He was self-taught, beginning his working life as a mason in a stone quarry in Clydesdale. Allegedly his first patron, Colonel Gordon, discovered him in 1817, carving figures of animals in his quarry. His first commissioned work was a figure of Bacchus for the Colonel.
Enough commissions fiollowed to allow him to adopt sculpture as his sole profession.
He set up studio on the edge of a quarry near Lanark, living in nearby Carluke. Early works included "Old Norval", "Falstaff" and "Rob Roy".
In Edinburgh in 1830 he exhibited equestrian statues of the Duke of Wellington, the Duke of Marlborough, Queen Mary and Lord Herries, together with "Robert the Bruce and the Monk". In his home area of Lanark he was commissioned to created a statue of William Wallace.
Around 1825 he took on John Greenshields as an assistant sculptor.