Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Shirrefs, Andrew

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SHIRREFS, ANDREW (1762–1807?), Scottish poet, son of David Shirrefs, carpenter, was born in Aberdeen on 9 Feb. 1762. Two of his brothers attained some distinction in Aberdeen. James was minister of St. Nicholas Church from 1778 to 1814, and Alexander was sheriff-clerk-depute and latterly president of the Society of Advocates. Andrew was educated at the grammar school, entered Marischal College in 1779, and graduated M.A. in 1783. Becoming a cripple, he abandoned the intention of following a learned profession, and began business in Aberdeen as a bookseller and bookbinder. In May 1787 he joined with others in starting the short-lived ‘Aberdeen Chronicle’ (not to be confounded with the paper of the same name started in 1806), and became proprietor and joint editor of the ‘Caledonian Magazine.’ The latter ceased in 1790, and he went to Edinburgh as a bookseller and printer. In 1798 he left for London, after which it is impossible to trace him. The date of his death is given as 1807, but this cannot be confirmed; and from his not appearing with his other brothers in the will of his first cousin Alexander, a Jamaica planter, who died in 1801, it might be inferred that he was dead before that date.

Shirrefs corresponded with John Skinner and James Beattie; and Burns in the notes of his northern tour mentions having seen him, and describes him as ‘a little decrepid body with some abilities.’ He was best known as the author of ‘Jamie and Bess,’ a pastoral five-act comedy, avowedly in imitation of Ramsay's ‘Gentle Shepherd.’ It was performed in Aberdeen in 1787, and in Edinburgh, for the author's benefit, in 1796, when he appeared and sang his own song, ‘A cogie o' yill and a pickle aitmeal.’ Inglis (Dramatic Writers of Scotland) mentions a short piece, ‘The Sons of Britannia,’ said to have been acted in Edinburgh in 1796, but it does not seem to have been printed. In 1790 Shirrefs published ‘Poems, chiefly in the Scottish Dialect’ (Edinburgh, printed for the author), which contains his portrait by Beugo.

[William Walker's Bards of Bon-Accord, 1887; Laing and Stenhouse's edition of Johnson's Musical Museum, iv. 479, 526; Parochial Registers of Aberdeen.]

J. C. H.