Born: March 27, 1746, Kin­ness­wood, Kin­ross­shire, Scot­land.

Died: Ju­ly 5, 1767, Kin­ness­wood, Kin­ross­shire, Scot­land.

Buried: Port­moak Church­yard, Kin­ross­shire, Scot­land.


His Life

Son of a weav­er, Bruce re­ceived his ed­u­ca­tion at the vil­lage school, Ed­in­burgh Un­i­ver­si­ty, and the The­o­lo­gic­al Hall of the As­so­ci­ate Sy­nod at Kin­ross, un­der John Swan­ston. To sup­port him­self dur­ing this per­i­od, he con­duct­ed a school dur­ing re­cess at Gair­field Bridge and lat­er at For­est­mill, near Til­li­coul­try.

He al­so pro­vid­ed the sing­ing class at Kin­ness­wood a num­ber of piec­es which his fa­ther re­ferred to as Go­spel Son­nets. Bruce died be­fore com­plet­ing his stu­dies.

The Lo­gan Cont­ro­ver­sy

Shortly af­ter Bruce’s death, John Lo­gan, two years young­er than Bruce, whom he had met in Ed­in­burgh, pro­cured from Bruce’s fa­ther the man­u­script vol­ume of Mi­chael’s po­ems, which he pro­mised to pub­lish.

In 1770, Poems on Sev­er­al Oc­ca­sions, by Mi­chael Bruce ap­peared, con­tain­ing sev­en­teen of Bruce’s se­cu­lar po­ems, in­clud­ing the fa­mous Ode to the Cuck­oo. The vol­ume was ed­it­ed by John Lo­gan, who had be­come the Min­is­ter of South Leith.

Bruce’s fa­ther com­plained that the “Gos­pel Son­nets” were not in­clud­ed, and asked for the man­u­script back, but re­ceived no re­ply. The fa­ther went to vi­sit Lo­gan, who re­plied he feared that the ser­vants had singed fowls with it. On­ly a few scraps of the man­u­script were re­turned.

In 1781, Lo­gan pub­lished Po­ems. By the Rev. Mr. Lo­gan, One of the Min­is­ters of Leith un­der his own name. This vol­ume in­clud­ed sev­er­al of Bruce’s po­ems from the ear­li­er vol­ume, in­clud­ing Ode to the Cuck­oo and a num­ber of sac­red po­ems.

Many of Bruce’s class­mates, as well as his bro­ther James, re­cog­nized the po­ems as those they had sung un­der Bruce be­fore his death. In ad­di­tion, Lo­gan had re­cast a num­ber of these po­ems to be in­clud­ed in Scott­ish Trans­la­tions and Par­a­phras­es in the same year.

This re­sult­ed in a law­suit which com­pelled Lo­gan to re­sign his post at Leith and move to Lon­don, where he had to sup­port him­self sole­ly by his own pen.



† Re­cast by James Log­an in Scot­tish Trans­la­tions and Par­a­phras­es, ac­cord­ing to re­search by Mack­el­vie (Life of Bruce, 1837) and Gross­art (Works of Bruce, 1865)

‡ Attributed to Bruce by Gross­art

Help Needed

If you know where to get a good pic­ture of Bruce (head-and-shoul­ders, at least 200×300 pix­els), would you ?