Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Maclachlan, Ewen

MACLACHLAN, EWEN (1775–1822), Gaelic poet and scholar, born in 1775 at Torracaltin, Fort William, was educated at the parish school of Kilmallie, and subsequently employed by neighbouring families as private tutor. In youth he was very poor and had to struggle hard for the means of education. In 1796 he was brought under the notice of the chief of Glengarry, who paid the necessary expenses to enable him to attend university classes at Aberdeen. He had a distinguished university record, and when he graduated in 1800 he was awarded a royal bursary, the gift of the lords of the treasury, and entered the Divinity Hall. On the recommendation of his friend Dr. Beattie he became librarian at King's College and one of the masters at the Old Aberdeen grammar school. The death of Dr. Beattie hindered his promotion, but in 1819 he became headmaster of the grammar school, which position he held until his death. In Aberdeen he also held the appointments of session clerk and treasurer to the parish of Old Machar, and was secretary to the Highland Society of the city. He had always been a hardworking student, and his health broke while he was yet young. He died from overwork in Aberdeen on 29 March 1822. He is buried in his native glen, where a monument has been erected to his memory.

Maclachlan's poems are few, but of high merit. In 1798 he helped Allan MacDougall [q. v.] to publish a small volume of poems, and as MacDougall's own work was not then sufficient to make a book, Maclachlan added some of his. While a student at Aberdeen he wrote some excellent Greek and Latin verses, winning the prize for a Greek ode. A poem on the Duke of Wellington, which he submitted for a competition in Latin verse, though unsuccessful, was afterwards published (1808), and according to a manuscript note attached to the copy in the British Museum, written by Dr. Irving, author of 'The Poetry of Scotland,' who had met Maclachlan, both Principal Brown and Professor Beattie voted the verses the best in the competition. In 1807 a small volume of verse, 'Attempts in Verse,' was published in Aberdeen, containing work in English, Greek, and Latin, and in 1816 another volume, 'Metrical Effusions,' appeared. At odd times Maclachlan had been translating the 'Iliad' into Gaelic, and on his death had completed seven books. Part of this, with other verses by him, appeared in Patrick Macfarlane's 'Choice Collection of Gaelic Poems.' He was appointed by the Highland Society of Scotland to assist the Rev. John Macleod, D.D. 1757-1841 [q. v.], with the 'Gaelic Dictionary,' published in 1828. Maclachlan was engaged on the Gaelic-English part of the dictionary, but he died before his manuscript was far advanced.

[Reid's Bibliotheca Scoto-Celtiea, pp. 60, 84; Mackenzie's Beauties of Gaelic Poetry, p. 321; Blackie's Language and Literature of the Scottish Highlands, p. 261; MacNeill's Literature of the Highlands, p. 272; Rogers's Modern Scottish Minstrel, vol. ii.; Introduction to the Gaelic Dictionary of the Highland Society of Scotland, p. xiii.]

J. B. M.