Irin Borrow in Yorùbá – A reflection of Life of George Borrow, the Roving Adventurer


In native Yorùbá land, when one goes away for long with no serious purpose, especially as a child wandering about the neighborhood, Yorùbá parents will yell at their children on sighting them and start uttering words like “O tun ti rin Irin borrow lo abi, Onirin Ìyà” meaning you have wandered away like borrow – An unfortunate adventurer.

Sometimes, they may even say “oni irin Àrè” – The movement of a stranger. A stranger to a place often don’t know road, so he may visit different places he shouldn’t, before he eventually gets to the right spot.

‘Ìrìn Borrow” is a subtle parody that is common to Yorùbá mothers particularly, who wouldn’t but yab you as you return home looking hungry and tired.

What’s the Origin of Irin borrow – one way wonder?

Well, “Irin borrow” was taken from the strange life of an English Writer called George Borrow, who abandoned his backyard Legal training as a Solicitor’s Clerk at 16, to become a writer in London at 21, and later to become a roving Adventurer in 1825 at 22, moving around Europe and part of Africa in Morocco.

His Missionary Journey or as a Voyager

In the spring of 1837 the tall, striking-looking Englishman according to his History set out on horseback to “ride forth from Madrid into the wildest parts of Spain”. At the time, the country was split by civil war and the more desolate districts were overrun by murderous bands of gypsies and robbers.

But George Borrow feared none of those hazards; he was concerned with only one thing – selling “a cargo of Bibles” to “the wild people of the wild regions”.

To achieve this, “Atiláwí” bought a sturdy black stallion which had previously been owned by a smuggler, and hired an eccentric Greek servant called Antonio – to suffer with him in his quest.

A few days before he was due to depart, Borrow went down with “a severe cold which terminated in a shrieking, disagreeable cough”.

He could barely stand up, but after a local barber-surgeon had drawn sixteen ounces of his blood, he felt well enough to commence his arduous journey. Strong man no dey die easily right? 😜😆

Okay, Oga Borrow according to a book travelled north-west to the province of Leon, where he had another bad attack of fever. Hahaha. KO easy oo. “We were compelled to take our abode,” he wrote, “in a wretched hovel . . . I felt myself unable to proceed . . . being exhausted with illness, fatigue and want of food.”

As soon as Borrow recovered, he and Antonio, his “boyboy” again pushed onward, and this time it was their horses which became ill. Does anyone remember Chief Obey’s song Baba pelu Omo re ti won n gun ketekete? Won ti fe pa Ketekete ooo.

George Borrow

Stubborn as you could imagine, these two forced the animals through hills infested by brigands, who thought nothing of torturing their victims.

On reaching Cape Finisterre, Borrow was arrested as a spy working for Don Carlos de Bourbon who had laid claim to the Spanish throne. Haha! Owo ba Borrow, O KO sówó awon Amotekun.

Fortunately the Bible salesman was able to prove his innocence, and was released after having accomplished “what has long been one of the ardent wishes of his heart. To carry the Gospel to the extreme point of the Old World”.

Interesting right? It is to me. Fulfilling your Dreams can be crazy to many.

His Background

George Borrow was born at East Dereham in Norfolk in 1803. His father was an army recruiting officer and he spent his childhood travelling from barracks to barracks. He still managed to learn how to ride, and became particularly friendly with the itinerant gypsy tribes whom he frequently encountered.

After disposing of 1,200 copies of the Bible, Borrow returned safely to Madrid where he opened his own bookshop. This aroused the jealousy of the Catholic priests, and before long the enterprising salesman was arrested by the police and thrown unceremoniously into prison.

It took diplomatic action by the British Ambassador to secure his release; and, after a further term of imprisonment because of a passport irregularity, he eventually left Spain.

In 1840 he was back in London, where he married an Englishwoman whom he had met in Madrid. Three years later he published his first book, The Bible In Spain, which gives a remarkable account of his adventures in a land in which he had received a “considerable buffeting.”

In later years Borrow settled down in Norfolk, where he died in 1881. In all, he could speak more than forty languages, ranging from Arabic to Hindi – he surely learnt so much from all these places he visited. Such is the life’s achievement of a true word-master.

So, when next someone calls you “Onirin borrow”, you now know your mentor. Smile.

©️ OmoElublog


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