Lapraik, John (DNB00)

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LAPRAIK, JOHN (1727–1807), Scottish poet, was born at Laigh Dalquhram (Dalfram), near Muirkirk, Ayrshire, in 1727. After education in the parochial school he succeeded his father on the estate, which was of considerable extent, and had been in the family for generations. He also rented the lands and mill of Muirsmill, in the neighbourhood. In 1754 he married Margaret Rankine, sister of Burns's friend, 'rough, rude, ready-witted Rankine.' She died after the birth of her fifth child, and in 1766 Lapraik married Janet Anderson, a farmer's daughter, who bore nine children, and survived her husband fifteen years. Ruined by the collapse of the Ayr Bank in 1772, Lapraik had first to let and then to sell his estate, and after an interval to relinquish his mill and farms, on which for several years he struggled to exist. Confined for a time as a debtor, he figured as a prison bard. After 1796 he opened a public-house at Muirkirk, conducting also the village post-office on the same premises. Here he died, 7 May 1807.

Early in 1785 Burns heard the song 'When I upon thy bosom lean' at a 'rocking,' or social gathering, in his house at Mossgiel Farm, Muirkirk. Learning that Lapraik was the author, he made his acquaintance, and within the year addressed to him his three famous 'Epistles.' Burns, who sent an improved version to Johnson's 'Museum,' never knew that the song was a clever adaptation from a lyric published in the 'Weekly Magazine,' 14 Oct. 1773 (Chambers, Burns, i. 254, library ed.). Burns's generous patronage encouraged Lapraik to publish his verses, which appeared at Kilmarnock in 1788 as 'Poems on Several Occasions.' The volume contains nothing equal to the 'Rocking Song.' James Maxwell of Paisley notices Lapraik unfavourably in his 'Animadversions on some Poets and Poetasters of the Present Age,' Paisley, 1788.

[Contemporaries of Burns; Chambers's Life and Works of Burns; Lockhart's Life of Burns, ed. Scott Douglas.]

T. B.