Bruce, Michael


b Kinnesswood, Portmoak, Kinross 1746, d Kinnesswood 1767. The son of Alexander Bruce, a Scottish weaver who was an elder of the seceding church whose founder Ebenezer Erskine had ministered at Portmoak 1703–29. After schooling at Kinnesswood in which he showed early brilliance and spiritual understanding, Michael studied at the Univ of Edinburgh from 1762 with a view to ordination, supporting himself by school-teaching in the summer months at Gairney Bridge and For(r)est Mill nr Alloa. But his health was never robust; his theological study at Kinross was cut short, and he succumbed to TB at the age of 21. He had already written several hymns and other verse for the singing class in his home town of Kinnesswood, some of which (like Elegy of Spring, in the year of his death) show a premonition of tragedy. The disputed authorship of some of his poems when they appeared in print some years later is mentioned in the notes to the one hymn which has endured, and which appears in some two dozen current books. The editor John Logan (qv) claimed Bruce’s work as his own, but seems to have done no more than tidy their final shape. See the fuller notes in Julian and (eg) the Irish Companion to Church Hymnal, 2005. Another hymn, O happy is the man who hears, also reached Scottish, Irish and N American collections until the early 20th c. He has been dubbed ‘Loch Leven’s gentle poet’ from his birthplace at the foot of the Lomond hills; he has a brief chapter in Christian Hymn-writers (1982) by Elsie Houghton, who notes that his monument in Portmoak churchyard was erected by the minister Dr Mackelvie, paid for from the sales of his edition of Bruce’s poems. Dr Mackelvie and David Arnot, the father of MB’s school friend William who died at an even younger age, were his greatest encouragers. No.501, 564.

Hymns and songs by Bruce, Michael

Number Hymn Name
501 Where high the heavenly temple stands
564 Behold, the mountain of the Lord