Mystery over author of poem is resolved

The identity of the author of a mystery poem found stuck in an old book has been firmly established as that of famous Borders poet, Will Ogilvie.

Friday, 25th July 2014, 2:49 pm
Ian Forbes, who lives in Perth, Australia, was brought up in Selkirk. Pictured here with a book containing a poem by Will Ogilvie that hadn't been credited to him. Photograph taken in Selkirk Market Place.

The book, a first edition copy of Ogilvie’s ‘Rainbows and Witches’, published in 1907, was bought from a Borders seller via the eBay online auction website by Ian Forbes, from Port Fairy in Victoria, Australia.

Ian, who hails originally from Edinburgh, but whose parents were from Selkirk, is a well-known expert on Ogilvie’s life and work.

Last year, retired marine engineer Ian, who has lived in Australia for 44 years, featured in another story in The Southern after settling a century-old outstanding debt of Ogilvie’s at a sports club in a remote town in the Australian outback.

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Ogilvie, born near Kelso in 1869, lived in Australia for over a decade, and is famous across the continent for his outback poetry and ranks alongside such iconic bush writers as Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant, Henry Lawson and Waltzing Matilda author, ‘Banjo’ Paterson.

“The book is a work of Ogilvie’s which I did not have in my collection at home. This copy was on eBay and I bought it for £59 from a seller somewhere here in the Borders area,” said Ian, who returns to Scotland every year to visit relatives and attend the jazz festival in Edinburgh.

“When I opened it I found this poem, ‘For Mother’ on a typed sheet stuck in the back and it had Ogilvie’s name typed at the bottom,” Ian told The Southern this week.

The fly-leaf was also inscribed with a hand-written message dedicating the book to a Mrs Mann by ‘the author’.

However, Ian was puzzled: “To my knowledge Ogilvie never used a typewriter or a fountain pen and that, to the end of his days, stuck to using a pen and a bottle of ink.

“I’d also never heard of this particular poem and very few people in Australia had either.”

Ian had brought the book with him on his visit to Scotland last year and showed the poem to people in the Borders but none had heard of it.

And it was not until Ian was speaking to a fellow Ogilvie enthusiast in Australia that things took an interesting turn.

“I’d said to her that if she ever came across this poem ‘For Mother’ to let me know. She said she thought she had a copy of it somewhere.

“Then, about three days later, an envelope arrived with photocopy of her own copy. It turned out she had bought about 150 copies of this old school newspaper produced by the education department of Victoria in the early years of the last century.

“And on the front of one from 1910 was this poem and a photograph of Ogilvie and that was the definitive proof that this poem was indeed one of his, which was fantastic.”