Geordie Corrigall was born in 1904 and lived all his life at West Ballarat in Harray. He was a quiet modest man with a great sense of humour and great love of all things pertaining to Orkney. He was a hard working farmer by day but his thoughts were often elsewhere so by night time he was brim full of ideas to write hilarious poems and ditties on every imaginable topic: courting couples, local ‘millionaires’, the St Magnus Cathedral Weather Cock and a Tired Coo, to name just four. He was eventually persuaded to perform in public and immediately had his audiences in stitches. Word soon swept around the parishes that a Corrigall performance simply could not be missed……..in Orkney terms, he was a ‘box office smash hit’!
Sadly, Geordie died at a fairly young age in the 1960s but a book and audiocassette entitled The Bard of Ballarat was published in 1999 by The Orcadian, giving the Orkney folk of today a chance to enjoy his tireless imagination and humour. The entire profits from the sale of the pack, mounting to many thousands of pounds, were donated to The Cancer Research Campaign Scotland charity.
With grateful thanks to the Executors of the late Bella L. A. Mowat [Geordie’s sister], c/o Lows, Broad Street, Kirkwall, Orkney – I am able to reproduce two of Geordie’s poems which brought the house down when he performed them in Rousay.
Weel here we are foregathered in a vast and happy throng,
And here I am tae deu me best tae cheer yi wi a song,
Wir here tae hiv a jolly time and cast aside wir cares,
The poor hard up musicians and the Rousay millionaires.
For music’s no the kind o’ job that brings the money in,
An we a’ come fae The Mainland whar the soil is poor and thin,
But Rousay is a wealthy place, yi’ll see hid at a glance,
Hid’s kent throughoot the county as a seat o’ high finance.
And Rousay men are brainy, thirs no doot o’ that whatever,
Hugh Marwick is yir postie and he’s mighty cute and clever,
For roond aboot the New ’ear time he aye survives the crisis,
The more he pits the spirits doon, the more his spirit rises.
You’ve got a lovely hall here and Ah’m led tae understand,
Your worthy County Councillor supplied the piece o’ land,
His name is Robbie Seatter and he works both night and day,
And his wife’s so good wi poultry she can mak the rooster lay!
And Robbie Johnston is a man that everybody knows,
He ferms the ferm o’ Trumland and he’s aafil keen on shows,
And he’s a Justice o’ the Peace, I ken that for a fact,
And if his stots begins tae doose, he reads the riot act.
And the Marwick man o’ Falquoy is a plooman o’ repute,
At feereens and at feenishes he kens whit he’s aboot,
He’s surely been tae Africa or some way for a tour,
For he’s merried tae a Lyon and her dad’s a champion brewer.
And the Mainland men o’ Westness are most aafil go ahead,
And John’s the famous bachelor that never goes tae bed,
And his brither James they tell me is as good as any two,
At amateur dramatics or the biggeen o’ a skroo.
And at Woo the worthy Inkster brithers cultivate their acres,
And Tommy wooed and won the nurse while Willie plays at chequers,
And everybody tells me they’ve got an aafil dose,
O trophies that they won wi calves and horses at the shows.
The Dickey man o’ Langskaill is a hero, that’s the truth,
He even ﬂitted north when ither folk were ﬂittan sooth,
He thinks the Rousay folk the wisest folk he’s ever seen,
Since them that hidna muckle sense cleared oot tae Aberdeen.
And a song aboot the Rousay folk wad never, never do,
Unless I made some mention o’ the famous wife o’ Too,
The worthy Annabella whom you love so tenderly,
In aal yir joys and sorrows whit a tower o’ strength wis she.
And Tom Sinclair is the fellow whar commands the Rousay Navy,
He seems tae be the man that brings the mails across fae Evie,
He his a muckle pocket book that’s always getting fatter,
He says deep litter’s payan even better than deep water!
And yi a’ ken Willie Marwick, he’s a most terrific wag,
His shop’s doon at Brinian whar the steamer dumps hids slag,
He’s aye prepared tae tak ye roond the island in his ker,
And his yarns’ll had yi laughan till yir very sides are sair.
And aal the folk in Rousay noo are healthy and weel fed,
Because they eat terrific fills o’ Dave o’ Hullion’s bread,
No winder a’ the Rousay people traet him wi respect,
They always thowt that loaf wis green till he began tae bake!
And the men o’ Brough they tell me are the worthiest o’ pairs,
Thir caught so many lapsters that thir multi-millionaires,
They both believe the Harray folk’s a lot o’ cheeky swabs,
So Ah’m very, very glad thirs no demand for Harray Crabs*
And the Gibson man o’ Avelsay, they tell me his a ﬂair,
For trace-an back the pedigree o’ every horse and mare,
He’s absolutely certain that he kens the pedigree,
O the ﬁther and mither o’ the Horse o’ Copinsay.
I ken tae see yir faces noo yir saired o’ a’ this blether,
So seean hid’s wir evening oot we’ll a’ rejoice taegither,
We’ll hiv a jolly time and be as chummy as you please,
The millionaires o’ Rousay and this bunch o’ refugees!
Good evening tae you each and all, hid fills me wi delight,
Tae see so many Rousay folk assembled here the night,
And yir happy faces tells me that there is no doot whatever,
That the Reel Society and you are happy here taegither.
We ken the Reel Society are happy tae be here,
And plaised tae entertain you wi thir music sweet and clear,
The musicians all declare a Rousay audience is prime,
For yir that weel aff in Rousay that yir happy all the time.
And fine we ken that Rousay folk can fairly go thir dinger,
And as me song continues noo I don’t intend tae linger,
Ah’ll mention twa three bits o’ news Ah’m heard aboot yirsaels,
So I hop yi’ll a’ hiv patience while I mention some details.
I’ll start wi Mansie Craigie, he’s a man that’s worth the mention,
As soople as a two year old, he always draws attention,
A pensioner that’s happy as a lark and full o’ beans,
Can tak the ﬂoor and dance like any laddie in his teens.
And Heddle Omand is a man that everybody kens,
A baker he delivers bread and feeding stuff for hens,
Wi a’ the added vitamins on which the poultry thrives,
And extra currants in the baps tae plaise the Rousay wives.
And we ken that Ian Craigie is most aaﬁl tired noo,
Wi runnan back and fore atween his sweetheart and his soo,
Poor chap, hid’s aisy understeud that he wis in a swither,
Post Offices and piggeries just dinna go taegither.
Roderick Marwick and Hugh Sinclair at the special sale o’ kye,
In Kirkwall wir inclined tae think the price wis kinda high,
So they did a bit o’ dealing whar the price wis no so siccar,
They went doon tae the “Albert” tae a special sale o’ liquor.
They tell me Roderick’s a man wi talents rich and rare,
He keeps the Rousay clocks and cars in excellent repair,
Bit Willie Inkster’s compass seem tae hiv him bafﬂed clean,
For Willie sailed for Shetland and arrived in Aberdeen.
And Ah’m sure yi’ll aal agree this is the proper time tae speak,
O Peggy Corsie’s prize she won at Stromness Shopping Week,
At Stromness Shopping Week, thirs alwis prizes big and small,
Bit tae win the owner o’ the shop’s the finest prize o’ all.
And the Rousay Youth Club seems tae be a most unique affair,
For they tell me Mansie Wylie is the youngest member there,
For Mansie tae be there at aal is gey valiant wark,
For many a boy o’ Mansie’s age is frightened in the dark.
And George Sutherland is thinkan that he must be gittan owld,
For when he goes tae bed at night he shivers wi the cowld,
A hot water bottle as we ken can serve a worthy caas,
Bit whit he needs aside him is a cuddly Orphir lass.
And Mr Nelson seems tae like the Rousay atmosphere,
His family and transport is increased since he cam here,
We a’ hop that in future ’ears hid will continue thus,
Until he his tae swap his fine Land Rover for a bus.
And judgin fae reports I feel I safely can deduce,
That yir very prood indeed o’ the new laird o’ Trumland Hoose,
He’s very popular indeed so generous is he,
That Rousay people daily drink his health in Brooke Bond tea.
I doot the Rousay lads are ﬁndan life a wee bit drear,
For ootsiders cam and merried a’ the bonny lasses here,
Bit Edward Seatter says that he’s no gan tae sit in sorrow,
He wants an import licence for a lass fae Edinburgh.
Jack Craigie o’ the ferm o’ Corse is lukkan gey dejected,
His wife’s that trang amang her hens, he’s thinkan he’s neglected,
She talks aboot her poultry in her sleep – hid’s hardly fair,
Jack’s feelan that concerned, he’s faered he’s gan tae loss his hair.
And I hear that yir exponents o’ the game o’ badminton,
Are in a owlder age group than the youth club everyone,
If that’s the case I doot they must hiv lived a middling whiley,
If the youngest member o’ the Rousay youth club’s Mansie Wylie.
And noo I must confess tae you me song is nearly ended,
I hop that everybody’s plaised and nobody’s offended,
Hid wis very, very kind of you to listen till hid’s doan,
So Ah’ll just git aff the stage and let a better turn come on.