About Hugh Macdonald

1817- 1860

Hugh Macdonald

Hugh Macdonald, was born of emigrant Parents from the Island of Mull, on the 4th of April 1817 in Bridgeton, and was the first born of a family of eleven. All born into difficult times, with the added problem that their own Father was not fluent in the English language.

He worked as a young boy at the tender age of seven and a half years as a “Tearer” in the same print works as his father,
poverty dictated the situation.

His education was derived mainly from the books he read and from his own powers of observation and retention of detail.

He took note of any interesting structures, interviewed the local people for any stories of folklore and on returning home, made his way to the public library either to identify some of his findings, or to confirm the history of the area in which be bad travelled.

Thus, did Hugh Macdonald develop his own education and in doing so gathered his own wealth of information and knowledge.

Macdonald tried to improve his station in life and be independent from being tied to an employer, to work for himself. This he did, and with what little savings he had, he bought a grocers and provision shop in Bridgeton.

This venture was to fail, due to his own trusting nature of allowing credit to the poorer families in the community, and on clearing up his own personal debts, be set forth once again
to find further employment.

It is fortunate for us, that this venture failed, because Hugh Macdonald found employment once again at the block printing trade at Colinslee in Paisley.

For three years, in all seasons he travelled from Bridgeton to Paisley, initially walking 16 miles a day six days a week,
working in between a 10 or 12 hour shift.

He eventually went into lodgings in Orr Street, in Paisley and continued to lodge there for a period of 9 months before renting a dwelling house at 32 Calside, to which he brought his wife and family from Glasgow.

The flowers and the seasons are all described perfectly by Hugh Macdonald in his poetry,
also the bird life of which he was very knowledgeable about.

“0’ the birds of bonnie Scotland, I love them one and all,

The Eagle soaring high in pride, The Wren so blythe and small.

I love the cushat in the wood, The Heron by the stream,

The Lark that sings the stars asleep
The Merle that wakes their beam.


0’ the birds of dear old Scotland, I love them every one.

The Owl that leaves the tower at night, The Swallow in the sun.

I love the Raven on the rock, The seabird on the shore,

The merry Chaffinch in the wood, And the Curlew on the moor.”

 Most of the things he wrote about are based mainly on his own observations as he rambled about the Clyde Valley.

His first publications were poetical and appeared in a periodical called, “The Chartist Circular”.

He soon became a regular contributor to the columns of the Glasgow Citizen, where a series of letters in
defence of Robert Burns were published.

Robert Burns character was being attacked by a Dundee minister, the Rev. Gillfillan, and the whole country followed the correspondence of the two writers, with Hugh Macdonald being the eventual champion of Scotland’s Bard. Soon poetry written by Macdonald appeared in the Citizen.

While Hugh was working in Paisley, he had his memorable meeting with Christopher North, who was then at the peak of his fame.

Hugh Macdonald actually walked to Edinburgh to meet him, having already sent an introductory note and a copy of his
“Birds of Bonnie Scotland”.

Soon after this, he was appointed a sub-editor of the Citizen and began writing his, “Rambles round Glasgow”,
under the nom-de-plume of Caleb.

Hugh Macdonald died on the 16th March 1860, and shortly after his death the sum of £900 was raised and invested
for the benefit of his wife and children.

He left behind a wealth of information in his writings and in his poetry, and especially for us in the town of Paisley.

Hugh MacDonald wrote of Paisley, “We have a warm side to Paisley and its bodies. Some of our happiest days were spent there and we have never experienced more genuine kindness among its inhabitants.

 Nowhere else have we such troops of friends and nowhere else do we meet so many smiling faces and friendly extended hands, or so many happy homes where we were so warmly welcomed”.

Like Tannahill and Burns, Hugh Macdonald’s poems and songs were from the heart. They reflected the life of the ordinary men and women of the day and the struggles which thead to contend with.