James Logie Robertson was born in Milnathort, at the foot of the Ochils, on 18 September 1846. He attended Orwell Parish School, where at the age of thirteen he became a pupil-teacher, later removing to Edinburgh to continue training for his chosen profession. After some practical experience, he took an MA at Edinburgh University, where he was a distinguished student. He taught boys at Heriot’s and George Watson’s schools in Edinburgh, until 1876, when he transferred to instructing the gentler sex and began a 37-year career as the first English master at Edinburgh Ladies’ College (now The Mary Erskine School).
Logie Robertson’s other career, as a poet, blossomed at the same time, with his first book of poems published in 1878. Included in it was a version of a Horatian ode in Scots, the first of the poems which were going to win him the affection of the poetry-reading public. Robertson took for nom-de-plume ‘Hugh Haliburton’, supposedly a shepherd of the Ochils, and the poems began to appear in The Scotsman in the 1880s; called ‘Hughies’, each new one was eagerly awaited. The real author was delighted to hear that one upland bothy was papered with ‘Hughies’.
Despite believing that Scots was in decline, Logie Robertson, along with Robert Louis Stevenson, can be credited with paving the way for a revival of the vernacular verse tradition. He was responsible for new editions of Ramsay, Burns, and Scott, among others, and in articles contributed regularly to The Scotsman and other periodicals, worked tirelessly to encourage interest in Scottish literature and culture. Prizes are still awarded in his name at the University of Edinburgh and The Mary Erskine School.