In Centenary year of public forestry in Britain, new film captures memories of 100 year-old forester
In a remarkable coincidence, this year’s centenary celebrations of public forestry in Britain have been capped by the 100th birthday celebration of retired former Forestry Commissioner, George Stewart.
Mr Stewart, was born in Glasgow on 12 December 1919 only three days after the newly-formed Forestry Commission planted its first trees at Monaughty Forest, near Elgin.
After serving with the Royal Artillery in WWII, both in the North African and Italian theatres, Mr Stewart studied for a forestry degree at Edinburgh University and joined the Forestry Commission in 1949.
Initially based in the Borders and Dumfriesshire, he later worked with Forest Research, took a post in North West England, and became FC Conservator for West Scotland – and was responsible for organising the response to the Great Storm of January 1968 which blew down a huge swathe of forest area.
After ‘retiring’ in 1979, Mr Stewart served as the Chair of the Scottish Wildlife Trust as well as being on the Council of the National Trust for Scotland. He has been a member of the Royal Scottish Forestry Society since 1949 and was made an Honorary Vice President earlier in 2019.
Nander Robertson, President of the Royal Scottish Forestry Society, said;
“George is an amazing character and puts many of us to shame! He still skis (after learning in Italy during the war) and only took up tennis – which he still plays – when he retired! He’s even been a member of the British over-80s tennis team and won two world championships in his age class!
“The coincidence of the two centenaries was too good an opportunity to pass up so, working with a number of organisations, we’re committed George’s memories and reminiscences of his life in forestry to film.
“It is a unique insight into how forestry has grown through the 20th century to the point where it now supports many jobs, contributes greatly to the rural economy and offers the people of Scotland a huge recreational and conservation resource.
“It’s something that George is immensely proud to have been a part of and this film is a fitting testament to a remarkable man.”
The filmed interview, which runs to 30 minutes and is entitled ‘A Remembrance of Forestry and the Forestry Commission’, can be seen at here. It provides a unique insight into forestry (mainly in Scotland but also elsewhere in Great Britain) in the 20th century, the role of the Forestry Commission and the people who were part of its development. A short reel of highlights can also be viewed at here as well as on the centenary website.
The partners behind the film were the Royal Scottish Forestry Society, the Scottish Forestry Trust, Forestry and Land Scotland, and Culture Perth & Kinross. The interview was launched at a special celebratory event held on 5 December at the Soutar Theatre in Perth Library (courtesy of Culture Perth & Kinross).
“Trees and woods, big forests, clumps of trees; they’re all part of this wonderful Scottish countryside that we have but I believe very much that the countryside must be a living countryside. It must be a place where people live and work; not only to enjoy it but to find employment there. I am glad I chose forestry to be my profession; it was a very wise choice for a young man to make.” George Stewart
Notes to Editors
1. A 30 minute version of the interview with George can be found at https://youtu.be/X8DYACOnhOY. A short selection of highlights from George’s interview can be viewed at https://youtu.be/QwRORLA4naY
3. At his time of retirement from the FC, Mr Stewart had become the Forestry Commissioner for Forest Management, responsible for overseeing much of the great forest expansion of that period and having helped oversee the transfer of the FC’s Head Quarters from London to Edinburgh in 1974.
4. The Forestry Commissioners formed the Board of the Forestry Commission which was established by the Forestry Act of 1919.
5. George is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Foresters and has been a member of the Royal Scottish Forestry Society since 1949 as well as being an honorary Vice President. Unsurprisingly, he is the oldest member of both organisations.
6. George has also contributed an article to the winter edition of ‘Scottish Forestry’, the journal of the Royal Scottish Forestry Society. This is a special edition to celebrate 100 years of state forestry. http://www.rsfs.org.uk/rsfs2018/scottish-forestry
7. He now lives in Scone, Perth & Kinross. He is still planning to ski with his family this winter
8. The interview was filmed and edited by Kelly McIntyre of Kelly McIntyre Photography of Blairgowrie - Kelly McIntyre photography with assistance from Syd House.