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Douglas fir at Murthly 1876
Forestry Memories
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No: 3532   Contributor: Norman Davidson   Year: 1876
Douglas fir at Murthly 1876

Early photograph taken in 1876 from a forestry album of 117 photographs compiled by an unknown Forestry Commission officer. No other information provided.

The date of the photograph is remarkably early and one must assume the negative or the original print was given by the owner of Murthly Estate to the Forestry Commission officer who compiled the photograph album in 1919-1934. The owner of the Estate in the period was Col Walter Steuart- Fotherington and served as a Commissioner with the Forestry Commission from its inception in 1919 until his death in 1936.

The PDF shows another view of the Douglas fir with outline of a building in the background. Some of the fir must have been planted at least 20 years prior to 1876.
Picture added on 06 February 2017 at 19:37
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add commentComments:
I think I've seen this photo before - might have been in Perth Museum archives. Syd House may know more about it

Added by Doug Mitchell on 17 February 2017.
Correct me if I am wrong I am sure Murthly Estate belongs to the Fotheringham family the same owners of Fotheringham Estate near Forfar.?

Added by on 17 February 2017.
Yes, Murthly belongs to the Fotheringhams and I believe they had land over in that direction

Added by Doug Mitchell on 12 March 2017.
Comment by Mairi Stewart in an email:
I thought you'd be interested to know that I caught up with Henry Steuart Fothringham last week. Indeed Walter was his grand-father and he is very well versed in his forestry history and the history of Murthly trees. The trees he is standing under on FM3533 are Douglas fir that were planted around 1840, among the first to be brought as seedlings (he said) to Scotland by an ancestor, William Drummond Stewart (see http://www.threeworldsmeet.org/Murthly.php). The other pic (FM3532) are, he believes, the same trees.

He told me about a yew avenue planted in the 1560s and a cedar of Lebanon, planted in the 1680s - still to be seen at Murthly.

He also said that his nephew, Thomas, who owns Murthly today, recently dismantled a forestry museum at the castle and put it into storage. He says much of it is tree cuts - lengths and sections etc. He would very much like to see it incorporated into a forestry museum.

Henry knew about the forestry school at Birnam, but doesn't know where it was located or any more details.


Added by on 07 July 2017.
Further to Mairi's comments, there is an article written in the Dundee Courier, Saturday, 17th, July 1920 when there was a meeting on Friday, 16th, July, 1920 at Murthly Estate to discuss forestry practices, with all of the Commonwealth forestry authorities of the day. In the article, mention is made of the Forestry Commission nursery at Byres under the charge of Mr H. Watson.

There is also mention of the forestry museum in the "New Castle": "In the Murthly new castle was seen the forestry museum established eleven years ago for the benefit of the employees on the estate interested in forestry. Entirely local, the museum contains specimens of timber, fungoid, and insect pests found on the estate."

The article can be read in full in 'The British Newspaper Archive'.

Added by Bill Rayner on 07 July 2017.
Further mention of the Birnam Forestry school can be read in the Dundee Evening Telegraph, Thursday, 26th, August 1920, page 3, in an article titled "Forerstry work for ex-serviceman" the pertinant part of the article is and I quote: "In conjunction with the Ministry of Labour, the Commission has established at Brookenhurst, New Forest, a school for the forestry training of ex-Service disabled men. This school will be opened next month. A similar school opened at Birnam, near Dunkeld, while a new school for forest apprentices has been recently started at Beauly, Inverness-shire. Offers of land may be addressed to the offices of the Assistant Commissioners at 22 Grosvenor Gardens, S.W." The original image is copyrighted as follows "Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD." and can be read in full in 'The British Newspaper Archive'.

Added by Bill Rayner on 07 July 2017.
The Forestry School, Birnam, was opened on Saturday, 9th, November, 1919. Article in the Dundee Courier of that date. Contents of the article include " FORESTRY SCHOOL FOR DISCHARGED MEN TO BE OPENED AT BIRNAM TO-DAY. The new Scottish School of Practical Forestry. just completed at Birnam, is to be opened to-day Mr Robert Munro, Secretary for Scotland, and the Duke of Atholl. The idea is to provide training in practical and theoretical forestry for discharged soldiers and sailors, and for the purposes of the practical and demonstration work the Duke of Atholl and Mr Steuart Fotheringham of Murthly have undertaken to give the use of the Atholl and Murthly woods and nurseries. Mr Harry Watson, a Dundee man well versed in forestry operations, has been appointed lecturer of the school. After a briliant college career Watson entered the service of the Earl of Moray, and his work was chiefly associated with the great forest lands, Findhorn. and as the result of research work which he undertook was later appointed to the staff of the Timber Control Department of the Board of Trade. Mr Watson a son of Mrs Watson, 44, Farington Street, Dundee, and has five brothers serving in the armies." The original image is copyrighted as follows "Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD." and can be read in full in 'The British Newspaper Archive'.

Added by Bill Rayner on 07 July 2017.
Finally, from 'The Scotsman', Monday, 11th, November 1919 are the following extracts taken from their article on the opening of the forestry School at Birnam. "The site for the building has been obtained rent free on land owned by Colonel Steuart Fothringham of Murthly. No more fitting place could have been chosen for the School. Birnam Wood, which is in close proximity to the School, ...." and "The School building is a neat structure, consisting of lecture hall, museum and accessories, and the numerous varieties of wood which form the walls, floors, and doors, provide an excellent object-lesson for the students." and "The School provides accommodation for 24 students and already there are 13 students who will undergo a course of training lasting for two years. A lecturer of collegiate status (Mr Harry Watson) has been appointed to take charge of the School, and for the practical work access has been given to the Murthly and Atholl woodlands and nurseries."

Having looked at Ordnance Survey maps of the area at various scales on the 'National Library of Scotland' website, could it be possible that the forestry School was set up in the now ruined "Hospital" at Dalpowie or within its immediate vicinity (NGR:305130, 739675)?

The original newspaper image is copyrighted as follows, "Image © Johnston Press plc." and can be read in full in 'The British Newspaper Archive'.


Added by Bill Rayner on 07 July 2017.
Hey Bill, you been taking a break from the agates? That's fascinating. I wasn't aware that there had been a forestry school in Birnam. I take it the site of the hospital you've mentioned is at the current estate access from the A9? Hi Mairi, re your comments about the Steuart-Fotheringhams and his interest in a forestry museum; is there a wider discussion taking place in relation to a national forestry museum? Something, I'm very keen to see.

Added by Doug Mitchell on 08 July 2017.
Aye Doug, it would appear that the "Hospital" at Dalpowie, now in ruin, lies in the SE corner of the woodland adjacent to a field on the north side of the Western Avenue, at the northern end of the current A9 length of dual carriageway; this is approximately 350m SE of the current Western Avenue junction with the A9. I am not sure if the proposed re-alignment and dualling of the A9 will encroach upon the ruins and or the Cedar Avenue (Cedrus atlantica glauca) that is part of the Murthly Castle designated landscape. The title "Hospital" is used on the 1" to mile (1:63, 360) maps of the early 1900's, whilst the place name "Dalpowie" is used on the 6" to mile (1:10, 560) and 25" to mile (1:2, 500) of the same period. I trust this clarifies the various names I have used and the position of a potential site for the School. Good health. Bill

Added by Bill Rayner on 09 July 2017.
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