David Mallet (c. 1700- ),
“Wi' haffit locks sae smooth and sleek,
John look'd like ony ancient Greek.”
History often treats individuals cruelly. The passage of time frequently pushes individuals out of our perspective into comparative obscurity. In the annals of Crieff, the name of David Mallett is now virtually forgotten. Mallett’s real surname was Malloch and it was only when resident in London did metropolitan pressure decide him to soften the pronunciation by changing it to the former. His origins seem to be in doubt. One school of thought claims he was the son of an innkeeper in Crieff born about 1700. Malloch’s Inn was the Pretoria of its day and indeed was located close to its modern counterpart. These Malloch’s were connected to Rob Roy and it was a favourite haunt of the outlaw when he visited the town on business during the Michaelmas Tryst.
Malloch was educated in Crieff before moving on to Aberdeen and then to Edinburgh where after a short menial spell as a janitor at the High School of Edinburgh, he landed the position as an unpaid tutor to the family of a Mr Home of Dreghorn. His ambition led him to a similar position to the family of the Duke of Montrose but with a salary of £30 per annum. Eventually he moved with the family to London where his poetic propensities began to flourish and he found himself associating with such notables as Alexander Pope and Frederick, Prince of Wales. Another of his friends was fellow poet and Roxburgh born Scot, James Thomson. It is commonly believed Thomson was the author of Rule Britannia that beloved anthem of the Prom last nighters but more than one literary authority claims that was Malloch (aka Mallett) who was in fact its composer.
Mallett was not averse to dirty deeds. The Duchess of Marlborough left him a £1000 as a bequest plus a pension for life to write the memoirs of the Duke. On Mallett’s death it was discovered that not a word had been written! He maligned the memory of his old friend Pope as well as ascertaining the cowardice of Admiral Byng in battle. Byng was subsequently court marshalled and shot for cowardice despite public opinion being on his side. Mallett received yet another pension. Samuel Johnson wrote a strong piece of vengeful sarcasm about Mallett and his fawning admiration of the two faced politician Viscount Bolingbroke. “ Bolingbroke was a scoundrel and a coward – a scoundrel to charge a blunderbuss against Christianity and a coward, because he durst not fire it himself, but left a shilling to a beggarly Scotsman to draw the trigger after his death “
On reflection, the obscurity of the memory of this son of Crieff is perhaps, understandable.