Local feast for a local poet

Kelso poet, Will Ogilvie .
Kelso poet, Will Ogilvie .

ORGANISERS of the first Will Ogilvie night this Saturday hope the event can be turned into an annual celebration across the Borders.

A sold-out Eckford Village Hall will enjoy a three-course meal, speeches, recitations and music in an alternative Burns Night for the Kelso poet.

Among those providing entertainment will be author, broadcaster and recently elected St Andrew’s University rector, Alistair Moffat.

Eckford Village Hall Trust chairperson Sheila Campbell, who will also perform, said: “The Will Ogilvie night really spun out of the launch of the refurbished hall when two or three guys got together and discussed how Will Ogilvie is not recognised in the same way as someone like Robbie Burns.

“They decided to go ahead and have a Will Ogilvie night to celebrate his work in the same style as a Burns Night.

“It was thought that if we are celebrating a local poet, we should eat local produce and the entertainment should come from people from the Borders.

“The hope is that this can become an annual event and groups who already enjoy Ogilvie’s work could see this and put on a similar kind of night.”

Born in 1869 at Holefield near Kelso, Ogilvie became a well respected poet and writer.

As a young man, he spent 12 years in Australia where he became famous as a poet of the outback.

His work describing life in rural Australia was heavily influenced by the Border ballads and, on his return to the region in 1901, he continued to write prolifically. Much of his work focused on the Borders, its landscape and history – perhaps best reflected in his famous poem, The Raiders. Since his death, in 1963, a memorial cairn has been erected in 1993 on the hillside road to Roberton where Ogilvie’s ashes were scattered.

A replica cairn has since been built in New South Wales, and he has memorials in South Australia and Queensland.

Despite these lasting legacies, Sheila is hopeful that the Eckford event can spur greater recognition of Ogilvie.

She added: “I write poetry myself and am a fan of The Raiders. The Hillroad to Roberton is a popular choice and I am sure it will be heard on Saturday.

“People perform Ogilvie material but it doesn’t seem to resonate back to him so we want to highlight the fact that is it Will Ogilvie they are reciting.”

The refurbishment of Eckford Village Hall, founded in 1930 by the Duke of Buccleuch, has made it a much more welcoming and attractive venue for events such as Saturdays, according to Sheila.

“The hall has an air-to-air heating system which we believe to be the first in the Borders, and that has given it a fantastic warmth and atmosphere.

“We also have facilities now which mean it can be used for more than one event with a meeting room and disabled facilities alongside the main hall.”

Others on Saturday’s bill include Hawick’s Ian Landles, who was one of the first members of the Will Ogilvie Memorial Committee in 1991, alongside Jim Chisholm, Joan and Rachel Fraser and David Grant.

The Will Ogilvie night is sold out, but anyone wishing to add their name to a reserve list can do so by contacting Norman Fraser 01835 850213 or Charlie Robertson 01835 850203.