Robert Mennon – The Ayton Bard

Robert Mennon         1797 – 1885

Robert Mennon, known as the ‘Ayton Bard’ was born on 29th April 1797 at Ayton where his father worked as a slater and glazier. After a simple education at the Parish School, Mennon proceeded to London in 1824 where he made his home for 26 years.

In 1828 he married Sarah Bridges who had been a domestic servant with his employer. The union lasted for 48 years until her death in Ayton in 1876. After 19 successful years, he retired and settled into his native village where he died on 30th January 1885 in the same house in which he had been born 87 years before.

Robert Mennon began early in life to cultivate the writing of verse and in 1869 he issued a massive collection of his work entitled Poems, Moral and Religious which had wide circulation. He was a man of genuine piety, a keen observer of nature, of lively and cheerful disposition, racy and good humoured in conversation, a most agreeable companion, full of sage counsel and kindly warm hearted encouragement.

His poetical productions are not of the highest merit, but they are generally pleasing and show the writer to have been a man of refined feeling and a good example of an honest, God-fearing and patriotic Scot.

Extracted from the Minstrelsy of the Merse

Among his most famous poems was The Whoopers of Ayton, which was dedicated to the people of Ayton. (Residents of Ayton at this time were known around the district as Whoopers or Whuppers).

Our information is that, to qualify as a Whooper, one’s parents and grandparents had to have been born and lived in Ayton.

Thanks to Ayton Local History Society for providing us with a copy of the song.

The Whoopers of Ayton                               Tune – “Paddy’s Wedding”

For lasses mony blythe an’ bonny
Set a’ our hearts a beating, o,
Wi lad’s o’ fame proud o’ the name
O’ the famous Whoopers of Ayton, o.

To be a bard is unco hard,
Whan kent by a’ around ye, o,
Ane’s native place ’tis a’ disgrace,
’Twill strive aye to confound ye, o.
But if I can I’ll try a plan
Anent their spleen defeator, o,
An’ raise to fame the far-kent name
O’ the famous Whoopers of Ayton, o.
Chorus
To sing the praise of former days
When Ayton’s drolls were mony, o,
Wad tak a muse wi’ brighter views
Mare joksom queer, an’ funny, o.
There’s Wattenston wha’ cared for nane,
McDugal fam’d for dancin’, o:
Renown’d Mark Ranks for funny pranks,
An’ Petery for romancin’, o.
Chorus
Auld nicky-tripe wi’ cully-pipe
Self-praise was a’ his glory, o;
An’ Tailor prick wi’ stilt an stick
Wha ne’er curtail’d a story, o.
An’ Tibby Bird, wha’ ne’er was stir’d
Although she pray’d wi’ fervour, o ;
An’ Peggy Nott nane ere did bloat
For fear the want should starne her, o,!
Chorus
Surroundin’ parts wi’ spitefu’ hearts
Wad fain eclipse our glory, o:
An’ aften try’d, an’ were defied
As tauld in ancient story, o.
But let them come; they’ll find there’s some
Wha claim that appellation, o
Wha’s mony arts or mental parts
Command approbation, o.
Chorus
It is their praise aloft to raise
By which to gain their favour, o:
But as I claim a kindred frame
Some folks may say; “ye waver, o”.
But ‘tis weel kend, though never pen’d,
Ans aften been remarket, o;
Where e’er they be, they bear the gree
At Kirk, at ball, or market, o.
Chorus
Then let us toast wha rule the roast,
Success to a’ our lasses, o,
An’ if ye be a Whooper free,
Be sure tak’ aff your glasses, o.
For while we can lift up our han’
To the hole below our noses, o!
Nae grief or care except the Fair,
Shall ever discompose us, o.
Chorus