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Willie Fleming forestry story 1956
Forestry Memories
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No: 4332   Contributor: Norman Davidson   Year: 1957
Willie Fleming forestry story 1956

This is a short account of Willie’s career in the Forestry Commission and of some of the people he encountered. This was prompted by responses from former forestry colleagues to some photos that he had posted on the Forestry Memories website.

Willie writes:
‘I started with the Forestry Commission in Dec 1956 and spent 1957 and 58 based at Strathyre Forest with spells at Devilla and Bogside in Fife. Strathyre Forest included Dalchonzie, Stank Glen amnd Treen Forests (Treen – Callandar). In 1959 I moved to Cumbernauld Forest and was based at Limerigg rear Falkirk which included Barns and Barnmuir Plantations near Limerigg with two new plantations at ‘The Desert’ and ‘The Moss’ on the A706 near Bathgate. I also spent some time at Catton Valley Forest near Denny.

I found it interesting that you (Norman Davidson) knew Rae Brown and assume that you recognised him in the photo with the motorbike (ex WD). The chap in the photo kneeling down is Norman Crowe who like Rae came from Kames near Tighnabruich and end up in the Glasgow Police force. The chap with the catapult is Ian Robertson from Aberfoyle.

In one of the other photographs I can be seen planting contorta pine at Cumbernauld Forest with the Forth and Clyde canal in the back ground. Unfortunately I strayed too far over the compartment boundary and planted then on the Roman Wall (Antonine) and following a ticking off had to remove them.

I forgot to to add that while based at Strathyre we did a fair bit of planting at the old German POW camp at Cultybraggan near Comrie and from Cumbernauld we established a new forest at Fauld House, West Lothian.

Returning to the subject of Rae Brown, I recall him talking about applying for a position at Benmore Forestry School in December 1958, just before we left the forestry hostel at Strathyre. That year I took him to my home in Avonbridge near Falkirk where he spent the weekend with relatives (McIntoshes). On meeting on Sunday night to return to Strathyre, Rae declared ‘It was the most boring weekend of his life’.

Around 1986-87 I attended a wedding reception in Bonnybridge near Falkirkand found myself seated beside a middle aged lady. To make polite conversation I asked her where she lived, ‘A place you will never have heard of – Kames’ she replied. I asked her if she knew Rae Brown as Kames was familiar to me. It turned out the Browns were her next door neighbours. About two hours later a chap that I knew who worked in Carron Valley Forest called Duncan Hamilton came over to me and said a c hap who worked beside him was asking about me – his name was Rae Brown!

Nothing heard of the man for 28 years and then two mentions from two different people in two hours! I got in touch with Rae by phone – turned out was based at Carron Valley Forest and still played shinty with a local club in Livingston, West Lothian where I stayed at the time. Not heard from him since.

The web site has obviously been a great success as Alex Stewart has been in contact with ten of the sixteen bothy boys following the original Strathyre postings. The cryptic note on the back of the photo refers to an incident behind the Kingshouse Hotel at Balquidder when Mike Cairney was digging a drain across a new road line where we had clear felled the trees.

When the drain was completed Mike suggested to Alastair Cameron (Head Forester) that the drain might have been positioned slightly better had it been further downhill. Cameron being the Head Forester took this comment badly and poked Mike in the chest with the short stick which he always carried and told him that he was there to work and not to question orders. Mike then grabbed the stick broke it then threw it away and was dismissed on the spot. Rumours flew around for a while that he had also struck Cameron but there was no one around at the time to back this up. It is interesting to note that in an email that I received from Mike last year he stated that at no time did he strike Cameron during this bust up.’
Picture added on 24 January 2019 at 11:44
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