John Wright of Galston, poet

Taken from The whole poetical works of John Wright ... with a portrait of the author, and a sketch of his life, 1843.

Taken from The whole poetical works of John Wright … with a portrait of the author, and a sketch of his life, 1843.

A number of early nineteenth century poets can be found in the Necropolis. Dugald Moore, William Motherwell, and Alexander Rodger are all commemorated by gravestones but John Wright was laid to rest in an unmarked Single Grave in compartment Iota on 23rd May 1844. John Wright, fourth child of James Wright and Grizzle Taylor, was born at the farm of Auchencloigh in Sorn parish on 1st September 1805 and moved to Galston, his father’s home town, as a young child. His formal education amounted to only a few months and he did not learn to write until in his teens. He owed most of his education to the encouragement of George Brown, weaver in Galston, to whom he was apprenticed at the age of thirteen. His long poem ‘The Retrospect’ composed in 1825 was published in 1830 with the encouragement of Professor John Wilson (Christopher North of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine).

He settled in Cambuslang where he met and married Margaret Chalmers, a grand-daughter of the parish school-master, in June 1832. Their first child was still born and must have been a difficult birth as Margaret’s health was affected. In an effort to raise some money John decided to publish a second edition of his poems. This entailed seeking subscriptions in various towns including Greenock, Port Glasgow, Dumbarton, Dumfries and Dollar. Margaret is said to have accompanied John as the travel was hoped to help her recover from the difficult birth.

The profits from the second edition were soon spent and John returned to weaving in Cambuslang. He and his wife had a son, James, 1835 and a daughter, Elizabeth, in 1837 but by 1841 he had abandoned his family. In the census of that year Margaret can be found in Cambuslang with her two children and supporting herself and her children by working as a cotton winder. She falls out of the records after that though an 1843 memoir of the poet suggests that she was still alive then.

Judging by this memoir which prefaces the collection of Wright’s poems published by his friends in 1843, The whole poetical works of John Wright … with a portrait of the author, and a sketch of his life Wright may have suffered from periods of some form of mental illness exacerbated by heavy drinking. The memoir records two serious incidents when Wright suffered head injuries which could have led to his illness. He died at the age of 38, from bronchitis, probably in the Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, if we take at face value the fact that one of the men who arranged his funeral was Mr Brown ‘of the Royal Infirmary’.

 

 
Back to top
sexgynge //