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Ogilvie memorial team slam Barrel Law wind farm plan

Custodians of the memorial cairn and seat dedicated to Border poet Will H. Ogilvie by the Ashkirk to Roberton road have written a letter of objection to the proposed wind farm on Barrel Law, saying the turbines will “hugely impact on the view”, writes Sandy Neil.

Last month, wind farm developer ABO Wind submitted plans to erect eight 125-metre turbines near Roberton, close to the Langhope Rig site, which has been approved, though work has not started.

The Livingston company claimed the wind farm would generate 24 megawatts of power, and raise more than £2million for surrounding villages within the boundaries of Lillesleaf, Ashkirk and Midlem Community Council.

Ian Landles, chairman of the Will H. Ogilvie Memorial Committee, wrote in the letter to the planning department of Scottish Borders Council (SBC): “We unveiled the cairn in 1993, since when it has become a mecca for admirers of the poet from all over the world, particularly from Australia where he spent some of his early years and where he is still renowned for his bush ballads.”

William Henry Ogilvie, a Scottish-Australian narrative poet and horseman, was born in 1869 in Kelso, where his father was chamberlain to the Duke of Buccleuch. His love of horses and ballads turned his eye to Australia, where he roamed the outback for 12 years, horse-breaking, droving, mustering and camping, and writing My Life in the Open.

In 1901, Ogilvie returned to Scotland and settled into a countryman’s life, riding and hunting. He continued to write, publishing 18 books of Scottish verse and prose, including The Collected Sporting Verse of W. H. Ogilvie in 1932 and The Border Poems in 1959.

He married Katherine Margaret Scott Anderson in Jedburgh in 1908, and died in Ashkirk in 1963.

Mr Landles said in his letter: “We chose this location because it is near to where his ashes were scattered beside the lonely country road he loved and immortalised for all time as The Hill Road to Roberton.

“We hold regular gatherings at the cairn when we invite prominent literary figures to deliver an oration on the life and works of the last of the great poets of the romantic Borderland. These gatherings are attended by hundreds of people.

“To erect an obtrusive wind farm directly opposite would destroy the location’s unspoilt ambience forever.

“It is our fervent hope that the application will be turned down, thus protecting for posterity one of the Borders’ foremost literary shrines.”

Last month, The Wee Paper reported ABO Wind’s assurances that the wind farm will benefit local households. A spokesman said: “To ensure that the local community gains direct benefit from the Barrel Law wind farm, ABO Wind proposes to contribute an annual payment to a community benefit fund.

“The fund would be allocated to support local projects and, based on the final size of an approved project, could result in well over £2million being invested locally during the life of the wind farm.”

One concern for users of the B711 – which will provide access to the site – may be ABO Wind’s prediction that during construction as many as 30 heavy goods vehicles will be using the road every day to reach Barrel Law.

But the company has told Scottish Borders Council: “Traffic levels during the operational phase of the development will be negligible, and during decommissioning will be less than predicted for the construction phase.”

The report added that no significant effects would occur on bird species such as black grouse that are found on the site, currently used for sheep grazing and game shooting, or the nearby Alemoor West Loch. It admits the wind farm would affect the landscape view up to three miles away.

ABO Wind held a public exhibition in Ashkirk last September and in Roberton in January, ahead of its submission, and claimed 64 per cent of respondents approved of the development.

A decision from SBC is expected by mid-June.