Alexander was the elder of the two. He was born in 1804, being eight years older than John. In 1813 they removed to Lochend -- near the Loch of Lindores and Alexander, who was then nine years old, began work in the fields. John became an apprentice weaver at Collessie and in 1825 set up a loom in the house at Lochend and took his brother as an apprentice. This enterprise did not succeed and they resumed agricutural work at the rate of a shilling a day. Then Alexander managed to get employment at a quarry only to be seriously injured in an explosion in 1829. He regained his health but was injured again three years later -- this time he was to remain permanently crippled.
In spite of their complete lack of education and the hardship of their lives, the brothers wrote prolifically and by 1831 John had made a reputation for himself by contributing to several periodicals of the time --and notably was among those who wrote for 'Tales of the Borders". In 1838 Alexander wrote "Tales and Sketches of Scottish Peasantry".
In 1837 the brothers decided to build a house for their aged parents and with barely enough money to purchase wood, lime and other materials, they built Bethune Cottage, almost entirely unaided. Unfortunately only a year later, John who had not been robust succumbed completely to ill health and could labour no more. For a time he lived successfully on the fruits of his literary work but his health declined still further and he became unable to write.
The brothers had worked jointly on a book called "Lectures on Practical Economy" which was published in Edinburgh. They had hopes for this work which were sadly disappointed as it was a failure. This for John was the final disappointment in a life of weary toil. He became morbidly misanthropic and died in 1839, only 27 years old.
After his death, Alexander published his brothers poems, and a biographical sketch of his life. Ironically it was a success and was rapidly into a second edition. Through the success of this work Alexander was offered the editorship of "the Dumfries Standard", but success alas had come too late. His own ill health stopped him from accepting the post and he finally died four years after his brother in 1843.