Edinburgh Bookshelf

Edinburgh Past and Present


LEITH. "7 ~~~ ~~~ ~ There are other names, both living and dead, which well deserve some notice here; but our limits forbid. There are two, however, we must not overlook; we refer to Robert Nicoll and Robert Gilfillan Of the former we regret to say that Leith has not shown herself very sensible of the honour his connection with her has conferred; otherwise she never would have suffered his grave to remain so long in the neglected and shameful condition in which it is. On paying it a visit the other day, we were perfectly shocked to find it quite overgrown with rank grass and nettle, with nothing to mark it off from the other deep deep sleepers but an humble stone with the humble inscription, ' In memory of Robert Nicoll, Author of Poems and Lyrics, who died on the 7th December 1837, aged 23 years.' A youthful genius of so much promise, which the rude, rough hand of death had so prematurely plucked, denying him the opportunity of cultivating and ripening into fruit the mighty potentialities which were in him, deserves a sweeter spot and a more adorned resting-place. Surely it would involve no great sacrifice on the part of our merchant princes, and would be creditable alike to their head and their heart, to raise over his lowly dust some tablet or monument honouring to him and worthy of themselves. And what is true of Robert Nicoll in this respect is, in some measure, true also of his brother-lyrist, Robert Gilfillan. He has not had the honour done him, either, that his name and memory deserve ; and we trust the day is not far distant when our fellow-townsmen will bestir themselves in the matter, and evince, in some substantial and handsome way, their livelier sympathy with, and deeper interest in, the genius and eminence which has budded and, blossomed in their own streets and within their own walls. Gilfillan, like Nicoll, although not a native of, was very early in life connected with, Leith, long occupying the situation of collector of police rates in the burgh,-not a lucrative office certainly, but one in which he could fairly live,-and employing his leisure hours in courting the Muses, and pouring out those short, sweet, linnet-like likings of which he has given us but too few. James Hogg says of Burns's fine Song, ' The Lass 0' Ballochmyle,' that ' upon first reading it, it made the hair of his head stand on end, he thought it so beautiful.' We cannot say that we were just so moved upon hem'ng sung for the first time that tender, regretful effusion of our Leith bard, '0 why left I my hame?' but we thought it very beautiful. Elliot the poet observes of Nicoll, ' Unstained and pure, at the age of 23, died Scotland's second Bums.' We have no such high word of praise for Gilfillan ; but this at least we shall venture to say, that, if not 'a second Bums,' he has at any rate much of
Volume 11 Page 170
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