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The Huntly Open Day
07 February 2013

Jill DeFresnes talks, in late 2010, about her involvement in the Big Forestry Research Project and the Forestry Memories open day at Huntly that June.

"Having worked now for a year with the Big Forestry Project I thought I would write down a few thoughts on my work so far. I am the newest member of the team, and have spent the past year catching up in many ways – a steep learning curve – but a really fascinating and interesting one. The main thrust of the project is using oral interviews to try and capture the experiences and memories of those who worked in forestry during the twentieth century – in various different capacities; the woods themselves, the offices, the administrators, the processing sector too and taking into account both private forests and those managed by the Forestry Commission. It really is a ‘Big’ project! But whatever aspect people have been connected too, it is always a privilege to be able to undertake an interview and ask people about their lives, and it is always interesting.

As a recent example of our project work, we held a workshop in Huntly on June 11th, organised by Norman Davidson, and we were all thrilled by the response. Although the whole project team were there – myself, project leader Mairi Stewart, Hugo Manson and Gordon Urquhart [Gordon sadly passed away lasy year] – we were only just able to keep up with the number of stories and the photos and materials which people brought in for us.

For me, what I most enjoyed about the day was listening to the reminiscences between those who came along – those who had been ploughmen or forest workers or foresters. Many had worked together and really enjoyed the opportunity to retell stories of funny events which had happened during their working lives – tractors getting buried in peat, the ploughman who found a crock of (fools!) gold under a boulder - amongst many others. Some of these stories we managed to catch on the recorders but others just ensured that those who came along really enjoyed the day which was equally important. We now have the more lengthy task of following up the leads, of processing the material and of catching up with a few of those whom we would like to interview again to fill in some of the gaps in our story of the Social History of Forestry in Twentieth Century Scotland. Onwards and upwards!"

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