Page last updated at 10:02 GMT, Tuesday, 15 July 2008 11:02 UK

Readers solve 'lost' poet mystery

Goerge Colburn poetry volume
The volume of poetry was published in 1891 and contained personal notes

Readers of the BBC Scotland news website have helped solve the mystery of a 19th Century poet.

The specialist Scottish International Relief (SIR) bookshop in Ayr appealed for help after being given a volume of work by George Colburn.

Since the article was published on Friday, shop manager Chris Moorhouse has been inundated with offers of help.

The information supplied has enabled him to piece together the Scottish poet's life story.

"The process has been absolutely fascinating," said Mr Moorhouse.

"I've been contacted by professional genealogists, librarians, and members of the public from all over the world, and I really appreciate their time and effort.

"We now know much, much more about this man than we did a few days ago."

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
Chris Moorhouse
SIR bookshop manager
One of eight children, George Colburn was born in Laurencekirk, near Aberdeen, on 11 August 1852.

At 14, he was sent to Montrose to train as a grocer.

He later moved to the US, where he lived and worked for three years before returning to Scotland for health reasons.

Colburn married Ellen Eliza Nash, a soldier's daughter who was born in India, and they had four daughters.

Although passionate about his poetry, Colburn, was less successful in business.

He worked as a fruit market commission agent in Glasgow and became bankrupt in 1905.

The writer was declared free of debt in 1908 and died at his daughter's home in the city in 1937, aged 84.

Poetry appeal

The information SIR received about George Colburn came from a variety of sources, including the Scottish Poetry Library, which found him listed in two out-of-print poetry guides.

Death certificates, census returns and marriage certificates came courtesy of a community librarian at East Ayrshire Council.

Details about his brothers and sisters came from an enthusiast in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who was able to trace the information using family history websites.

Goerge Colburn poetry volume
SIR is in discussions over what to do with the Colburn volume
SIR is now considering what to do with the volume of Colburn's work, titled "Poems on Mankind and Nature".

Mr Moorhouse said: "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."

SIR have also appealed for help in finding out about two poems in the volume which were inspired by real life heroism.

One concerns a foreman platelayer named James Watt who prevented a train accident on 21 November 1910 which could have killed 300 fisher girls.

Another concerns Sandy M Adam, of Laurencekirk, who died while trying to save life at St Cyrus on 26 August 1919.

Anyone with information about these events is asked to contact the SIR shop on Newmarket Street in Ayr.


SEE ALSO
Mystery over 'lost' Scottish poet
10 Jul 08 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West

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