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James Macpherson

Writer and Poet

Writer James Macpherson is buried in the south transept of Westminster Abbey. His grave adjoins that of fellow Scot Robert Adam. The inscription (which has been re-cut) reads:

JAMES MACPHERSON Esqr. M.P. Born at Ruthven county of Inverness, the 27th October 1736. Died 17th February 1796.

He was the son of Andrew Macpherson, a farmer, and his wife Ellen, who were both related to the chief of the clan Macpherson. He was educated in Aberdeen and contributed poems to the Scots Magazine. Touring Scotland he collected manuscripts of native songs and ballads and in 1758 published his poem The Highlander. For a while he lived in America and was later agent in London for John Macpherson, governor general in India. He became Member of Parliament for Camelford in Cornwall. His work Fingal was well received by the public but the authenticity of his Poems of Ossian was questioned by Dr Johnson and others (after James' death a committee found he had inserted passages of his own and greatly edited the Gaelic poems). He died unmarried at his house in Inverness and was buried in the Abbey by his own wish (one of his London residences was near the Abbey). Of his five illegitimate children James succeeded to his estates and Juliet married David Brewster.

Further Reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


27th October 1736


17th February 1796


Writer; poet


South Transept

Memorial Type


James Macpherson
James Macpherson grave

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2020 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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At different times of the day, or in different seasons, the light falling in the Abbey will light up something that you have walked past a million times and never seen before.

Vanessa, Head of Conservation

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