Alltcailleach Forest circa 1982
The image is courtesy of Dave Stewart, Dufftown, from a collection belonging to his father George Stewart.
This one is of my father, George Stewart and George Cassie the Ganger at Alltcailleach, they are standing on the road at Woodstock. Birkhall House is obscured by the van and the Forestry Office is way over on the edge of the trees in the distance.
George Stewart’s career is summarised by his son Dave below:
This is a brief history of my father’s lifetime career with the Forestry Commission, which must follow a very similar pattern of movements to many other Foresters of that era
Brought up in Auchenblae
1940 – 43 started his career working at Drumtochty Forest
1943 – 45 Forestry School at Benmore, as it was wartime he also was in the Home Guard there. Whilst at Benmore he contracted meningitis and was being left to lie in bed until James Maxtone insisted that they get a doctor which saved him
1946 – 48 National Service in the Royal Navy on the flight deck of an Aircraft Carrier
1948 – 51 working at Durris Forest where he lodged with my Grandmother and this is where he met my mother and was married in 1951
My grandmother, Mrs Davidson, latterly only took in Forestry Commission workers and I can remember there was two young guys who were gaining experience to go to Forestry School stayed there for a long time, cannot remember their names but I have photos of them somewhere.
I also remember well another two who often lodged there Bert and Duncan who were part of the roads squad, this would have been in the 1960s, I think Bert was Bert Legge who came from Cairnie. (it is possible that Duncan was Duncan Chisholm another ploughing tractor operator)
1951 – 1953 First forest he was on was at Montreathmont, they stayed in a BTH at Turin which is no longer there, but I have pictures of it.
1953 – 1958 Moved to Dallas Forest which was a small forest which he managed on his own, the BTH we stayed in is still there, but the gamekeeper David McRae’s house next door has been totally replaced.
I can just remember the District Officer coming round in his Triumph Mayflower and also can just remember seeing the trees blown down in the 1953 January Gale
1958 –1964 Moved to Speymouth Forest as one of the foresters under Bob Allison, I can remember as I child of about 6 that we must have been through to see where we were moving to and being taken to Bob Allison’s house in Fochabers and meeting his son Brian who I was to meet again much later in life when part of my job was managing the Balvenie Estate.
We lived at 1 Forestry Cottages, Balnacoul which was in the line of 4 BTHs, at Crofts of Dipple, they were the coldest houses I have ever lived in.
Whilst at Speymouth he oversaw a lot of the planting at Ordiequish and on the Bin Hill at Cullen which had to be cleared of Mortars first as it had been a war time range.
At this time also he was involved with I think the first of the helicopter spraying to clear whins on areas to be planted
1963 to 1966 - Took on the role as the first person to do Tools Instruction, travelling around the North East Conservancy in a Bedford Van, training forestry workers in the use of hand tools, saw sharpening and chainsaws. Dad was very good with hand tools so this was right up his street and would have liked to have continued with this but you were only allowed to specialise for 3 years.
We move to East Woodlands near Dyce to be more central for this job. East Woodlands was a large house gifted to the Forestry Commission along with a small Estate, there was a small burial area nearby in the wood, which had to be maintained by the FC where the Owner and his wife were laid to rest as well as a memorial to their son who had been killed in the war hence with no heirs the handover.
1966 – 1971 On the move again this time as Head Forester at Pitmedden Forest near Auchtermuchty, The house was called Forest Lodge and was next to the workshops and office and next door to us lived the keeper Richard Kies
Others names I can remember are as follows:
Jock Keiller – Ganger
Al Knoll – Lorry driver
Jimmy ? Forest worker
I can remember two of the trainee Foresters that worked with him there, Ian Grant who went on to manage Rothes Estates and Dave Chappele who went off to work in Forestry in Africa
At this time I can vividly remember the January Gale of 1967 which devastated forests through central Scotland. It was prelims day but School was cancelled and I got to go with Dad and the squad clearing the public roads in the area blocked by fallen trees.
During this time he also covered for a spell Ladybank Forest, as the Head Forester Alf Harwood had terminal cancer
1971 – 1985 Final move to Alltcailleach Forest near Ballater where they stayed at the Foresters house at Woodstock until his retiral, it was the longest they had got to stay anywhere ever.
The office was an old BTH and although I have a photograph of the staff at I think a long service award I can only remember a few of the names
George Cassie – Ganger
Mary Stewart – secretary
Duncan Anderson – forest worker
Alltcaileach built the wooden toilet blocks which were spread around the Forests at public access points.
Also included with the forest was the sawmill located near to Birkhall House but some time previously something went wrong and the steam engine which drove all the saw benches was damaged, his predecessor Danny Marnoch had managed to source parts and someone capable of fixing it but the District Officer vetoed it, which was ironic as the FC had to repair it in the end to hand it back the Royalty.
This is the Birkhall engine now on display at Alford transport museum, Dad did speak to them to pass on what he knew of it but they didn’t want to know about the FC connection only the royalty one
Latterly at this time there was a major task which had to take place measuring and valuing the whole Forest as part of the handover back to the Crown.
Finally just before he retired in 1985 at the age of 60 he was running to Durris Forest to work to complete his final months of service.
Picture added on 20 October 2018 at 18:06