Rodger, Alexander (DNB00)

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RODGER, ALEXANDER (1784-1846), minor poet, son of a farmer, was born at Mid-Calder, Midlothian, on 16 July 1781. Owing to his mother's weak health he was boarded out till he was seven years of age, when his father, who had become an inn-keeper in Mid-Calder, took him home and put him to school. Presently the family removed to Edinburgh, where Rodger for a year was apprenticed to a silversmith. Business difficulties then constrained the father to go to Hamburg, and Rodger settled with relatives of his mother in the east end of Glasgow. Here he began handloom weaving in 1797. In 1803 he joined the Glasgow highland volunteers, with which regiment, and another formed from it, he was associated for nine years. After his marriage in 1806 he lived in Bridgeton, then a suburb of Glasgow, where he prosecuted his trade, and also composed and taught music. Forsaking his loom in 1819, he joined the staff of a Glasgow weekly newspaper, ‘The Spirit of the Union.’ The seditious temper of the publication soon involved it in ruin, and the editor was transported for life. Returning to his trade, Rodger was shortly afterwards imprisoned as a suspected person; during his confinement he continued to compose and sing revolutionary lyrics.

In 1821 Rodger became inspector of the cloths used for printing and dyeing in Barrowfield print-works, Glasgow. This post he retained for eleven years. During this period he completed some of his best literary work, and manifested a useful public spirit, securing in one instance the permanence of an important right of way on the Clyde near Glasgow. Resigning his inspectorship in 1832, he was for a few months manager of a friend's pawnbroking business. Then for about a year he was reader and local reporter for the ‘Glasgow Chronicle,’ after which he had a short engagement on a weekly radical paper. Finally he obtained a situation on the ‘Reformer's Gazette’ which he held till his death. In 1836, at a public dinner in his honour, under the presidency of Professor Wilson, admirers of widely different political views presented him with a silver box filled with sovereigns. He died on 26 Sept. 1846, and was buried in Glasgow necropolis. A handsome monument at his grave has an appropriate inscription by William Kennedy (1799–1871) [q. v.] In 1806 Rodger married Agnes Turner, and several members of their large family emigrated to America.

His connection with the highland volunteers gave Rodger opportunities of observing Celtic character, and prompted witty verses at the expense of comrades. One of his earliest serious poems is devoted to Bolivar on the occasion of the slave emancipation in 1816. Collections of Rodger's lyrics appeared in 1821 (‘Scotch Poetry: Songs, Odes, Anthems, and Epigrams,’ London, 8vo), in 1827 (‘Peter Cornclips, with other Poems and Songs,’ Glasgow, 12mo), and 1838 (‘Poems and Songs, Humorous and Satirical,’ Glasgow, 12mo), and a small volume of his political effusions was published later, under the title of ‘Stray Leaves from the Portfolios of Alisander the Seer, Andrew Whaup, and Humphrey Henkeckle’ (Glasgow, 1842, 8vo). Somewhat unpolished, Rodger's verses, humorous or sentimental, are always easy and vigorous. He is at his best in the humorous descriptive lyric, and in his ‘Robin Tamson's Smiddy’ he has made a permanent contribution to Scottish song. One of his pieces, ‘Behave yourself before Folk,’ was quoted with approval in one of the uncollected ‘Noctes Ambrosianæ.’ Rodger assisted the publisher, David Robertson [q. v.], in editing some of the early series of ‘Whistle Binkie’ (1839–46), a Glasgow anthology of contemporary Scottish lyrics.

[Whistle Binkie, vol. i. ed. 1878; Rogers's Modern Scottish Minstrel; Mackay's Through the Long Day; Hedderwick's Backward Glances.]

T. B.