14th January 1815

Death of Robert Burns’ publisher William Creech

Well travelled and educated in medicine, William Creech turned his hand to publishing, in an endeavour that ultimately produced the first Edinburgh edition of Robert Burns’ poems. He knew the poet personally and was the subject of two of Burns’ poems: Willie’s Gane Awa’, and On William Creech.

The former of these, also known as Lament for the Absence of William Creech, told of the way in which Edinburgh changed when Creech was out of town. “Now gawkies, tawpies, gowks and fools, Frae colleges and boarding schools, May sprout like simmer puddock-stools In glen or shaw; He wha could brush them down to mools – Willie’s awa!” runs one stanza while, in another, “The brethren o’ the Commerce-chaumer / May mourn their loss wi’ doolfu’ clamour; He was a dictionar and grammar / Among them a’; I fear they’ll now mak mony a stammer; Willie’s awa!”

Slow to pay

National Galleries Scotland, on its website, points out that “although Burns called Creech ‘my friend, my patron’, he had to remind his publisher to pay him while he waited patiently in Edinburgh”.

This might have been the inspiration for this second poem about Creech, which closes with the less flattering lines, “his meddling vanity, a busy friend / still making work his selfish craft must mend”.

As well as Burns’ poetry, Creech published his own writing, including his account of the trial of William Brodie for which he was a jury member.



Other events that occured in January

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