NN6207 : Memorial to Dugald Buchanan

taken 6 years ago, near to Callander, Stirling, Great Britain

Memorial to Dugald Buchanan
Memorial to Dugald Buchanan
See NN6207 : Buchanan burial ground, Callander for context (the memorial is visible in that picture, where it is set in the wall on the left), and NN6207 : Buchanan burial ground, Callander for an external view of the enclosure (a former chapel). The inscription reads:

"Dugald Buchanan
Gaelic Poet, Teacher, Evangelist


This monument marks his resting
place and commemorates his gift
of inspired language and sacred song
by which the literature of his native
Highlands has been enriched.

An fhuil a dhiol do cheartas teann,
'S a dhirteadh air a' chrann gu lr,
'S ann aisd' tha m' earbsa, O mo Rgh!
Nach dt thu m' anam air a sgth.

Erected 1925."

The inscription was carved, as is noted at the bottom of the stone, by [James] Pittendrigh Macgillivray, R.S.A. (On Buchanan's date of death, see below.)

The Gaelic verse in this inscription is a stanza from Buchanan's poem "rnuigh" ("The Prayer"; in this particular stanza, the author voices his trust in the redeeming power of Christ's blood, "which satisfied strict justice, and which was poured out from the tree to the ground").

The following outline of his life draws upon an 1875 book, "Reminiscences of the Life and Labours of Dugald Buchanan" (by A Sinclair).

Dugald was born in 1716 at Balquhidder (NN5320; the place-name is often spelled Balquidder in older works). His mother died in 1722. The young Dugald did not show a very religious bent, but he was educated at one of the schools belonging to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Amongst the experiences that made a deep impression on Dugald at an early age was his almost being bayoneted by a drunken soldier; not long afterwards, he narrowly escaped drowning in the River Carron. Up to the mid-1740s, Dugald had rather wavered in his religious beliefs, but he was settled in his faith from that point on.

Dugald is thought to have married in about 1749; the birth of a son is recorded in March of the following year. Not long after that, the family left the farm and mill of Ardoch (which had belonged to his father). He subsequently took up teaching, and by 1753 he had been "appointed schoolmaster at Drumcastle in the district of Rannoch". In 1755, he was examined and found to be fit to be employed as a catechist (in addition to his work as a schoolmaster).

In the latter half of the 1750s, Buchanan "was of much service to the Rev James Stewart of Killin in translating the New Testament into Gaelic. Having accompanied that gentleman to Edinburgh, in order to assist him in superintending the press, he took the opportunity of improving himself by attendance on the classes for natural philosophy and anatomy in the college. He was at the same time introduced to David Hume" [quoted from Volume 1 of "A Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen" (Blackie & Son, 1875)]. David Hume is said to have enjoyed his conversations with Buchanan.

At around the same time, Buchanan arranged to have his Sacred Songs published, although we do not know exactly when they had been composed.

A page at Undiscovered Scotland LinkExternal link states that there is some doubt about the year of Dugald Buchanan's death. I have not, as yet, encountered any documentary sources that give a year other than 1768; however, the sources do not all agree on the precise date within that year (see below).

The year given on this memorial tablet is 1768, which agrees with Sinclair's comments on the publication of Buchanan's "Sacred Songs". Sinclair writes: "It appears ... that Buchanan bestowed extraordinary pains in order to perfect in expression, as well as thought, these admirable productions of his. The first edition was published in 1766. He did not live to see a second. He died two years after of an epidemic fever that was prevalent in the country. ... The summer was hot, the fever was virulent, and he sank under it some day in June 1768, at the comparatively early age of fifty-two years."

[Incidentally, as for "rnuigh" ("The Prayer"), the Gaelic poem from which a stanza is reproduced in the monumental inscription, Sinclair gives an English version of the whole poem on pages 182-184 of his book. While the translation gives a flavour of the meaning, it should be noted that it takes liberties with the text; for example, in the quoted stanza, a form of the word "crann" (tree) becomes "Calvary's cross".]

Sinclair says that Buchanan died "some day in June", but the Biographical Dictionary cited above says that he died on the second of July. However, according to Joseph Irving's "The Book of Scotsmen" (1881), he died on the second of June, which is at least consistent with Sinclair's account. [For Irving himself, see NS4076 : The gravestone of Joseph Irving.]

Irving's account is worth giving here in full, since, terse though it is, it provides some additional information about Buchanan's early working life: "Dugald Buchanan: Gaelic poet. Born in Balquidder, Perthshire; educated at the common school, and wrought as joiner in Kippen and Dumbarton; schoolmaster and catechist at Kinloch-Rannoch, where he wrote the most of the hymns and poems by which he is known. Born 1716. Died June 2, 1768."

The second volume of Charles Rogers' "Monuments and Monumental Inscriptions in Scotland" (1872), on pages 151-52, gives a brief account of Buchanan's life; while this does not give any information beyond what has already been said here, it states (in agreement with Irving) that June 2 was the date of his death.

(Weight of numbers alone does not always indicate correctness; for example, two sources may be in agreement simply because one relied on the other.)

Another memorial to Dugald Buchanan is located in NN6658 : Kinloch Rannoch, apparently giving yet another date. There is also a memorial to him in Strathyre: NN5617 : Memorial to Dugald Buchanan.
The Buchanan burial ground
This burial ground near Callander was for the Buchanans of Leny and their descendants. It occupies a knoll, on which stand the roofless remnants of a chapel: "there is another hill, larger than Tom-ma-Chessaig (NN6207), at Little Leny, where Norie's Chapel stood, and which is still used as a cemetery by those of the name of Buchanan" ["Old Statistical Account" (1794)]. See LinkExternal link (at Canmore) for further details.
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NN6207, 264 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Tuesday, 10 July, 2012   (more nearby)
Thursday, 19 July, 2012
Geographical Context
Burial ground, Crematorium 
Ruin (from Tags)
Place (from Tags)
Sculptor (from Tags)
James Pittendrigh Macgillivray 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NN 6213 0766 [10m precision]
WGS84: 56:14.4846N 4:13.5732W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NN 6213 0766
View Direction
NORTH (about 0 degrees)
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Memorial  Gaelic Inscription 

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