About this artwork

This closely-observed portrait of the Haddington farmer and song-writer was painted by his son whose work is also represented in the National Gallery of Scotland's collection by pastel portraits of exceptional refinement. Adam Skirving is best known as the author of 'Hey Johnnie Cope', written to taunt Lieutenant-General Sir John Cope after his defeat by the Jacobites at the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745. Apart from writing ballads, Skirving did not play an active role in the rising.

  • title: Adam Skirving, 1719 - 1803. Song writer; author of 'Hey, Johnnie Cope'
  • accession number: PG 596
  • artist: Archibald SkirvingScottish (1749 - 1819)
  • depicted: Adam Skirving
  • gallery: Paxton House
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: Music
  • materials: Oil on canvas
  • date created: About 1770
  • measurements: 76.20 x 62.90 cm
  • credit line: Bequeathed by David Ainslie 1901

Archibald Skirving

Archibald Skirving

Skirving was born near Haddington, East Lothian. After being educated locally, he began work as a junior clerk at the Customs Office in Edinburgh. It is thought that Skirving also studied at the Trustees' Academy in the city at the same time, while painting miniatures at night. By the end of 1777 Skirving decided to move to London to work as a professional artist. After some success, he returned to Edinburgh in the mid 1780s before spending seven working in Rome from 1787.