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Alison Cockburn

(Alison Rutherford)

1713 - 1794

Poetess, songwriter and socialite. Born Alison Rutherford at Fairnilee House, in the Scottish Borders, between Galashiels and Selkirk. She married an advocate, Patrick Cockburn, in 1731 and became the 'Queen' of Edinburgh society for more than 60 years, at the centre of a circle of notables of the Scottish Enlightenment. Her best known lyric is a version of The Flowers of the Forest, which lamented a financial crisis suffered by a number of Selkirk Lairds, written c.1731 and published in 1765. She was a great friend of David Hume (1711-76). In 1777, she described the young Walter Scott (1771 - 1832) as 'the most extraordinary genius of a boy' and in 1786 met Robert Burns (1759-96), whom she described as having 'a most enthusiastic heart of love'.

Cockburn is buried in the kirkyard of Buccleuch Parish Church in Edinburgh.

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