Buchan, Peter (DNB00)

BUCHAN, PETER (1790–1854), collector of Scottish ballads, born at Peterhead in 1790, traced his descent from the Comyns, earls of Buchan. His parents discouraged his desire to enter the navy, and an early marriage completely estranged his father. In 1814 he published an original volume of verse (‘The Recreation of Leisure Hours, being Songs and Verses in the Scottish Dialect,' Peterhead, 1814), taught himself copper-plate engraving, and resolved to open a printing-office for the first time at Peterhead. Early in 1816 he went to Edinburgh with an empty purse and ‘a pocketful of flattering introductory letters.’ His kinsman, the Earl of Buchan, sent him to Dr. Charles Wingate at Stirling, Where he learnt the art of printing in the short space of ten days. On his return to Edinhurgh, a gift of 50l. from a friend of the Earl of Buchan enabled him to purchase the business plant of a printing-office, and on 24 March 1816 he set up his press at Peterhead. In 1819 he constructed a new press on an original plan. It was worked with the feet instead of with the hands, and printed as well from stone, copper, and wood as from ordinary type. Buchan also invented an index-machine showing the number of sheets worked off by the press, but an Edinburgh press-maker borrowed this invention, and, taking it to America, never returned it to the inventor. About 1822 Buchan temporarily removed to London, but in 1824 he resettled as a printer at Peterhead. His chief publications were of his own compilation, and the business was prosperous enough to enable Buchan to retire on his capital, and to purchase a small property near Dennyloanhead, Stirlingshire, which he called Buchanstone. A hanissing and expensive lawsuit, however, with the superior landlord, who claimed the minerals on the estate, compelled him to sell the property in 1852. For the next two years he ived in Ireland with a younger son at Stroudhill House, Leitrim. In 1854 he came to London on business, and died there suddenly on 19 Sept. He was buried at Norwood. His eldest son, Charles Forbes Buchan, D.D., became minister of Fordoun, Kincardinesbire, in 1846.

Buchan owes his reputation to his success as a collector and editor of Scottish ballads, and in this work he spent large sums of money. In 1828 appeared in two volumes his ‘Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland, hitherto unpublished, with explanatory notes.’ The book was printed and published for him in Edinburgh. More than forty ballads were printed there for the first time, and many others were published in newly discovered versions. Scott interested himself from the first in Buchan’s labours, and speaks highly nf their value (‘Introductory Remarks on Popular Poetry' (1830), prefixed to later editions of the Border Minstrelsy). In 1834 was advertised a second collection of Buchan’s ‘North Countrie Minstrels,' but Mr. Jerdan apparently purchased Buchan’s manuscript for the Percy Society, and in 1845 James Henry Dixon edited it for that society under the title of ‘Scottish Traditional Versions of Ancient Ballads.'

Buchan’s other works were very numerous, The chief of them were : 1. ‘Annals of Peterhead,’ Peterhead, 1819, 12rno. 2. ‘ An Historical Account of the Ancient and Noble Families of Keiths, Earls Marischals of Scotland,’ n. d., Peterhead. 3. ‘Treatise proving that Brutes have souls and are immortal' Peterhead, 1824. 4. ‘The Peterhead Smugglers of the Last Century ; or, William and Annie, an original melodrama, in three acts,' Edinburgh, 1834. 5. ‘The Eglinton Tournament and Gentlemen Unmasked,' Glasgow, 1839 (republished as ‘Britain’s Beast, her Glory and her Shame; or, a Mirror for all Ranks’). 6. ‘An Account of the Chivalry of the Ancients,' Glasgow, 1840. 7. ‘ Man—Body and Soul-as he was, aa he is, and as he shall be,’ 1849. Buchan was also the author of many detached poems and stories, and of anti-radical political pamphlets, and was a contributor to George Chalmers’s ‘Caledonia.' Two unpublished volumes of his collection of ballads passed shortly before his death to Herbert Ingram, and afterwards to Dr. Charles Mackay. They are now in the British Museum (Add. MSS. 29408-9).

[Anderson's Scottish Nation, iii. 6913; Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border; Brit. Mus. Cat. ; information from Dr. Charles MacKay.]

S. L. L.