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The Scottish Nation

GALL, a surname obviously derived from the Latin appellation Galli, applied in ancient times to the Gael or Irish settlers from whom the extensive district of Galloway took its name. The abbey of St. Gall in Switzerland is said to have been founded in memory of St. Gall, a Scotsman, who taught there the Christian religion to the inhabitants, and who is still the patron saint of that country. [Nisbet’s Heraldry, vol. i. p. 327.]

GALL, RICHARD, a poet of considerable merit, the son of a notary at Dunbar, was born at Linkhouse, near that town, in December 1776. At an early age he was sent to a school at Haddington, where he was instructed in the ordinary branches of reading, writing, and arithmetic. When he was eleven years of age he was put as an apprentice to his mother’s brother, to learn the trade of a hours-carpenter and builder. The drudgery of such an occupation not suiting the bent of his mind, he soon quitted it, and walked on foot to Edinburgh, to which city his father’s family had some time before removed. Having chosen for himself the trade of a printer, he was, in 1789, entered as an apprentice to Mr. David Ramsay, proprietor of the ‘Edinburgh Evening Courant,’ in whose service he remained during the remainder of his short life.

      He now made considerable progress in several branches of learning, under a private teacher, whom his mother had taken into her house to superintend the education of her family. On the expiration of his apprenticeship, he was appointed travelling clerk to Mr. Ramsay. He had early turned his attention to Scottish poetry, and the ‘Gentle Shepherd’ called forth the latent poetic inspiration in his own breast. He was an ardent admirer of the poems of Burns, and during the latter part of the life of our national bard, he enjoyed his friendship and correspondence. With Hector Macneill, he was also on terms of intimacy. Thomas Campbell lodged in the same house with Gall at the time he was preparing for the press ‘The Pleasures of Hope;’ and being about the same age, the similarity of their pursuits and sentiments naturally led to the most cordial friendship between them. His principal associate was, however, Mr. Alexander Murray, afterwards professor of oriental languages in the university of Edinburgh.

      Mr. Gall wrote chiefly i8n the Scottish dialect, to which he was very partial. Only a few of his detached songs were published in his lifetime, but these soon acquired a considerable degree of popularity. Amongst his best efforts in this way are ‘The Braes of Drumlee,’ ‘Captain O’Kain,’ and ‘My only Joe and Dearie, O.’ Mr. Stark, in his ‘Biographia Scotica,’ attributes to Gall the song, ‘Farewell to Ayrshire,’ usually printed among the works of Burns as the production of the latter. He says that when Gall wrote it he sent it to Johnson’s ‘Scots Musical Museum’ with Burns’ name prefixed, to give it a better chance of attracting notice. As he was employed in the same office with Gall, he had a good opportunity of knowing. Being a member of a volunteer corps, Gall wrote several patriotic pieces, to stimulate the ardour of his comrades; and one of these being printed, copies of it were distributed to every individual in the regiment. He had formed the plan of several larger poems, when he was prematurely cut off by abscess in his breast, just as his poetical powers were beginning to expand themselves. He died May 10, 1801, in the 25th year of his age. A selection of his poems was published in one small volume by Oliver and Boyd in 1819, with a life of the author by the Rev. Alexander Stewart.

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