How to achieve publication is a perennial problem for poets. Recently a major publisher discontinued its poetry list - to howls of protest. Little magazines, vanity publishing and the worldwide web are just some of the alternative avenues available to the aspiring poet. One such Ayrshire man in the nineteenth century seized the opportunity presented to him as enumerator for one of the districts of Dailly parish to preserve an example of his work for posterity. Thanks to the peculiar interests of a church headquartered in Salt Lake City, these verses can be read by anyone who requests the microfilm of the 1851 census.
Ivie Willet was the parochial schoolmaster. He was 49, came from Ochiltree, and lived with two Catherines - his mother, 86, and his sister, 43 - in a dwelling house and garden in the village. He owned the property. Whether extolling the beauties of the estate of the local laird was something he viewed as a good career move, or the expression of an artistic temperament, we cannot say, but we can imagine him showing the completed census return with pride to his mother and sister in his little house in Dailly.
See the lovely Lady Farm
Grove-encircl’d - what a charm!
Pastures rich with spangled flowers,
Tangled woods and Virgin bowers.
Lofty green hills circle round
Thrilling woods on Girvan’s ground;
Birds and bees with mingled glees
Hover round these Linden trees.
Downwards to the garden gay
Beauties mix in every way,
Lady walks embower’d complete,
Girvan gliding at your feet.
Sweet Bargany House doth stand
On the Richest of the land,
Beautified with every grace
That can ornament a place.
Ivie Willet (1851); notes by David McClure
This article was first published in Ayrshire Notes No. 17 (1999).