WHAUP AND EXHIBITION LAUNCH, Friday, August 16th, 2019.
Ladies and gentlemen, firstly a big thank you to Paul and to Kathy and to the rest of the Heritage Hub team for hosting this evening and providing the refreshments. The Will H Ogilvie Memorial Trust are indebted to them for the way they have given us their whole-hearted support to make this night possible.
Secondly, a warm welcome from me, as the Trust’s chairman to this the first event of this long planned for and much anticipated weekend to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the finest Border poet of them all.
The Will H Ogilvie Memorial Trust committee is a small one. There are only seven of us but for several years now we have been working hard towards making the poet’s 150th anniversary year special.
We have significantly upgraded our website.
With the generous support of Hawick Callants Club we have brought out a new edition of Will’s “Border Poems”, copies of which will be donated to Border schools as part of an education package that Ogilvie Trustee Katherine Scouler has created.
With huge help from the Ex-Kelso Laddies Association a memorial stone with accompanying information panels has been erected at Will’s birthplace at Holefield and on his return from this year’s Yetholm Ride the Kelso Laddie unveiled the street sign for the newly named “Will H Ogilvie Way”.
We have been instrumental in helping create an app-based Ogilvie Trail.
We have established significant links with Australia where Will spent over a decade and where he is still very highly regarded. Indeed we are delighted to have with us tonight Australian author Lachlan Hughson who has walked in Will’s hoofprints in New South Wales and has brought with him copies of his most recent publication Walkabout to wisdom. This book is available tonight as are books of Will’s poems, all proceeds going to the Trust.
Our trustees Charlie Robertson and Norrie Fraser and their Well Road Production team have spread the Ogilvie message throughout the Borders which they will continue to do with their presentation of “Will” in the Heart of Hawick Theatre later tonight. There are still tickets available, priced £8. What can you get for £8 nowadays. You can hardly get a fish supper!
Sadly as you are all aware Will’s evocative memorial cairn on “The hill road to Roberton”, unveiled in 1993, was destroyed when William Landles’s priceless bronze was removed in 2016. However thanks to the wonder of modern technology, we have been able to get a laser copy from the identical cairn in Australia and Beltane Studios have been able to create a replica which, as the highlight of this special commemorative weekend, will be unveiled on a new site at the head of Harden Glen thanks to the generosity of Lord Polwarth at our 150th anniversary gathering at two o’clock tomorrow afternoon when an oration will be given by the finest speaker ever to run a paper shop in the muckle toon, my great friend and fellow Ogilvie trustee, ex-Langholm Cornet Billy Young when we hope that everybody here will be able to join us.
A service in Ashkirk Kirk on Sunday at twelve noon will conclude our commemoration.
It is the Trust’s hope that these varied 150th anniversary projects will stir up renewed interest in will but also boost the local economy by bringing his poetic descriptions of our beautiful landscape to the notice of more people, hopefully attracting many to visit the still relatively undiscovered Scottish borderland.
One other thing we have done is we have organised much enjoyed “Nights wi Will” in Ettrickbridge and Hawick and we have two more coming up in Gilnockie and Coldstream. On these nights we have invited talented exponents of the poet’s work to entertain the company.
Before tonight’s main business we are now going to be treated to a mini “Night wi Will”
Kathy Hobkirk is a vital cog in the Heritage Hub wheel and she has been a huge help to the Trust in many ways in her day job but also through her lovely singing. She performed for us at Ettrickbridge and at Holefield and we’ve persuaded her, shy and retiring though she is, to sing for us again tonight. She’s now going to give us “Winds of autumn”.
Thank you, Kathy.
Ex-Cornet Philip Murray is a key member of the Trust. He has done a great job in the re-siting of the cairn and he and his wife, Ruth, who has sustained us with her wonderful home baking, kindly host our committee meetings in what we have come to affectionately refer to as “The Branxholm Braes boardroom”. Philip is now going to give us one of Will’s most recited poems which evokes the epoch when living in the borderland was not for the nervous, “The raiders”.
Thank you, Philip
An integral part of the “Will” production across the road in a little while – ticket’s still available, price £8 – is the virtuoso accordion playing of Ettrickbridge’s Ian Lowthian. He not only plays the music but has composed it and he’s going to give us some of his Ogilvie airs now.
Well done, Ian.
The final performer in this wee tribute to will is Doug Telfer. Doug is a stalwart of the Ancient Order of Mosstroopers, for many years their hard-working secretary. He also starred as the narrator in a wonderful production called “A reiver’s moon”. Tonight he’s going to give us another poem recalling that turbulent era, “A reiver’s heart”.
Thank you, Doug. That concludes our wee taster of Will’s work which we hope you have enjoyed.
But now to the purpose of our gathering here tonight, launching the republication of Will’s epic reiving ballad “Whaup o’ the rede. ”
The “Whaup” was first printed in 1909, with seven black and white illustrations by the finest artist the Borders ever produced Selkirk’s celebrated Royal Scottish Academician Tom Scott, Will penned these words as a tribute on the death of his artist friend:
The beautiful hand is stilled,
The fine heart throbs no more
To the border hills with their beauty filled
And the shadows and light they wore.
No more for us the raiders ride
Through our dim enchanted land,
Or the heather burn in the borderside
To the touch of that master hand.
These words could just as well have been written about the poet himself.
“Whaup o’ the rede” has captured for all time the stirring times when “the raiders” rode “through our dim enchanted land” and to mark the sesqui-centenary of the Will’s birth the Trust are delighted to be able to publish a new edition in the hope that it will attract a new generation to come to know and love the words of a Border poet who has never really been given the acclaim he deserves.
Tom Scott’s illustrations again grace this edition which has been made possible through a Scottish Borders Council community support grant and by your generous commitment as subscribers which we greatly appreciate. Jamie and Robert at Richardson and Sons have done a marvellous job and we are greatly indebted to them.
The ballad’s opening lines demonstrate the tremendous feel will had for that most vital period in the development to our Border character.
Red on the darkness the streamers run
Of a flame that is not of the rising sun,
And the shreik that echoes from hill to vale
Is more than the questing curlew’s wail,
For the gate of a border keep’s in flame
And the ravens feast on its fallen fame…
Ere dawn had silvered the misty rede
Wat Harden had ridden ti Ravensmead,
Had rapped with his pike on the rusty door
That had countered full many a charge before,
Had cried to the startled guard “to arms!
How fatten the kye on your Redeside farms?”
Then the court had filled with a martial clang
As over the stones the spurred heels rang,
And the Nevilles poured through the open door
To close with their ancient foes once more.
Ere the last pale star had died in the west
Ere the sun had flooded the carter crest,
The chief of the Nevilles lay dead in the fern
Where the fight had raged at the bend of the burn,
And a dozen henchmen lay stretched beside,
Who had scorned to live where their leader died.
The ruthless raider reined his steed
On the crown of the march: behind him the rede
Wound glittering down through the Autumn flowers
And was lost in the smoke of the smouldering towers.
Aw, does that not stir your reiving blood. Chico Woods, proud son o Jethart once said to me “whenever a hear yow speak a want ti gaun oot and hit somebody”! And these openin lines o “Whaup o the rede” have that effect on me.
Hopefully that’ll persuade any of you who haven’t subscribed to buy a copy tonight. We also have Will’s Border poems, The hill road to Roberton and Bits of fun available for purchase.
The 500 original copies of the “Whaup” published by Thomas Fraser of Dalbeattie in 1909 sold for 10/6. We are sure that you will treasure your 150th anniversary copy but all the more so when i tell you that 10/6 in 1909 equates to £300-96 pence in today’s money so at £25 this re-publication is quite an amazing bargain!
In a wee while you can collect your copy from Johann who will also part you from your £25.
Tonight however isn’t just about the launch of the “Whaup” we are also here to open the 150th anniversary exhibition of Will’s life and work which will run until the end of September and I encourage you to have a look round before you go. The Trust’s hard working secretary and treasurer, Ann Holt has also for many years been the custodian of the poet’s memorabilia which has now been handed over to the hub for safe keeping and Ann and Paul and Kathy and the rest of the hub team have brought together an excellent exhibition which is well worth your perusal.
For this exhibition we commissioned Artbeat Studios to come up with something to showcase their work and a group of their members have studied “Border poems” and “Bits of fun” and produced some excellent, indeed exceptional work reflecting the spirit of Will’s verse.
I’m delighted now to ask Artbeat’s Annette Reeves to say a few words and to hand over the studio’s contribution to the exhibition.
Thank you, Annette
I was blown away when i was privileged to have a wee look at this magnificent work last week and i’m sure you will be too.
We are grateful to the talented artists who have devoted so much of their time to this project and to Annette and her Artbeat team for their encouragement. The Hub have invited them along tomorrow morning for coffee and cake as a thank you for their engaging with such empathy with Will’s work.
Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes the formal part of this first installment of the evening. You are now invited to have some more refreshment, buy a raffle ticket if you haven’t done so already, collect your “Whaup” and browse through the exhibition before crossing the road for Well Road’s production of “Will – The life and times of Will H Ogilvie, proud Borderer, poet of border and bush” – there are still tickets available, price £8, what can you get for £8 nowadays?. . . . . . We hope to see you all at two o’clock at the top of Harden Glen tomorrow afternoon. Thanks once again to the Heritage Hub, to you for subscribing and for your kind attention.
All that remains for me to do now is to declare the new edition of “Whaup o’ the rede” and the Will H Ogilvie 150th anniversary exhibition well and truly launched. May God bless them and all who sail in them!