Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Scotland's Greatest Story helps solve lost poet mystery!

On Saturday, I posted a link to a BBC story requesting information on a lost poet called George Colburn (see Search for a Lost Poet). On the back of our post and the BBC request, the mystery has been solved!

Chris Moorhouse of Scottish International Relief was trying to identify more information about Colburn, the author of a book entitled "Poems on Mankind and Nature", published in 1891, which had come into his possession at the charity's bookshop in Ayr. Many readers, including SGNE blog reader Bonnie Malmat based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, were able to piece together information on Colburn's early life and family, with Bonnie providing a vital clue regarding his birth, and the change of the name from Cockburn to Colburn.

Here at SGS we also chipped in, and were able to find out a considerable amount of information about George himself, from additional sources. By searching the National Library of Scotland catalogue we established that Colburn had two other printed works held within its collection, being the 1883 collection "Poems: historical and descriptive, with introduction by D.H. Edwards" and the 1923 publication "Day in the glen, in reminiscent mood". Adding to the original book review of the "Poems on Mankind and Nature" book that had already been found in the Scotsman, we were also able to find a review from the Herald on October 10th 1891, from the 19th Century British Library Newspaper Collection.

Then it gets interesting! From the National Archives of Scotland catalogue we established that George, a fruit merchant based in Glasgow, was sequestrated in November 1905, and by examining the Edinburgh Gazette, we identified four articles detailing the process of his bankruptcy, which was cleared in 1908.

Finally, as well as his death certificate, we also investigated his wife, who predeceased him. Whilst the census suggested that she had been born in India, we found the actual record which showed her birth as being in Madras in 1860.

Chris Moorhouse has been delighted with the response: "This isn't just a book of poems, it's a book by someone who we now know quite a lot about, who kept it, and wrote in it, for 40 years. Although it's probably quite valuable, I would feel uncomfortable just selling it in the shop. SIR would like to make sure that the book ends up somewhere safe, so we are in discussion with several libraries, including the National Library and Laurencekirk library, about the possibility of passing it on to them."

However, the mystery does not end there!

Chris would now like to find out more about two poems in the volume which were inspired by real life heroism. The first concerns a foreman platelayer named James Watt who prevented a train accident on November 21st 1910, which would have killed 300 fisher girls if it had happened. The second concerns a person called Sandy M. Adam of Laurencekirk, who died whilst trying to save life at St Cyrus on 26 August 1919.

So if you fancy another challenge, do drop Chris a line at chris@sircharity.org (please mention the blog!), or you can pass your findings to us and we will send the information on.


Scotland's Greatest Story
Professional family history research & genealogical problem solving

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