Trust appealing for cash for replacement for stolen memorial to Borders poet near Hawick

A monument to Borders poet Will Henry Ogilvie stolen almost three years ago could soon be replaced with an exact replica, thanks to admirers of his here and in Australia.

By Joseph Anderson, local democracy reporter
Monday, 27th May 2019, 2:42 pm
The Will H Ogilvie memorial at Roberton as it was.
The Will H Ogilvie memorial at Roberton as it was.

The Will H Ogilvie Memorial Trust, a charity promoting the work of the Borders-born poet, has been working to replace a bronze sculpture formerly to be seen alongside the Hawick to Roberton Hill road ever since it was stolen in July or August 2016.

The sculpture, of a book inscribed with his poems and travels in Australia, was never recovered, but luckily an exact copy had previously been made by Antipodean admirers of Ogilvie’s work.

Using 3D modelling software, a replica has now been made of the Australian sculpture and it is due to be unveiled just after the 150th anniversary of the poet’s birth on August 16, 1869.

The Will H Ogilvie memorial at Roberton as it is now.

The memorial trust has now made an application to Hawick’s common good fund to fund the siting of the sculpture at a new site near the top of Harden Glen.

An application from the trust’s chairperson, Ian Landles, reads: “The original Will H Ogilvie Memorial Committee, set up in 1993, worked extremely hard and with the generosity of the Border public eventually raised sufficient funds to commission one of Scotland’s finest sculptors, Hawick’s William Landles, to create a marvellously evocative memorial, which was unveiled on the hill road to Roberton 26 years ago.

“The memorial featured a cairn, built from reclaimed stone from the recently demolished Hawick auction mart, surmounted by an open book in bronze which reflected both Will’s Australian and Border periods.

“Sadly, the bronze was stolen in August 2016 and has never been recovered.

Ian Landles in Hawick.

“Fortunately, the efforts of the committee back in the 1990s had come to the ears of Ogilvie enthusiasts in Australia and, not to be outdone, they commissioned Bill Landles to produce an exact copy of our cairn for Bourke in New South Wales.

“By the wonders of modern technology, laser images have been taken of the Australian cairn, which has enabled Beltane Studios in Peebles to create an exact replica of the stolen bronze, and this is the memorial we hope to unveil on a new site near the top of Harden Glen on August 17.

“The cost of this replacement bronze is £5,400, and paying for it has taken all the money the trust had accumulated for our 150th anniversary projects.

“As a result, we are unable to pay for the building of the replacement cairn.”

The trust is asking for £2,000 from Hawick’s common good fund, and its application is due to be discussed tomorrow, May 28.

The replacement of the memorial cairn will not be the only event taking place in the Borders to mark the 150th anniversary of Ogilvie’s birth as the the Ex-Kelso Laddies’ Club is also lining up a tribute.

The organisation is planning on marking the 150th anniversary of his birth by erecting a memorial stone at his Holefield birthplace, west of Kelso.

Mr Landles said: “There are several events taking place in and around Kelso.

“On Friday, July 19, a new memorial stone at Holefield, the poet’s birthplace, will be unveiled by the Kelso Laddie.

“On the return from the next day’s Yetholm rideout, the main ride of Kelso Civic Week, the laddie will unveil the new Will H Ogilvie Way street sign, and at the end of the ride an Ogilvie poem will be recited in the square, the plan being to henceforward make this innovation a feature of the annual event.

“The highlight of the year will be the anniversary weekend. Friday, August 16, will see the opening of a Will H Ogilvie exhibition at the heritage hub in Hawick and the launch of the reprinted Whaup o’ the Rede.

“This will be followed by a special performance of Well Road Production’s ‘Will’ in the Heart of Hawick theatre.

“On Saturday, August 17, there will be a gathering to witness the unveiling of the new memorial cairn at the top of Harden Glen, near Hawick, where an oration will be given by ex-Langholm cornet Billy Young.

“On Sunday, August 18, there will be a church Service in Ashkirk Kirk.”

As a young man, Ogilvie travelled to Australia, working on sheep farms and rising to prominence as a bush poet before eventually settling back in the Borders near Ashkirk.

He carried on his literary work there and wrote The Land We Love, a love letter to the Borders, and Ettrick, since set to music and still sung during the annual Selkirk Common Riding.

Ogilvie died in 1963 at the age of 93.

The stolen Horn Hill cairn, inscribed with lines from his poem The Road to Roberton, was unveiled by his son George in August 1993 to mark the 30th anniversary of his death.