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 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 here (video below), 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).