Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Skirving, Adam

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SKIRVING, ADAM (1719–1803), Scottish song-writer, was born in Haddington in 1719 and was educated at Preston Kirk. He was a substantial farmer, and spent most of his life as tenant of Garleton, a farm not far from Haddington on the Gosford road. Although a Jacobite, and apparently a spectator of the battle of Prestonpans in 1745, he seems to have taken no other part in the rising than by singing ballads about it. He died in April 1803, and is buried in the churchyard of Athelstaneford, where a quaint rhyme on his tombstone tells of his local reputation as an athlete and wit. His son Archibald is separately noticed.

Few Scottish anthologies omit Skirving's taunting ‘Hey, Johnnie Cope,’ which he wrote in 1745 to an old tune common in his day, and of which there are now several versions (cf. Hogg, Jacobite Relics, 1821, ii. 111, 308 sq.). This and a similar ballad on the battle of Prestonpans are the only survivals of what was probably a collection of ballads which Skirving wrote for local amusement.

[Irving's Book of Scotsmen; Wilson's Poets and Poetry of Scotland, i. 187.]

J. R. M.