Saturday, August 13, 2022
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Debt to Australian club left by Scots poet 121 years ago finally settled

A SCOTS expat has finally restored his nation’s honour by paying back a 121-year-old debt to an Australian racing club.

Scots-born poet and horseman Will Ogilvie is notorious in New South Wales for failing to pay the one guinea bill from 1892 – and then returning to Scotland in 1901.

But the Barringun Jockey Club bill has finally been paid after Ian Forbes, 76, walked in and arranged for a crisp Royal Bank of Scotland £5 to be handed over.

ledger for online
Ogilvie’s debt was recorded in the club’s ledger


Ian, who emigrated from Edinburgh to Australia, was on a two-day Poets Trek tour of the outback when he decided it was finally time to do the decent thing on behalf of his motherland.

The literary tour includes Will Ogilvie, who was born near Kelso in the Scottish Borders in 1869, and lived and worked around the tiny community of Barringun in the 1890s.

In Barringun’s only bar, Ian, a retired marine engineer and lifetime fan of Ogilvie’s poetry, was shown the racing club’s membership ledger – with the writer’s name still clear.

Ian immediately pulled out his wallet and offered to pay up.

The ledger's modern-day inheritors say the debt has now been cleared by Mr Forbes' £5
The ledger’s modern-day inheritors say the debt has now been cleared by Mr Forbes’ £5


He said: “I won’t hear a bad word about Will Ogilvie. I think they were quite surprised.

“They’d shown the ledger to hundreds of people but I was the first one who had offered to pay.”

But he was told Australian currency would not do.

“The chap there said, ‘No, no, I want pounds.’

“So I agreed to send him five pounds. I got a friend in Scotland to send me a Scottish fiver and the chap at the pub is going to hang it on the wall with a photograph of a sketch of Ogilvie which I gave him.”

ianforbes forweb
Ian, pictures here with the pub’s landlady, say he wouldn’t hear a bad word about Ogilvie

Although the debt has been settled, Scotland appears to have got a cheap deal. Adjusted for inflation, the unpaid guinea is worth approximately £113.

Ogilvie spent 12 years in Australia, and Ian believes the poet may have been unable to pay the debt as he was working as a cattle drover and traveled long distances frequently.

Ian, who has relatives in Kelso, Scottish Borders, became interested in Ogilvie when he discovered a family connection.

ogilvie for web
Ogilvie returned to Scotland in 1901, leaving the debt behind him

Ian’s father worked in a bank in the Scottish Borders and counted the poet among his customers.

He said: “My father had mentioned it to my sister and she told me and it was that which got me interested and I started getting a few books of Ogilvie’s poetry.”

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