Poet recalls Angus adventure

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One ‘phone call was all it took to get Di Coffey and husband Dermot to up sticks and leave their Cornish smallholding for a new start in rural Angus.

That was in the spring of 1989 and the call came from daughter Frannie, who had set up home, with her husband Nick, in Brechin only days before.

Frannie described the area as “beautiful” and told her mother to sell up and join her in Scotland. In what can only be described as a leap of faith, Di and Dermot sold their Cornish cottage, found homes for their goats and poultry, “piled our pets into a caravan” and set off on a non-stop 26-hour drive to their daughter’s Brechin home.

Di and her husband had a small business designing and hand making nursery mobiles for famous stores, such as Harrods and Liberty. This they kept going in their new home, bought sight unseen on the recommendation of their daughter, at House of Pitmuies estate. Di recalls: “South Mains of Gardyne didn’t disappoint - it was perfect! The surrounding fifteen acres were ‘set aside’ and the owner, Marguerite Ogilvie of Pitmuies, allowed us to graze our new livestock on her land.”

The Coffeys spent the next two years establishing a garden and turning a dilapidated barn into suitable accommodation for their new pigs, poultry and goats. In addition, they ran ‘Farm your Garden’ courses which attracted many locals including a headteacher who attended for a day’s tuition and returned the following week with a coach load of primary children.

Sadly for 75-year-old Di, her “enchanting” time in Angus came to an end when her mother became ill, which necessitated a return south to Cornwall. Worse was to follow when Dermot, who had been “stumbling a bit,” was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. For the next 17 years, until his death in 2010, Di was his carer, saying: “MS saddened us but never defeated us.”

Having written short stories and poetry throughout her life, Di turned to writing again in her widowhood and, in January this year, the editor of Poetry Space called to ask if she could publish a pamphlet of Di’s poetry. In June The ‘Tugboatman’s Daughter’ was published, to excellent reviews. All profits from sales are going to The Multiple Sclerosis Society UK and details can be found on the website www.thetugboatmansdaughter.co.uk

Di told us: “I married the love of my life and had 51 wonderful years with him and I have two loving and hugely supportive children. What more could anyone ask?”