Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dunlop, John (1755-1820)

DUNLOP, JOHN (1755–1820), song-writer, born November 1755, was the youngest son of Provost Colin Dunlop of Carmyle in the parish of Old Monkland, Lanarkshire. He began life as a merchant, and was lord provost of Glasgow in 1796. He lived at Rosebank, near Glasgow, a property which he planted and beautified. Early in the eighteenth century it came into the possession of Provost Murdoch, and through his daughter, Margaret, it fell to her son-in-law, John Dunlop. He was appointed collector of customs at Borrowstounness, whence he was afterwards removed to Port Glasgow. An active-minded man, he is described as ‘a merchant, a sportsman, a mayor, a collector, squire, captain and poet, politician and factor.’ His humour and social qualities made him sought after. He sang well and wrote songs, some of which show a graceful lyrical faculty and are still popular. ‘Oh dinna ask me gin I lo'e ye’ is perhaps the best known, and with ‘Here's to the year that's awa’ is often included in collections of Scottish poetry. These and two others by him are in the ‘Modern Scottish Minstrel’ (1857, v. 77–81) of Dr. C. Rogers. Dunlop was also known as a writer of monumental and other inscriptions. He was a leading member of the convivial Hodge Podge Club in Glasgow, for which some of his verses were composed (J. Strang, Glasgow and its Clubs, 2nd edit. 1857, pp. 43–6, 50, 53). In figure he was a ‘hogshead,’ but ‘as jolly a cask as ere loaded the ground.’ In 1818 he edited for a son of Sir James and Lady Frances Steuart some letters to them from Lady Mary W. Montagu, since reprinted by Lord Wharncliffe. He printed for private circulation a couple of volumes of his occasional pieces, and his son, John Colin Dunlop [q. v.], the author of the ‘History of Fiction,’ edited a volume of his poems in 1836. According to the statement of the Rev. Charles Rogers, four volumes of poetry in manuscript are in existence (Notes and Queries, 5th ser. iv. 435). He died at Port Glasgow 4 Sept. 1820, aged 65 (Scots Magazine, October 1820, p. 383).

His works are: 1. ‘Poems on several Occasions,’ Greenock, 1817–19, 2 vols. 8vo (only ten copies, privately printed; one is in the Abbotsford Library). 2. ‘Original Letters from the Right Hon. Lady Mary W. Montagu to Sir James and Lady Frances Steuart, and Memoirs and Anecdotes of those distinguished Persons,’ 12mo, Greenock, 1818 (privately printed). 3. ‘Poems on several Occasions from 1793 to 1816,’ 8vo, Edinburgh, 1836 (only fifty copies privately printed by J. Colin Dunlop). Not one of these three works is in the British Museum.

[G. Stewart's Curiosities of Glasgow Citizenship, 1881, pp. 201–2; Martin's Catalogue of Privately Printed Books, 2nd edition, 1854, pp. 232, 243, 463; Coltness Collections (Maitland Club), 1842, pp. xxi, 310, 383, 388; Letters to Lady Steuart and G. Chalmers, November 1804, in British Museum, Addit. MS. 22901, ff. 205, 211.]

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