Sandy the planter, piper and professor
Photograph courtesy of Sandy Robertson, St John’s, Canada
Dr Alexander Roberson (Sandy) describes very vividly his introduction to the highs and lows of forestry work in the Forestry Commission during the 1950s and beyond. In the attached PDF we follow him as a school leaver into Mr E D Fraser’s office at Loch Ard to request a job and he soon finds himself dipping fence posts into creosote tanks, being burnt by the splashes on his bare skin and soon after waist deep in forest drains as he struggles to clean them out. Sandy’s article dips into the early history of the Forestry Commission, the joys of hand ditching and draining and setting out planting turfs, laying in trees with the axe before felling with the cross cut and the purgatory of ‘wet time’ with squads of men cooped up in small shelters for hours and even days on end.
His love of surveying and mapping comes to the fore as he recounts ‘One of the most pleasant forestry jobs was surveying these marvelous mountains, glens and forests and drafting maps. Some of my tools of the trade included three compasses a reasonably good survey compass with a built in leveler and tripod mount that I used for finer survey work such as laying out routes for roads; a black 1930’s British army compass had an illuminated dial useful in dark woods as night fall in short days of winter. The Silva compass (top-centre) has a few more very marginally useful features. The Haga altimeter (top right) For measuring tree heights and which, when in its leather pouch can be mistaken for a pistol. The Sunnto altimeter (beside drawing set), Sunnto range finder bar (next to compass), 1950’s Ordnance Survey map ruler, aneroid barometer altimeter (beside drawing set), drafting set, basal area wedge prism (middle right) and Abney level (bottom right),hygrometer (left), humidity slide ruler (large one).
Forest surveying in these mountains and through rough woodlands can be tough on the legs; But on a “gie driech day” (very wet day) I relaxed in the comfort of the bothy drafting the survey details onto 60 x 101 cm forest map of Glen Arklet Forest using only a special Ordnance Survey ruler and a very small mapping quill (nib).
Not so easy to do without making mistakes or accidentally dripping ink onto the map; and considering it was drawn on a crude table in a unheated forestry bothy dining room table and other distractions.’
In the article you find out that he is transferred to Craigvinean Forest and again meets up with E D (Ted) Fraser his first Head Forester and gains even more experience of forestry tasks before moving on to further academic and foreign fields.
Picture added on 20 August 2012