|Activity||He was the son of John Herd, farmer, of Balmakelly, in the parish of Marykirk, Kincardineshire. He became a clerk in the office of David Russell, accountant in Edinburgh. His quiet bachelor life admitted of studious leisure, and he was a trusted adviser of Constable, the publisher, and other literary friends. He was popular in society, and as ‘Sir Scrape’ he was for a time president of the somewhat fantastic Cape Club, which was literary as well as convivial and had many distinguished members. In 1772, on Herd's initiative, Robert Fergusson, the poet was enrolled among the Cape knights, and in his ‘Auld Reikie’ he eulogises the club. Herd sometimes dates his letters from John Dowie's tavern, in Liberton's Wynd, a social resort visited both by Fergusson and Burns. Here the assembled worthies talked, ‘and enjoyed a bottle of ale and a “saut-herring”’. |
He died on 25 June 1810, aged 78. He was buried in Buccleuch parish churchyard, Edinburgh.
Herd's curious library was dispersed by auction. According to the notice in the ‘Scots Magazine’ Herd did much miscellaneous writing. But his single separate publication is the ‘Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, &c., collected from Memory, Tradition, and Ancient Authors,’ 2 vols., Edinburgh, 1776. An anonymous collection, in one volume, had appeared in 1769, and in the 1776 preface Herd calls that ‘the first edition of this collection.’ Sir Walter Scott calls this 'the first classical collection of Scottish songs and ballads'.