Nairne, Carolina (1766–1845)

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Nairne, Carolina (1766–1845)

Scottish poet and songwriter. Name variations: Lady Caroline Nairne; Carolina Oliphant; Baroness Nairne; (pseudonyms) B.B., Mrs. Bogan of Bogan, and Scottish Minstrel. Born Carolina Oliphant on August 16, 1766, at Gask in Perthshire, Scotland; died on October 26, 1845, at Gask; daughter of Laurence Oliphant and Margaret (Robertson) Oliphant; married Major William Murray Nairne, later 5th Baron of Nairne, in 1806 (died 1829); children: William Nairne (1808–1837).

Selected works:

"Charlie Is My Darling"; "Land o' The Leal"; "Caller Herrin"; "The Hundred Pipers"; "Will Ye No Come Back Again?"; "The Laird o' Cockpen"; "John Tod"; "Bonnie Charlie's noo awa"; Lays From Strathearn (1846); Life and Songs (1869).

Baroness Carolina Nairne was born in 1766 at Gask in Perthshire, Scotland, to a family with a paternal lineage going back to Scottish royalty. An attractive, well-mannered girl known as "pretty Miss Car" and "the Flower of Strathearn," young Carolina could also dance, sing, and play so well she earned the attention of Neil Gow, the eminent Scottish fiddler. Her first lyric, "The Pleuchman" (plowman), written in 1792, was inspired by the poet Robert Burns, whom she read often and to whose work her own would later be compared.

In 1798, she traveled with her brother to England, where she wrote what is possibly her most famous lyric, "Land o' The Leal," a song about homesickness. In 1806, she married her cousin, Major William Murray Nairne, who in 1824 would become the fifth baron of Nairne. Although Carolina was an excellent lyricist and wrote many celebrated Jacobite songs and humorous ballads, William never knew it. Due, as it has been said, to her shyness, she wrote in complete anonymity, under the name "B.B." (Mrs. Bogan of Bogan), and even her editors did not know her true identity. A collection that included Scottish melodies for which she wrote words as well as her own original songs was published with the author listed as "Scottish Minstrel." Of her talent, one author remarked that in "vivacity, genuine pathos and bright wit her songs are surpassed only by Burns," and she is also frequently ranked with James Hogg. Among her most popular Jacobite songs were "The Hundred Pipers," "Wha'll be King but Charlie?" and "Charlie is my darling," which was still a well-known folk song in the 20th century.

Nairne and her husband had one child, William, in 1808, and thereafter she dedicated most of her energy to educating her frail son. In 1823, she found him the best tutors she could, and later traveled with him to European resorts, hoping to improve his health. Her husband died in 1829, and her son died in Brussels in 1837, after which she soothed herself by traveling for several years. In 1843, Nairne suffered a stroke but carried on with church and charity work as anonymously as she had written. Shortly before her death in 1845, she agreed to permit publication of her poems—again, anonymously. They appeared in 1846 as Lays From Strathearn. A later edition, which included a memoir of Nairne, was published in 1869 as Life and Songs.


The Concise Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Kunitz, Stanley J., and Howard Haycraft, eds. British Authors of the Nineteenth Century. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1936.

Jacquie Maurice , freelance writer, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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