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William Pyott (1851-1905)

William Pyott (1851-1905)

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1851 Victorian Poet


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William Pyott (1851-1905)

It  comes as no surprise that Blairgowrie, Rattray and the surrounding area have inspired artists, photographers and poets.

One poet of the Victorian era, William Pyott, lived most of his life in Rattray, and had the first edition of his 'Poems and Songs' published 'in my seventeenth year' as he puts it.  His four line stanzas of rhyming couplets and alternating line rhymes offer some fascinating glimpses of life in the local area at that time.  Born on 29 August 1851 in Ruthven, which, back then, was in Forfarshire, now Angus, William was the youngest of five children born to David Pyott, a native of Blairgowrie, who brought his family back to his home town when William was aged four.  The 1841 Census shows that William's father was employed as an Overseer in a Flax Spinning Mill at Ruthven.  William's mother, Mary Milne, was born in Peterhead, Aberdeenshsire.

The 1861 Census shows William's family living at Keathbank.  That census records the number of rooms in a house with one or more windows.  The Pyott family of seven had one such room.  William's father and four older siblings were all working in the flax mill, while William, aged 9, was at school.

It is known that from around the age of 12 William worked in the mills and that, before that, he had most likely been a 'half-timer' at the school at Craigmill, which was for the children of mill workers, working in the mill from early morning, attending school for a few hours then returning to work in the mill.

By the 1871 Census, William's mother had died, and William, aged 19, and his two older sisters, were still living at Keathbank with their father.  All four were working in the Mill, William as a Lapper's Apprentice.

According to the Glossary of Occupations on Scotlands People website, a Lapper 'worked in textile finishing, folding or doubling the cloth repeatedly upon itself ready for packing'.  William wrote in his poem 'The Dinsome Mill':

'How cheerless to me is the dinsome mill,

With its rayless dust and gloom;

Mair dear to my heart is the wimplin' rill,

And the banks where the wild flowers bloom.'

William Pyott was an admirer of the Rattray Covenanter Donald Cargill and three of his poems relate periods during Cargill's life: 'Cargill in the Tolbooth,' 'Cargill before the Council' and 'Cargill at the Cross of Edinburgh'.

In 1877 William Pyott married Margaret Duff in Blairgowrie and they went on to have three sons and four daughters.  Several addresses around Rattray and Blairgowrie may be associated with William Pyott.  Their first son William was born in 1877 at 7 Wellmeadow, Blairgowrie.  By the time of the 1881 Census William, Margaret and their first three children were living in Back Row, Rattray.  Sadly, two of their children died in infancy, and they are commemorated in  'In the Churchyard' and 'Dannie'.

From around 1883 to 1886 they lived in Victoria Place, Rattray.  By 1891 the family had moved to David Street, Blairgowrie, and William's occupation is recorded as Colporteur i.e. someone employed by a religious society to distribute Bibles and other religious tracts.  By this time William had published his second volume of poems, according to this advertisement:

Dundee weekly News 1891

Poems and Songs

by William Pyott, Rattray

Dundee - W. & D.C. Thomson, Courier Office.

 By 1901 their home was at Ashgrove Cottages, Rattray, and William's occupation is once again a Linen Cloth Lapper.  Ashgrove Cottages provided accommodation for workers at Ashgrove Works.

William Pyott died on 10 December 1905 aged 54.

The Dundee Evening Telegraph on Monday 11 December 1905 announced his death:


Yesterday Mr William Pyott died at the house of his son-in-law, Leslie Street, Blairgowrie, after an illness of only two days' duration.  The deceased was a lapper to trade, but was favourably known as a worshipper and follower of poesy.  He had published two volumes of poetry - rhythmical, flowing, musical verse, hardly rising to heroic heights, but, always pleasingly musical.  His great hero was the Covenanter, Donald Cargill, and to his memory he has indited many stanzas.  The older members of "The Literary" will well remember what a popular speaker he was, his speech being, like his verse, free, easy, and rhythmical.  A prominent minor poet, but a self-effacing man, his death removes a likeable personality from the district.

Used copies of 'Poems and Songs' by William Pyott can sometimes be purchased online.  A reprint version is also available.

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