Friday 14th and Saturday 15th June 2019 at Stratherrick Hall
Following the resounding success of our ‘Things we used to use’ two-day exhibition last summer, we decided to stage something similar this year. To mark the 100th birthday of the Forestry Commission, the Trees and Forests of South Loch Ness exhibition was mounted in (and outside) Stratherrick Hall, masterminded by Bob Main and Mags Fraser, with an informative and hugely entertaining talk by Bryce Reynard on the Friday evening. As last year, the local primary school pupils were our first guests on the Friday, and found the exhibits fascinating, asking lots of questions which showed their enthusiasm and interest.
Inside the hall were a wide variety of wall displays, maps, ‘browsing tables’ of books and magazines, forestry tools from ancient to modern, including power saws, trees themselves from seedlings of different species to full-grown cross-sections showing annual growth rings. Particularly impressive was Mags’ and Janet’s ‘timeline’ showing the history of forestry in South Loch Ness and its effects on the life and landscape of our area. Outside, on the hall wall, were some of the Forestry Commission’s signs (including fire warnings) that have been so familiar over the years, while in the car park were old Ferguson and Fordson tractors, a vintage McConnel circular saw and a modern mobile saw mill producing boards from logs – these were all demonstrated, attracting much interest. We had some members of the public looking in after the Friday school visits, but many more enjoyed the exhibition on Saturday, including a group of local retired foresters.
A good turnout of about forty heard Bryce’s talk on Friday evening. After a short but fascinating black-and-white film about Scottish forestry in the early 50s, Bryce launched into a wonderfully colourful life history, with anecdotes from his forestry career which took him to virtually every corner of Scotland. As his life history advanced, his assistant Fred Millwood modelled the various Commission uniform jackets used over the decades, from tweed with red collars with crowns on them, right up to modern fleeces. Bryce found a growing interest in hillwalking fitted in ideally with his job, and another profitable sideline was running bed-and-breakfast with his wife in their several forestry homes. Bryce and Fred rounded off a great evening with a tuneful and amusing duet, and one was left with a feeling that here were two men who had found the ideal life career!
In conclusion, many thanks are due to Bob (himself a civil engineer with the Forestry Commission) and to Mags (who got a little presentation for all her hours of meticulous preparation) and to the numerous people who lent material and artefacts for the display, and also several from outwith the Heritage Group who gave their time over the two days to help man (and woman!) the event. In all, another huge success for the Group.
The Time Line
Notes From Aldourie Estate Diary 1780’s courtesy of Ian Cameron
Inverfarigaig, “Belachernoch”, Drummond, “Dundhiardel”
In 1776 Anne Fraser, heiress to Aldourie and Balnain, married Alexander Tytler, an academic based in Edinburgh. Although he owned a large house in the country outside the capital, Alexander was essentially a “townie”! He was willing to learn however, and a notebook survives full of information gleaned from surrounding landowners and relatives of his wife. The forestry references mainly refer to native hardwoods — birch and oak especially, and reflects the fact that this was an era when powered sawing was uncommon, and much use was made of smaller roundwood, split or whole, which required much less effort than hand sawing. Most of the area it relates to became part of the Commission,s Farigaig Forest in the 20th century. Some of the forestry-related pages are reproduced entirely. Some are lists of wages paid, tradesmens’ charges etc, but a few relevant sentences can be picked out from these: The men and women whom I employed in planting the firs at Achnabat were paid some 6d some 7d, some 4d, some 3d per day. Men and womens wages employed in planting about 51,000 firs £2.1 7.5d To Donald McKenzie in part of the dike at 2 % d per yard £3. 3.0. Mr Baillie, Dochfour, paid 15/- per acre for planting with firs, inclosing with feal (turf) dike and keeping up for 7 year. He pays 2d per yard for a face dike five feet high, made with large stones from the loch split with the hammer, excellent work — he laid down the stones to the mason. Alexander’s sketch shows Dores in 1784, ( see gallery below ) with the mill and the church on the left and nothing by the Loch shore. Until the canal was opened 40 years later much of the population would have been concentrated nearer the pier at Aldourie and the ford at Bona. The shading of the right probably represents the newly planted Dores wood, which was not felled until the 1920’s. Mr Grant?? of Boleskine tells me that Cumming and Welsh of Inverness give by far the highest price for wood. Cohn MacDonlad and John Bain offer 11/- a boll for the oak bark and 3d for every tree that measures 4(?) inches at bottom — those under that size to be stacked and bought by the ?? for firewood. Glengary sold his birches at 2d a tree. E. MacDonald offered for Drummond Bush £30 but he owned he believed the Abriachan people would give a good deal more for it as the wood is fit for all country uses — he allowed it was the best Birch Wood in all the country. In cutting the birches pone of the young wood under 4 inches diameter should be allowed to be cut — a penalty exacted for any tree under that size. Glengary sold his birches at 2d a tree. Query the number in Drummond bush. These are above 30 acres — the plan says 33. In cutting, no birch under 4 inches in diameter should be touched — a number must be left as ornamental for the road. N.B Buffon observes one thing which very greatly increases the solidity and strength of timber, which is that the trees intended to be felled for service should be first stripped of their bark and suffered to stand and die upon the spot before cutting. The sappy part or blea of the oak becomes by this means as hard and firm as the heart, and the real strength and density of the wood has been proved by many experiments to be greatly encreased by it. They send up their young shoots equally vigorous as in the common method of cutting . Query whether this by drying the wood and diminishing its diameter would not lower its price in a market, though it might really improve the timber. In this case the practice should be followed when wood is cut for home service, but not when cut for sale. Woods — oak, birch, hazel etc MacRitchie from Dunkeld valued our oak wood at 500, but I suspect he was deceived as to the extent of it. The price of oak bark at Perth last year (1783) he says was 11d a stone. It runs from that to 13d or 14d. Doubt as to the number of stones to a boll. I think 10, but Evan Macdonald and John Bain from Inverness say 12 ½ stone goes to the boll of bark. Cumming and Welsh, I am told, give the highest prices of any people in this country for woods. (Not Cumming in the Shore, but convener Cumming. Gortuleg got from them a very high price for oak. Macdonald and Bain offer me 11 shillings a boll for the oak bark — this at the rate of 12% stone is a fraction more than 10d a stone, which is certainly a very low price. If only 10 stone goes to a boll this would be above 13d a stone. This must be attended to. Beladrum tells me he has sold his birches at 6d a piece. Welsh offers only 9 shillings per boll for the bark. . Relick (Reelig) cut his hazel strings and employed one of his farm servants to dress them into hoops for which he got 9/- per 100 strings — or 200 hoops. The common price of undressed strings is 2/- or 2/6 a hundred. Glenmorison sells his birches some at 2/9 a dozen trees and some at 5 shillings a dozen — some he won’t cut under 6/- a dozen. Belachernoch birch wood was sold by Balnain about 14 years ago to Culduthil for £150, but Balnain afterwards gave him a deduction of £30 so that all he received for it was £120 — a very trifling price, for it was of great extent — above 3 miles in length and pretty deep — but the wood I suppose has not been as good. Balnain injudiciously burnt the ground immediately after the cutting, being told that it would be of advantage — whereas it destroyed all the seedlings and nothing but such seeds as were deposited from those few birch trees that were left standing have since come up. There is however a great change on it these last five years and in a few years more it I believe will yet be a thriving wood. If Belachernoch had been such timber as Drummond Bush it ought to have given at least 5 times the price which it was sold for to Culduthill. I have sold Drummond bush to Chas Cumming for 21/2d (2.5d) per tree for all above 12” in girth. I conjecture there may be 10,000 above that size. Evan MacDonald made a computation that there were 14,000 but I believe he estimated trees under 12”. The wood at Inverfarigaig is at a proper age for cutting but it is not very valuable — perhaps this cutting may not fetch above £20. The wood on Dundhiardel is very fine and very extensive — I fancy about 150 acres — the most beautiful birch I ever saw. If sold at the same rate as Drummond it ought to fetch a great deal of money. Drummond, which consists of about 30 acres will fetch I suppose from £80 to £100. I have marked about 1000 oaks at Aldourie for cutting and manufacturing the bark myself.