Will H. Ogilvie, Border poet
As Chairman of the Will H Ogilvie Memorial Trust it is my pleasure to welcome you to our new website which we have set up this year as part of our commemoration of the sesqui-centenary of the poet’s birth.
Unassuming Will was arguably the finest poet the Borders has ever produced, Scott and Hogg included. Although greatly respected in Australia he didn’t get the plaudits he deserved from his own countrymen in his lifetime but his legacy lives on and will do for as long as his poetry wings its way down the generations to all who cherish in their hearts a love like his for the Scottish Borderland.
I hope through our website you will come to appreciate Will’s literary genius and derive from his poetry much enjoyment and pleasure.
Ian W Landles BEM
Latest News & Events
Our Will created a hunt for us to find all his poems, and we were up for the challenge. After four long years, the Trustees have amassed a collection of 275 rediscovered poems. While printed in various sources, some over a century ago, very few made it to one of his...read more
2021 Queen's New Year's Honours List 31 December 2020 It is with honour the Will H. Ogilvie Memorial Trust warmly welcomes the recognition of the drive and contributions of one of its foundation trustees and long term secretary-treasurer Mrs Ann Holt with a British...read more
The global coronavirus pandemic has certainly impacted the planned public activities of the Trustees during 2020 (and now 2021). While trustee meetings have been reduced to just telephone calls due to the lockdowns within Scotland and the Borders area, we want...read more
The poetry of Will H Ogilvie
Will H Ogilvie wrote poems on a wide range He is famed for his poems about horses, for his poems about the Australian Outback and, above all, for his poems about his beloved Borderland.
The extracts give only a flavour of the breadth of his work. Printed copies of a number of his poems are available through the bookstore on the website and recitations of nearly 100 of his poems are available on the Well Road Productions website, just follow the links to find them. In 2019, a drive trail was launched which tours round many of the sites that the Will wrote about. This is available as an App for your phone. At each site identified, a recording of the relevant poem is available, together with a musical accompaniment. Just follow the links to start your tour.
Here, then, are a few extracts of Ogilvie’s work. The topic is above the extract, the title of the poem is given below.
Oh! Scotland! Bonny Scotland! In your purple robe arrayed,
You’re my laughing barefoot lover and my tattered gypsy maid,
And I’ll give my chance of fortune if the fates will let us meet
With the billows of the heather on your brown bare feet.
The Barefoot Maid
On Love of the Borders
There’s a spell in this Land of the Marches,
In this Border that gave us our birth,
In this spot where the Heaven’s wide arch is
Spread blue o’er the best of the earth!
‘Tis the shrine where our hearts keep returning
Wherever our feet may be led;
All our love on that altar lies burning,
All our song-wreaths around it are spread!
The Land We Love
On Border Burns
The brown burns of the Border,
They hasten down the vale,
In shallows through the sunlight,
In spates before the gale.
Grey dawn and rosy sunset
Lie mirrored in their breast,
Who call us forth to labour,
And lead us home to rest.
The Brown Burns
On the Cheviot Hills
And here where the kingdoms march and meet,
And Cheviot stands as warder,
Witching and sweet lies under our feet
All the matchless pride of the Border.
On Cheviot’s Shoulder
On the Border Shepherds
The shadows sweep up from the valley, the dark hirples down from the hill;
At the bend of the glen is a cottage and a candle burns bright on the sill;
Now the snowflakes may break from the purple, the snow-clouds roll up from the sea,
For the ewes are all bonnily bielded and home beckons Laddie and me.
On the Reiving times
Ho! For the blades of Harden!
Ho! For the driven kye!
The broken gate and the lances’ hate
And a banner red in the sky!
The rough road runs by the Carter;
The white foam creams on the rein;
Ho! for the blades of Harden!
‘There will be moonlight again!’
Ho! For the Blades of Harden
On the Love of Horses
My song is of all Horsemen! The Centaurs of all time
Who stole for us the freedom of colts of every clime!
Who wore the spurs of mastery, who held the reins of pride,
Who left the world a heritage of sons to rule and ride.
Up! Swear by bit and saddlecloth, by crupper, cinch and horn,
The spurs our grandsires buckled by our son’s sons shall be worn!
Let oil, nor steam not wings of dream deprive us of our own –
The wide world for a kingdom and the saddle for a throne!
On Cattle Droving in Australia
Store cattle from Nelanjie! The mob goes feeding past,
With half-a-mile of sandhill ‘twixt the leaders and the last;
The nags that move behind them are the good old Queensland stamp –
Short backs and perfect shoulders that are priceless on a camp;
And these are Men that ride them, broad-chested, tanned and tall,
The bravest hearts amongst us and the lightest hands of all;
Oh, let them wade in Wonga grass and taste the Wonga dew,
And let them spread, those thousand head – for we’ve been droving too!
From the Gulf
On Looking back on the outback life
Do the shearers still go riding up the Warrego to work,
Where the Thurulgoona woolshed flashes silver in the sun?
Are the bullock-teams still bending through the coolibahs to Bourke?
Is there racing at Enngonia? Is Belalie still a run?
Do the Diamantina cattle still come down by Barringun?
On a favourite place in the Borders
The hill road to Roberton’s a steep road to climb,
But where your foot has crushed it you can smell the scented thyme,
And if your heart’s a Border heart, look down to Harden Glen,
And hear the blue hills ringing with the restless hoofs again.
The Road to Roberton
On an exile, thinking of Home
I have tried the spots, in order.
Where the brightest sunbeams fall.
But the land upon the Border
Is my own land after all,
And I would not take the glory
Of the whole world’s golden sheen
For the white mists down the corrie
And the naked scaurs between:
And my heart a shrine has sought her
That will last her little day-
At the foot of Bowmont Water,
Bowmont Water-far away.
On love of the Hills
Heart! If you’ve a sorrow
Take it to the hills!
Where pity crowns the silence
And love the loneness fills!
Bury it in bracken
Waving green and high;
O’er it let the heather’s
Peaceful purple lie!
Trust it to the healing
Heaven itself distils;
Heart! If you’ve a sorrow
Take it to the hills!
The Comfort of the Hills
No mortal may hear them as hither and fro
They rock in the grasses while whispering low;
Yet the sweetest of music, most witching of spells,
Is spun from the hearts of the bonny bluebells.
On Borders Roman History
A helmet of the legion, this,
That long and deep hath lain,
Come back to taste the living kiss
Of sun and wind again.
Ah! touch it with a reverent hand,
For in its burnished dome
Lies here within this distant land
The glory that was Rome!
On a Roman Helmet
On the echoes of the Reiving Times on Borders Culture
Last night a wind from Lammermoor came roaring up the glen
With the tramp of trooping horses and the laugh of reckless men
And struck a mailed hand on the gate and cried in rebel glee:
“Come forth. Come forth, my Borderer, and ride the March with me!”
On the First World War
Here in the unawakened hills,
From shepherd’s cots that lonely lie
In quiet glens by peat-fed rills
The blue smoke trails upon the sky,
Unblown by any wind of war,
By any breeze of hate unstirred
While half the world is fighting for
A treaty torn, a broken word
The Unawakened Hills
On Longing for the Australian Outback
Let us steer to the Northward, comrades!
To the Bush with her witching spells;
To the sun-bright days and the camp-fire blaze
And the chime of the bullock bells!
Beyond the Barrier
On a Scots Party in Australia
If you chance to strike a gathering of half-a-dozen friends
When the drink is Highland whusky or some chosen Border blends,
And the room is full of speirin’ and the gruppin’ of brown han’s,
And the talk is all of tartans and of plaidies and of clans, –
You can take things douce and easy, you can judge you’re going right,
For you’ve had the luck to stumble on a wee Scotch night!
A Scotch Night