Alexander Wilson was apprenticed as weaver to his brother-in-law, William Duncan, with whom he would have also resided. His father's Seedhill address was given on the apprenticeship indenture which is dated as having begun on the 31st July, 1779 (Hunter, 1983), lasting for three years. His instructor in the craft of weaving was John Finlayson, a journeyman weaver (Burns, 1910). Henderson (1844) informs us that at the end of his apprenticeship certificate, said to be then in possession of James Clark of Chapel House, Paisley, the following lines are added:
“Be‘t kent to a’ the warld in rhyme,
That wi’ right meikle wark an’ toil,
For three lang years I’ve ser’t my time,
Whiles feasted wi’ the hazel oil.
So here we see an early example of verse by a youthful Wilson, one that shows some wit and grim humour; the reference to hazel oil being to the use of a hazel wand for correction purposes whilst indentured.
The selection of poems opposite follows the system used in Grosart's edition where a small letter denotes the original source. Thus:
(a) — The author's edition of 1790.
(b) — The edition of 1791.
(c) — The edition of 1816.
(d) — Published separately.
(e) — American periodicals.
(f) — Provincial Scottish magazines.
(g) — Ornithology.
(h) — MSS in Paisley Museum.