   tender   age   who   can confine   his   attention   to   one   object   for   any   length   of   time?        His    mother    must    have    sympathised    with    the    boy    at    his lonely    occupation;    he    used    to    take    the    greatest    pride    in recalling    how    she    saved    up    for    him    all    the    song    sheets, scanty   newspapers,   and   pamphlets   which   came   her   way,   in order   that   her   boy   might   read   them   to   pass   the   weary   hours -   and,   incidentally,   to   prevent   him   forgetting   the   rudiments   of education   which,   had   been   forced   upon   him   at   the   school.        But   what   boy   is   there'   who   does   not   relish   an   outdoor   life, spending   the   time   in   the   fields   rabbit-hunting,   bird-nesting, and    all    the    multifarious    occupations    which    occur    to    the mind   of   the   average   youth   !         Unconsciously   this   kind   of   life models   the   boy's   mind   ;   he   comes   to   know   Nature   at   first
hand;     her     secrets     soon     become     quite     clear     to     him; environment   builds   up   for   him   a   healthy,   solid   character,   and he   acquires   a   knowledge   of   the   phenomena   of   earth,   air,   and sky,   better   than   any   book   or   teacher   could   ever   impart   to   him.        Unfortunately   the   tendency   is   not   always   thus;   the   long   day and   the   dreary   monotonous   round   hang   heavy   of   the   dull intellect    :    the    active    mind    can    always    invent    occupation, physical   and   mental,   but   the   slothful   brain   becomes   deeper entangled   in   the   mire   of   its   own   sloth.        The   poet,   the   inventor, the   artist   are   said   to   be   so   born,   and,   verily,   though   we   may not   say-   with   thorough   exactness   that   this   is   the   case,   yet these   must   have   had   mental   powers   naturally   active,   never dormant.         Men   are   not   all   born   alike   mentally;   were   it   so, genius    would    become    a    thing    of    mechanical    training    and education   a   mere   building   on   scientific   lines   :   the   individual would   then   be   a   unit   of   indefinite   possibilities   and   education a    matter    of    time    and    good    methods.    It    is    the    pride    of education     to     remember     that     individuality     has     been     a continuous   blessing   to   the   world   and   mental   precision   not   a thing   of   automatic   regularity.         Walter   Watson   was   happy   in having,   as   a   youth,   an   active   mind   ;   he   proved   to   be   a   bright intellectual   boy,   quick   to   learn   and   of   sure   knowledge,   and though   not   well   versed   in   "   book   education,"   yet   he   had   good first-hand   knowledge   of   nature   and   all   her   peculiarities.         We find   that,   in   after   life,   though   Watson   had   a   great   degree   of poetic   susceptibility   and   the   quality   of   terse   expression,   yet his   incidental   allusions   to   nature   and   animal   life   owe   much   of their vivid reality to his early- training.
HIS    school    education    was    not    entirely    confined    to    the eighteen    months    which    we    have    previously    mentioned.          Weaving,    about    the    year    1790,    was    in    a    prosperous condition,   and   Walter's   parents   did   not   find   it   necessary   to send   the   boy   to   work   during   the   winter   months.        They   even managed   to   pay   for   his   schooling   for   three   winter   sessions, and   thus,   while   he   did   not   advance   far   in   "learning,"   yet   he had     the     foundations     thoroughly     laid,     and     instead     of forgetting   his   letters,   as   was   usually   the   case,   he   became more    proficient    in    the    art    of    reading,    in    writing,    and    in general   knowledge.         When   Walter   reached   his   eleventh year   he   had   to   assist   in   the   upkeep   of   the   home,   and   as weaving   was   then   considered   a   good   trade.   he   was   given   a loom    of    his    own.            We    can    well    imagine    how    hard    he considered   his   lot   to   be,   now   that   he   was   confined   to   the house.         Handloom   weaving   is   of   all   trades   perhaps   the most   dreary   and   monotonous   ;   the   weaver   sits   "   the   lee lang   day   "   generally   in   a   cramped   position,   often   in   a   house that   embodies   none   of   the   hygienic   demands   for   sunshine, fresh   air,   and   cleanliness,   repeating   the   same   action   over and    over    again;    hence    it    is    not    to    be    wondered    at    that Walter,   after   less   than   two   years   at   the   loom,   tried   to   better his   lot   by   hiring   himself   out   to   a   neighbouring   farmer.         He soon   found   that   the   change   was   not   one   for   the   better.        Farm   servants   of   those   days   had   long   hours   of   hard   work and   degrading   toil,   rough   fare   and   a   bed   little   better   than that   given   to   the   farm   cattle.         Going   back   to   Nature   does not always prove a happy course of action ! AT   this   time   machinery   had   not   been   called   in   to   assist many   trades   ;   in   fact   the   use   of   machines   was   confined   to a     few     isolated     cases     and     these     were     more     of     an experimental   nature   than   otherwise.         In   the   timber   trade especially,   all   the   work   had   to   be   done   by   hand;   after   the trees    were    felled,    they    were    hauled    to    the    saw-pits    and there   sawn   by   hand-power   into   long   planks   ready   for   the joiner,   the   ship-builder,   etc.         As   much   of   the   work   was   done by   the   piece,   there   was   ample   opportunity   for   individual effort,   and   Walter   Watson,   seeing   this,   became   a   sawyer   in Glasgow.         This   work,   though   hard,   was   well   paid,   and   the hours   were   certain   and   not   too   long.         At   this   period   of   his life,    however,    began    those    convivial    habits    and    merry evenings in the tavern, spending his hard-earned cash. ONE   afternoon,   having   ceased   work   earlier   than   usual,   he was   out   walking   and   chanced   to   run   across   a   recruiting sergeant of the Scots Greys " busked an' bonnie an' a'."
OUR   hero   entered   a   neighbouring   tavern   for   a   talk   with   him, and    the    natural    result    of    the    extreme    friendliness    of    the sergeant   was   that   Walter   found   himself   "   listed   "   in   the   Greys.        The   recruit   was   ordered   to   join   his   regiment,   then   at   Coventry, and   had   to   say   farewell   to   bonnie   Scotland   -   much   against   his inclination.         He   did   not   relish   the   severe   training   of   the   Army   ; he   adopted   every   trick   to   get   free,   but   the   curious   point   about the    whole    matter    is    that    afterwards    he    always    dwelt    with pride    on    this    part    of    his    history,    and    many    of    his    poems reflect   the   good   effects   of   his   military   training.         For   one   thing, his   experience   as   a   soldier   took   away   that   awkwardness   and loutishness   so   often   the   accompaniment   of   rustic   upbringing; the    "    soor-milk    Jock    "    developed    into    a    tall,    straight,    and smart    soldier.            Unfortunately    the    free    life    of    the    soldier helped     to     develop     and     confirm     the     Bacchanalian     and convivial   habits   which   he   had   already   started   to   cultivate   in Glasgow. DURING   the   three   years   he   was   in   the   Scots   Greys   he   never saw   active   service.         The   regiment   was   stationed   in   various parts    of    England    -    Coventry,    Weymouth,    Portsmouth,    etc.          When     he     was     at     Coventry     the     regiment     was     specially reviewed    by    King    George    the    Third:    this    was    one    of    the pleasant   incidents   of   his   experience,   and   we   can   well   imagine the eagerness with which he related :- "The first time His Majesty cam' into view He wasna put on like the rest, A farmer-like coat o' a pretty sky-blue, An' a great royal star on his breast. I gat a gran' sicht, for he pass't me as near As Bell Street in Glasgow is wide, Ye needna tak' time. ye'll be thinking, tae speer Gin onything fash't me like pride."
WALTER   Watson   served   in   this   regiment   for   three   years,   and   was   discharged   when   the   Army   was   reduced   in   numbers   in 1802.         A   few   poems   were   written   during   his   life   as   a   soldier,   but   these   were   in   after   life   altered   and   reconstructed,   in   fact many of them rewritten. AFTER   leaving   Weymouth   our   poet   returned   to   Chryston   and   again   became   a   weaver.         Being   now   a   hero   in   his   native village,   he   was   invited   to   take   part   in   all   feasts   and   revelries,   and   in   this   way   brightened   a   life   monotonously   irksome.         He soon   became   a   favourite   with   the   young   ladies   of   the   village,   but   he   had   not   long   returned   ere   he   fell   a   victim   to   the   charms of Margaret Wilson, a daughter of the farmer in the Hill Farm, Chryston.
It   took   but   a   short   year   for   him   to   complete   his   courtship,   and in   the   spring   of   1803   he   was   married   to   the   lassie   he   had courted   amid   the   Braes   o'   Bedlay.         As   in   all   other   poets, almost   without   exception,   love   acted   as   an   incentive   to   verse, and   it   was   in   this   period   that   Walter   came   to   be   looked   upon as   the   poet   of   Chryston.         Once   a   man   becomes   famous   his services   are   constantly   in   demand,   and,   as   poet,   he   had   a free   entrance   to   all   convivial   assemblies   where   was   ample opportunity   for   him   to   establish   himself   as   the   Poet   Laureate of   the   village.         He   became   famous   "through   a'   the   kintra   side ";    he    could    sing    a    song    or    give    a    recitation    to    suit    his audience   :   very   often   these   songs   or   poems   were   his   own, and   generally   of   scenes,   incidents,   and   characters   known   to everyone.         To   this   period   belong   "   The   Curler's   Song,"         " Gartferry   Glen,"         "Push   About   the   Jorum,"         "Braes   o'   Bedlay,"        etc. THE   applause   in   the   village   inn   and   at   the   various   meetings where   our   poet   figured   led   him   to   commit   some   of   his   poems to    writing.            These    he    showed    to    Mr.    Main,    the    village schoolmaster,   who   promptly   told   him   that   because   of   their want   of   grammatical   accuracy   they   were   certainly   not   fit   for publication.         Under   Mr.   Main's   guidance,   and   with   the   help   of a   book   on   "   grammar   and   composition,"   he   began   to   study this   subject,   and   was   soon   able   to   understand   the   rudiments of   grammatical   harmony.         The   poems   were   then   altered   and touched   up,   and   gradually   became   in   their   corrected   form well    known    in    the    district.           The    popularity    thus    acquired encouraged   the   poet   to   publish   a   small   volume   of   poems   in 1808.         This   production   contained   what   were,   in   the   opinion of   Mr.   Main   and   various   friends,   the   best   of   his   collection.       
The   book   sold   well   in   the   parish,   Wattie's   popularity   was now   definitely   sealed,   and   he   had   the   pleasure   of   hearing   his songs   sung   at   many   meetings   and   local   concerts.   "   Jockie's Far   Awa',"         "   We've   aye   been   provided   for,"         "   Push   About   the Jorum,"      "   The   Braes   o'   Bedlay,"   and   many   others   were   sung by   the   common   people   throughout   the   West   of   Scotland,   a few   of   them   being   extremely   popular   for   a   time.         With   the exception   of   a   few   books   sold   in   the   towns   round   about,   all the   volumes   were,   disposed   of   in   Cadder   ;   while   they   were enthusiastically   received   in   this   district,   they   never   aroused more   than   a   passing   interest   in   other   parts.         No   mention   is made   of   any   pecuniary   benefit   the   poet   derived   from   the publication   of   this   book,   and   it   is   probable   that   they   were issued at a loss to the poet himself. ONE   of   the   chief   results   of   the   publication   of   his   poems   was that     he     now     acquired     a     wider     circle     of     friends     and acquaintances   of   a   superior   kind,   while   many   persons   much above   his   station   were   proud   to   acknowledge   him   as   friend.        Fortunately,   too,   these   friendships   had   the   good   effect   of tending     to     remove     him     from     that     sordid     and     squalid conviviality   to   which   he   had   gradually   been   descending.         He now   realised   that   he   was   something   above   the   common   lot, and   this   for   a   time   made   his   hard   life   brighter   and   his   burden of toil less heavy.
IN   1809   Walter   Watson   was   appointed   local   secretary   of   the   Chryston   Branch   of   the   Society   of   Weavers,   which   had   for   its object   the   improvement   of   the   conditions   under   which   those   men   had   to   live.         In   this   connection   he   became   widely   known, but   one   unfortunate   result   was   that   the   manufacturers   at   one   time   threatened   legal   interference   with   their   plans   ;   Walter was   induced   to   commit   an   immense   bundle   of   his   manuscripts   to   the   flames,   and   through   this   action   one   or   two   poems have   been   lost.         One   song   which   was   called   "   The   Plaid,"   was   much   sung   in   country   districts   about   fifty   years   ago   :   this, however,   now   exists   in   so   many   different   forms   that   it   is   quite   impossible   to   say   which   version   was   actually   the   work   of   the Chryston poet. AS   the   manufacturers   refused   to   meet   the   demands   of   the   weavers,   a   strike   was   the   result;   in   this,   as   local   secretary,   our poet   took   an   active   part,   and   on   two   occasions   we   find   him   addressing   meetings   in   Glasgow.         In   the   home,   however,   the continuance   of   this   strike   led   to   considerable   distress,   and   Walter   was   at   length   forced   to   return   for   a   short   time   to   the sawpit.         He   was   then   in   a   better   position   than   many   of   the   other   weavers   and   able   to   earn   enough   to   keep   "   the   wolf   from the   door   "   during   these   trying   times.         Eventually   the   manufacturers   were   compelled   to   grant   better   prices   for   the   work   done and so the strike came to an end.   Walter then returned to the loom, and there was plenty - once more in the home.
VERY   little   definite   information   about   the   poet   is   known   for   some   years   following   the   strike   of   1811.         Sometimes   he   could get   plenty   of   work,   while   at   other   times   he   was   reduced   to   extreme   poverty.         His   family   increased   to   ten,   eight   sons   and   two daughters,   and   so   we   can   imagine   what   a   hard   struggle   it   was   to   keep   them   in   food   and   clothing.         Occasionally   there   was enough   and   to   spare   and   we   find   the   poet's   life   full   of   happiness,   but   in   the   main   it   was   a   hard   struggle   to   make   ends   meet.        Luckily   he   was   blessed   with   a   wife   who   could   take   care   of   the   pence,   and   whatever   was   brought   into   the   house   was carefully   and   judiciously   expended   in   the   most   needful   directions.         She   proved   a   good   parent   to   the   children,   who,   under   her care,   were   well   brought   up,   with   unceasing   exercise   of   industry   and   prudence,   and   she   took   care   that   each   one   obtained   the best education which they could afford to give. IN   the   midst   of   all   his   toils   Walter   kept   up   his   intercourse   with   the   Muses   :   he   tells   us   that   much   of   his   poetical   work   was done   while   he   was   engaged   at   the   loom,   the   poems   thus   mentally   constructed   being   improved   and   committed   to   writing after   the   day's   work   was   over.         It   is   to   be   regretted   that   his   life   at   this   period   was   one   of   continual   hard   struggle   for existence;   all   this   is   reflected   in   the   poems   of   his   middle   and   old   age,   a   strain   of   sadness,   want   of   hope,   and   pessimism generally being found through them all.
IN   1819   Walter   removed   to   Banton   in   the   East   Barony   of   Kilsyth   ;   at   this   place   were   the   headquarters   of   the   Canal   Company, and   he   found   plenty   of   employment   in   the   woodyard   there.         Shortly   after   this,   however,   the   company   removed   their   works to   a   place   near   Falkirk,   and   since   the   poet   did   not   find   it   convenient   to   take   up   his   habitation   there,   he   had   to   return   once again   to   the   loom.         He   soon   obtained   employment   after   this   in   the   West   Barony   of   Kilsyth,   in   the   sawpits   at   Arnbrae,   where plenty   of   work   was   obtained   from   the   joiners   of   Kilsyth   or   from   Sir   Archibald   Edmonstone,   Bart.,   of   Colzium.         The   excise superintendent   of   this   district,   a   Mr.   Train,   became   the   poet's   fast   friend.         This   gentleman   had   acted   as   collector   of antiques,   legends   and   traditions   for   Sir   Walter   Scott,   and   it   was   ever   the   wish   of   Walter   Watson   to   meet   the   great   novelist.        Mr. Train   promised   an   introduction,   but   had   to   remove   at   an   early   date   to   another   part   of   the   country,   and   Watson   was   never able   to   obtain   his   desire.         Mr.   Train   encouraged   Walter   to   continue   writing   poetry,   and   especially   to   record   in   rhyme   any good   traditional   legends   which   he   knew   or   heard.         Walter   did   so,   but   unfortunately   did   not   show   that   he   could   treat   them   in a   masterly   way;   mere   translation   into   rhyme   was   not   everything;   the   Legend   of   Alloway   Auld   Brig   was   but   an   idle   tale   until Burns took it up.
WHILE   the   first   edition   of   poems   issued   by   Walter   Watson   had   been   a   great   success   in   his   local   circle,   it   certainly   had   not enriched   the   author   to   a   great   degree;   in   fact   it   was   commonly   believed   that   the   poet   was   the   loser   by   this   publication.         In 1823,   however,   he   issued   another   small   volume,   and   for   this   too   he   gained   very   little   for   his   trouble.        This   selection   contains most   of   the   good   poems   of   the   earlv   edition   with   the   best   of   those   he   had   written   since   its   issue.         Its   sale   was   found   to embrace wider geographical limits owing to the larger number of people who had come to know of the poet's existence.
IN   1826   he   removed   to   Kirkintilloch,   and   again   took   to   the   loom.         Circumstances   were   tending   to   improve   in   the   family   as some   of   the   sons   were   now   able   to   work   looms   of   their   own.         This   year   turned   out   a   poor   one   for   the   farmers,   and commerce   was   in   a   bad   state;   weaving   failed,   and   for   a   time   a   living   wage   could   not   be   earned   at   it.         Our   poet   was   reduced to   great   straits   ;   he   had   to   start   work   at   stone-breaking,   finding   employment   in   the   Stron   Quarry   about   five   miles   from Kirkintilloch.        The   hard   work   and   the   ten   mile   walk   each   day   sapped   his   strength,   and   the   amount   earned   was   so   small   as   to reduce   the   family   to   the   lowest   depths   of   poverty.         In   the   following   year,   however,   trade   revived,   and   with   it   weaving   came into   a   better   condition;   the   family   were   soon   able   to   forget   the   year   of   poverty   and   distress,   and   the   shuttle   flew   merrily   in   the happy home.
After   a   time   -   in   1830   -   Walter   removed   to   Cardarroch,   in   Cadder   Parish,   but   in   1835,   as   the   weaving   trade   came   again   into bad   times,   the   family   removed   to   Lennoxtown.         Here   sufficient   employment   was   found   for   the   father   and   the   whole   family   in the   large   factories   of   Messrs.   Dalglish,   Falconer   and   Co.         Unfortunately   the   work   of   the   print   field   was   found   to   be   too   heavy for   the   old   man,   now   bordering   on   three-score,   and   the   venerable   bard   returned   again   to   the   more   congenial   employment   of the loom in 1837 at Cardarroch.
IN   1842   the   poet   again   published   a   selection   of   his   poems,   but   without   much   pecuniary   advantage;   this   edition   found   a   fairly ready   sale   in   Glasgow,   and   by   its   issue   he   made   a   still   wider   circle   of   friends,   including   many   literary   gentlemen   of   the   city.        In   1845   he   removed   to   the   village   of   Auchinairn.      By   this   time   his   family   had   been   sadly   reduced   ;   three   sons   had   died   when he   was   in   Kirkintilloch   ;   the   two   daughters   were   married,   and   other   two   of   his   sons   had   married   and   set   up   homes   of   their own.
WHILE   he   was   at   Auchinairn   the   poet's   works   gained   in   popularity.         He   received   many   epistles   from   "   brither   bards,"   and   was often   visited   by   his   admirers.      A   number   of   these   resolved   to   show   their   respect   for   the   poet;   consequently   a   subscription was   started,   and   he   was   presented   in   1846   with   a   handsome   watch   and   a   purse   of   sovereigns. The   money   was   sadly   needed in   the   home;   in   fact   the   last   years   of   the   poet's   life   were   spent   in   comparative   poverty.   To   assist   him   many   concerts   were given   in   barns   and   in   halls   throughout   the   district,   notably   at   Chryston,   Campsie,   Kirkintilloch,   Avenuehead,   etc. These   always brought   a   little   money   to   him   and   helped   him   in   his   old   age.   One   of   the   features   of   these   concerts   was   the   song   given   by   the old   bard   himself   ;   very   often   there   was   one   specially   written   for   the   occasion,   introducing   local   scenes   and   characters familiar   to   all   his   hearers.   The   old   people   of   the   district   still   remember   the   poet;   he   was   friendly   with   everyone,   and   very popular   in   all   these   places.     The   poetry   of   this   period   is   unduly   pessimistic   in   nature   ;   he   never   seemed   able   to   get   away   from his actual circumstances and to raise "his heart abine them a'."
IN   1849   we   find   him   at   Duntiblae,   near   Kirkintilloch.         Only   one   daughter   now   remained   at   home   ;   six   of   his   sons   were   dead; one   had   gone   to   New   Zealand,   and   a   married   daughter   had   emigrated   with   her   husband   to   Australia.   In   1851   we   hear   that the   poet's   friends   in   and   around   the   Campsie   district   raised   a   considerable   sum   for   his   benefit   and   presented   this   to   him   at   a supper in that village, with the most gratifying expressions of esteem and admiration.
died 1854
IN   1854   cholera   reigned   in   the   Scottish   lowlands;   Walter   Watson   fell   a   victim   to   this   malady,   and   died   at   Duntiblae   on   the 13th   September,   1854.   His   widow   died   in   August,   1865   ;   after   her   death   the   only   daughter   remaining   went   out   to   her   sister   in New Zealand. IT   is   to   an   artistic   friend,   Mr.   A.   D.   Robertson   of   Glasgow,   on   whom   Walter   was   in   the   habit   of   calling,   that   we   are   indebted for   the   most   striking   likeness   of   the   old   bard,   taken   in   January,   1849.   This   painting   was   afterwards   photographed   and   the photos   were   sold   in   large   numbers   for   the   benefit   of   his   widow;   from   one   of   these   photographs   our   frontispiece   has   been taken.
IT   was   mainly   to   the   exertions   of   this   gentleman   that   on   the   9th   October,   1875   -   twenty-one   years   after   the   poet's   death   -   a handsome   obelisk   of   Aberdeen   granite   was   erected   by   subscription   to   his   memory.   This   monument   stands   in   his   native village   of   Chryston,   on   or   near   the   site   of   the   little   cottage   where   he   was   born   on   the   29th   of   March,   1780.         It   stands   at   the south-east   angle   of   the   graveyard,   facing   the   main   street   of   the   village,   and   about   forty   yards   from   the   spot   where   he   sleeps   " the sleep that knows no breaking."
Walter Watson
The Chryston Poet