A Snowy Tale – an Allanach couple featured in a Winter’s tale from the 1820s

There are two Allanachs featured in the Sergeant Cameron story in Tales of the Glen by renowned Scottish poet Joseph Grant.

Joseph Grant

Grant was born 26 May 1805 at his father’s farm of Affrusk in Kincardineshire. As a child he was employed on the farm in the summer, and during the winter picked up what learning he could at a village school. When only fourteen he began to write verses. In 1831 he was engaged as assistant to a shopkeeper at Stonehaven, and afterwards was employed as a clerk at Dundee, first in the office of the Guardian newspaper, and then in that of a writer to the signet. He died 14 April 1835 at Affrusk.

There is a memorial to him in the graveyard at Strachan, Aberdeenshire ‘Erected by his father and mother, Robert and Isabel Grant’. It is inscribed ‘In memory of Joseph Grant, author of Tales of the Glens and other pieces in prose and verse, who died 14 April 1835 aged 30 years.

Grant’s poems were mainly written in Scots, but some are in English. Besides tales and sketches contributed to Chambers’s Journal between 1830 and 1835, he published:

  • ‘Juvenile Lays,’; 1828.
  • ‘Kincardineshire Traditions,’ 1830, in verse.

At the time of his death he was preparing Tales of the Glens: with Ballads and Songs. This collection was published in 1836, ‘with a memoir of the author by R. Nicoll.’

Allanachs featured in ‘Tales of the Glens’

The identity of the Allanachs featured remains a mystery but there are a couple of likely candidates. Joseph Grant based Tales of the Glens on his experiences of when he was a 14 year old boy, so we would need an Alexander (or Sandy) Allanach who was married at this point and aged 25 years old (or appearing so). Alexander Allanach (1784-1841), son of Duncan Allanach and Sophie Allanach is one possible candidate. Alexander, son of John, born in 1783 is another.

Tales of the Glen by Joseph Grant


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