David Taylor, 1817 -1867 : St Ninian’s Poet
A sketch of David Taylor by William Drysdale revealed he was born in Dollar in April 1817, but soon after this his family moved to St. Ninian's in Stirling where he spent much of his life. He had meagre schooling and was apprenticed to a hand loom weaver , but rhymed from an early age. Drysdale thought David Taylor’s finest song was “The Proof o’ the Puddin’s the Pree’in o’t and “St Ringin’s Glaus” He was also deserving of notice as a musician. In winter he divided his time between weaving tartan and teaching music. For a long time he conducted a singing class at Chartershall, and “not a few of his pupils later made names for themselves in the world of music.“ He was much given to composing psalm tunes and the history of his music is interesting. A group of choristers who met in Stirling once a week for practice, were the poet’s critics. After having written a piece David set off on choir practice night, manuscript in hand. The piece was sung over in the presence of the choir and conductor, whereupon corrections were suggested, considered, and, if approved, adopted. One of his melodies, and possibly the best –“The Grey Hill Plaid” found “a place in The National Choir.”
Taylor died a comparatively young man in the summer of 1867. He was employed in a mill at Alva, and one warm July day he went for a swim in the Devon, while two assistants were setting a loom for him. On his failure to return, the alarm was raised, and after some searching his body was discovered in the river Devon “ which he had so often celebrated in song .”
In 1893 his poems were collected in book form. William Harvie published it with a short memoir in the glossary notes. David Taylor also found a place in a volume entitled “The Poets of Clackmannanshire” and he was included in Edward’s “Modern Scottish Poets.”
As a musician he is remembered in “Baptie’s Musical Scotland”
As a satirist David Taylor was said to be “lively and pungent”; as a writer of songs he had “much felicity and grace.” He was also noted for his humorous remarks and ready replies. – Two examples of this are given in William Harvie’s book “ The Stirling Repository.” “One day”, states Harvie, “the poet called on a spirit merchant in Alloa and asked for a glass on tick”. “No tick here, David”, was the reply, “Ah!! Ye need na tell me that” said David Taylor and pointed to the clock behind the counter, “Your clock ticks.”
Poem “The Royal Wedding Day”— of 10th March 1863
“A Memorial Obelisk “ – ( Dundee Courier 20th June 1903, p4)
“ A memorial in the form of a grey granite obelisk , the funds for which were raised by subscription, was placed over the grave of David Taylor, the “St. Ninian’s poet” in in the Churchyard , St. Ninian’s Stirling yesterday. Several addresses by local gentlemen were delivered. Taylor , who was a weaver
to trade, died in 1867 aged 50. He composed a large number of pieces, mostly in satirical or humorous verse, on local events, but a few of his songs still survive, the best known being “The Proof o’the Puddin’s the Preein’ o’t.”
St. Ninian’s Old Parish Church Graveyard
“Taylor, David, tartan weaver, poet and musician resident in St. Ninian’s, Stirling, died aged 50 as
result of an accident summer 1867.
His memory lingered on in St. Ninian's well after his death.
In the Stirling Observer, 26th May 1942, p6, there was a public objection to interference in St. Ninian’s public park –regarding the war effort – a Mrs McGregor, who lived for many years at Beechwood, quoted the sentiment of David Taylor, the local poet--
“Oh, lieze me St. Ringans, yet,
Thou’lt aye be dear to me”
A more humorous poetic note, appears in the Stirling Observer, 30th Dec. 1943, p7 –
“What is the difference between a poet and a plumber?
One papers a lay, and the other lays a pipe.”
Article researched by Dorothy Wilson, Stirling Local History Society, 2018.
References from the newspapers, The Stirling Observer and Dundee Courier.