A Little Bit of Garden for World Poetry Day

Spring blossom with a bee


the Poetry of the Outback

William H Ogilvie (1869-1963) is a well know poet in Australian but less so in his Scottish homeland.  Born in Kelso in 1869 he left Scotland at the age of 20 for the Outback of Australia.  There he followed his passion for horses and became an accomplished station hand, drover and horse-breaker.  Among his friends was the legendary horseman Harry “Breaker” Morant.  It was in the Outback that he began writing his romantic verse.


Return to the Scottish Borders

On his return to Scotland 12 years later he continued writing, including a number of stirring poems about the Scottish Borders.  He died in 1961 at the age of 93, in his home in Ashkirk.  His ashes were scattered on the road to Roberton.  In 1993 the William H Ogilvie Memorial Trust erected a cairn to his works, close  to where his ashes were scattered.  An exact copy of the cairn is located in Bourne, New South Wales.  There are many more monuments to Ogilvie in Australia, including a formal portrait of Ogilvie posing with his miniature fox terrier,  in the National Library of Australia in Canberra.

The Trust has collected his works together for future generations to view.  You can view the archive at the Heritage Hub in Hawick.  They have also published a number of books of his poems (see their website for details), covering his work on the Scottish Borders.  Alastair Moffat included his poem The Raiders in his book  on The Reivers.  It’s one of my favourites along with A Scotch Night.

A recent episode of ITV’s Border Life gave a short insight into the life and works of Ogilvie.  Click on this link to access the  episode from the 14th March 2016, (feature starts at 11 mins).

So we chose Ogilvie’s poem A Little Bit of the Garden to celebrate World Poetry Day and Spring arriving in the Scottish Borders.


A Little Bit Of Garden

We need no crown or sceptre,
for now that it is spring,
just a little bit of garden-
and every man’s a king!

A little breadth of border,
a little patch of grass,
above it all the April sky
where soft the south winds pass.

A spade and rake for comrades,
the smell of rain-wet mould,-
and every time we turn a clod
we turn a mint of gold.

A little bit of garden,
with daffodils a-swing,
and tulip-flowers whose crimson flags
are only flown for spring.

Shy blossoming primroses,
forget-me-nots of blue,
and here a blade and there a blade
of green things peeping through.

Who seeks for crown or sceptre
when every man’s a ming
whose patch of cottage garden
has felt the feet of Spring!

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