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William Thorn (1798-1848) - Poet

He was born in Justice Port, a slum area of Aberdeen, Scotland, at the end of 1798. The death of his father forced him to leave school at the age of ten, to work in a cotton-weaving factory in a trade that he followed until 1828 when he married and moved to Dundee. In 1831 his marriage broke up and he formed a relationship with jean Whitecross, a Kirriemuir woman, who bore him four children before her death in 1840 and shared with him the financial difficulties caused by the recession in the cotton- weaving industry during the 1830s. Between 1840 and 1844 Thorn lived in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, with Jean Stephens by whom he had three daughters. Thorn started writing poetry in Aberdeen and several of his poems were published in the Aberdeen Journal and the whistle-binkie series, but it was during his Inverurie years that he enjoyed his greatest creativity. In January 1841 his popular and subsequently often anthologized poem The Blind Boy's Pranks was published in the Aberdeen Herald and this was followed by an equally popular poem The Mitherless Bairn. A collection. Rhymes and Recollections of a Handloom Weaver, was published in 1844 and Thorn moved to London, where he was lionized in literary and social circles as the 'weaver poet'. Second and third editions of Rhymes and Recollections appeared in 1845 and 1847 but Thorn dissipated the proceeds from his writing and he died in poverty in Dundee in 1848. Like many others of his day. Thorn lacked any formal education and, despite his comic gifts and firm use of language, he also allowed himself to be swayed by undiscerning critics who preferred his sentimental verse to his grotesque satires, such as Chants for Churls written at the time of The Disruption in the Church of Scotland in 1843. One of his best poems is Whisperings for the Unwashed, a passionate protest against the misery and squalor of factory life. The poems were edited with a biography by William Skinner in 1880.

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