150th Anniversary address by Duke of Edinburgh

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I am very pleased to have this opportunity to offer my congratulations and best wishes to the RSFS on its 150th anniversary.

Having spent a period in each of the last 50 years at Balmoral, I have more than a passing interest in forestry, and I am well aware of the value of this Society to the forestry community in Scotland.

Queen Victoria bought the lease to the Balmoral property from the Duke of Fife in 1848 and then acquired the fee simple in 1852. The previous tenant, Sir Robert Gordon, was not in the same class of forestry enthusiasts as his neighbour, James Farquharson of Invercauld. In the late 18th century, the Farquharson of the day had planted one and a half million Scots pine and larch. Even this record hardly compares with the 1,800 hectares of oak forest planted by the 9th Earl of Moray in the Darnaway forests.

No sooner had the Queen and Prince Albert settled into Balmoral than he began an ambitious planting programme. It so happened that a relict of the great Caledonian Forest, known as the Ballochbuie, lay on the march between Invercauld and Balmoral. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert soon became aware of the beauty and historic nature of the Ballochbhuie.

Not unnaturally, the Queen was horrified to discover that the Laird of lnvercauld had sold some 7,000 of these ancient trees to a timber merchant. She therefore decided to try to prevent these trees being felled. Farquharson was persuaded to lease the whole of the Ballochbhuie beat - some 3,000 hectares, including 300 hectares of ancient forest - to the Queen for 19 years. The deal included paying Farquharson the sum he had received from the timber merchant, and the trees were saved.

The Queen eventually managed to buy the whole of the Ballochbhuie property in 1878. In so doing, she effectively paid twice for the trees. There has been some planting round the edges of these remains of the Caledonian Forest, but the core has remained virtually untouched ever since.

I find it slightly ironic that there are now parts of four SACs, three SPAs, four SSSIs, and a National Scenic Area covering nearly 22,000 hectares of Balmoral. Furthermore, in 1992 we were required to put a fence round 300 hectares of the 'old' Ballochbhuie Forest to allow for natural regeneration. This means that the whole area will be denied to the deer population as winter shelter for, at least, the next 50 years. Incidentally, over the last 20 years we have removed some 22 miles of fencing. Twenty of the remaining 30 miles have been marked to reduce the supposed risk to capercailzie, black and red grouse.

Balmoral also played an important part in the early days of the Forestry Commission. In 1919, when the Commission was set up, King George V leased about 600 hectares of the property of Birkhall to the Commission at a pepper-corn rent to emphasise his support for the new agency. Some 60 years later, when the Commission was selling off some of its outlying plantations, we managed to buy the trees and take the forestry back and we now manage about 3,000 hectares.

Forestry may be a long-term business, but I have been struck by the bewildering changes, during the last 150 years, in forest economics, fashions, theories, and enthusiasms. It is worth bearing in mind that in 1866, shortly after the Society was founded, the last import duties on wood were removed, and cheap imports flooded into the country. Markets were lost, and forestry went into decline. However, planting did not cease entirely. Many enthusiastic landowners planted a whole variety of indigenous and exotic trees for amenity.

Major replanting started again with the creation of the Forestry Commission after the massive exploitation of the forests during the First World War. A further boost to planting came after the Second World War with the introduction of the Dedication Scheme. The effect on forest cover in Scotland was dramatic. It increased from 4% in 1919 to 17% in 2003. However, the great majority of this area is under native and exotic conifer plantations.

Priorities have also changed. Once thought of as a commercial producer of wood for pit-props, use in sawmills, particle board factories, pulp mills, or fence posts and firewood; it is now expected to provide for the conservation of wildlife, and for human relaxation and recreation. The problem is to get the long-term policies right, and not let the obsession with a single issue lead to the disregard of the value of the system as a whole. The natural world is a symbiotic system, and the art of the conservationist is to achieve a sensible balance between all its competing and inter-dependent members.

With so many statutory and voluntary specialist organisations in the field, the landowner has an unenviable task in trying to please them all. To adapt Lincoln's famous remark, "You can please some of them some of the time, but you cannot please all of them all of the time."

In the years to come, I believe that the Society has an increasingly important role to play in helping to keep this balance in perspective, and in providing a forum for open and objective discussion of what are undoubtedly very important contemporary challenges.

I wish the Society even greater success in the next 150 years.


Royal Scottish Forestry Society 150th Anniversary Conference

Perthshire 5th November 2004


His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh
Peter JB Slater - Chairman of the Conference

Peter Slater read zoology at Edinburgh and obtained a PhD in 1968 and a D.Sc on bird behaviour in 1983. He served in various capacities at Edinburgh, 1964-68; at Sussex, 1968-84 and as Kennedy Professor of Natural History, University of St Andrews since 1984. He was Dean of the Faculty of Science, University of St. Andrews, 1998-2002.

Chris Badenoch

Chris Badenoch is an agriculturist who spent more than 30 years on aspects of nature conservation and, during the last ten years of his professional career, was responsible for SNH involvement in the communities in the Forth & Borders region. He has been a member of the RSFS for more than 25 years.

Douglas C Malcolm

BSc Forestry (Hons), Edinburgh (1954) and PhD for a thesis on Site factors and the growth of Sitka spruce (1970). District Forest Officer, FC (1954-1961). University of Edinburgh (1961-1996), Lecturer in Silviculture (1961­1987), Head of the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources (1987) and subsequently Convenor, School of Forestry, Institute of Ecology and Resource Management.  Currently President of the Botanical Society of Scotland. OBE in 1994 for services to forestry.

Mairi Stewart

Research Officer for the AHRB Research Centre for Environmental History at the University of Stirling. Geography degree from Glasgow University, five years with Scottish Native Woods. 1995 M.Phil. with Professor TC Smout at the Institute for Environmental History on the woodland history of Lochtayside, 1650-1850.

Jim Ball

Forestry practice in the humid African tropics 1963-1977; project work with FAO and cooperation with World Bank in various countries of equatorial Africa 1977-1991; Senior Plantations Officer, FAO HQ, Rome, 1991-1999; Director, Information and International Relations, FAO HQ, Rome, 1999-2001; independent consultant since 2001.

Eberhard F Bruenig

Practical forestry training in Braunschweig (1946-47), Hesse (1953), Universities Gottingen, Freiburg, Oxford (1948-1953, PhD 1953), University of Hamburg (1964-68, 1969-91) and at SUNY College of Forestry (1968-69). Research planning and management (DFG 1975-91, NERC 1984-87, IUFRO, IUCN and Unesco-MAB, 1975-90).

Wayne H Smith

BA agriculture at University of Florida 1960, MA and PhD in Forestry and Soil Science at Mississippi State. Interim Dean for Research and Interim Director of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station (FAES) and Professor of Forestry Emeritus of the University of Florida. Chair of the Florida Division, Society of American Foresters.

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