OZZY – by John Graham

(Galloway News 6th September 1958)

He was known as ‘Ozzy’ by everyone in Town and District. Although it is little more than 6 months since he died, it would not be surprising if he has not already been forgotten, except by his relatives and intimates.

An appropriate epitaph for Jamie Osborne would have been “Here lyes the most cheerful of undertakers” for care sat lightly on him and his good humour and cheerfulness infectious. Not for him the morgue outlook; he preferred the song of the lark to the dirge. He had the happy knack of soothing the grief of the mourners, and leaving them resigned to the inevitable.

Except for a short spell in Edinburgh, Ozzy’s life was spent in Kirkcudbright, his native town, so well loved by him. His travels from home to business every day were bound to make his manly figure a familiar one with the residents.

His father John A Osborne, brought his wife and small family to Kirkcudbright from Girvan as far back as the early 1860’s. He came to work for McCandlish, contractor, and lived in Castle Gardens. There Ozzy was born in October 1865. In 1867 John Osborne became the first caretaker of the new county buildings which had just been opened in the High Street, and there he remained until his death in 1914.

For over 20 years John Osborne was precentor in the Parish Church here, and only the arrival of the “Kisk o’ Whistles” in 1886 put an end to this work. His valuable services were recognised, and he was presented with a purse of sovereigns. Thereafter he acted as precentor in Tongland Parish Church, walking too and from the services. Trotting beside him were the two singing members of the family, Jamie and Nell.

In addition to being a musician of no mean talent John Osborne was a keen shot and often competed at Bisley. He attended all the local ‘shoots’ with the Volunteers, and in 1882 won outright a beautiful silver tankard presented by the Countess of Selkirk to the 1st K.R.V. for competition. Later, when I came to know him, he was a venerable looking old gentleman, stockily built, with a finely-trimmed white beard. All who knew him held him in great respect.

There were actually three members of the Osborne who became well known in local musical circles – Jamie, Nell and Alfie – and they were all born in Kirkcudbright. Alfie was the instrumentalist – a fiddler of some importance. To hear Alfie Osborne playing some of his old strathspeys and reels was one of my dearest wishes – a wish never to be fulfilled. He only visited the town when on holiday, and consequently his circle of friends was smaller than that of his brother and sister.

Everyone knew “Ozzy” also his sister Nell. For many years they both sang in the Parish Church choir, giving their services freely, and without recompense or reward. Nell was a very fine contralto, Ozzy a somewhat robust tenor. Both were members of every choral society that ever existed in the town, and Nell’s deep rich voice was much in demand on the concert platform. They had benefited, too, from the training given by their father. Nell had to give up her singing owing to the gradual onset of rhumatism, and for a long time was wheeled in a chair. Nevertheless she was hardly ever in low spirits. She died in 1942.

To continue the story of Ozzy, the hero of the piece, we find that, some 30 or 40 years ago, he was the central figure of a merry band – typical Lads of the Village – who foregathered most days in a certain central hostelry at the hour of “High Twelve” – to use their own expression. How these lads would have scorned the present-day habit of drinking coffee! They were all members of the Club at the Harbour, situated where Messrs Campbell now have their garage.

Ozzy never embarked on that uncharted sea of matrimony. Once at least he considered the matter but the lady of his choice – a fine looking woman – died prematurely. In spite of this Ozzy kept his chin up; that part of his physiognomy was always prominent in any case, and came into view before his other features. He was a good-looking man. He had the true musician’s high brow, wore pince-nez (his eyes were not of the best and he ultimately lost the sight of one) and he had a very orderly moustache. His cheerful outlook never altered nor did his spirit flag; his signature tune could well have been “Begone Dull Care”

When he had passed the age of 91 years, he knew full well that death would not pass him by much longer. In his last hours he talked of choirs and choral singing – these were the things that were important in his life. As Christmas of 1957 dawned he fell asleep for the last time. He was the last of the Osborne family – a family whose services to musical circles in and around Kirkcudbright should be put on record.