Carsphairn Archive

Forester

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49 Years with the Forestry Commission

Mr Bill Hough, who has spent nearly all his life in the Carsphairn district, recently retired from working with the Forestry Commission. He started in 1940, when only three quarters of Dundeugh Hill was planted.

His first job was turfing which meant taking the turf off and putting it into the middle between the drains (mounding). A slit was put down the middle of the mounds and in spring trees were planted five feet apart in them.

The winter job was draining and mounding in preparation for planting in the spring. Planting took place from the end of February until the end of April and Mr Hough did this each year until 1968. In 1940 Norway spruce, sitka spruce, western hemlock, larch and European larch were planted. Nowadays not so many Norway spruce and larch are planted as sitka is more popular because it is faster growing and in demand at the pulp mills.

Most of the men employed by the Commission in 1940 were draining, planting and cleaning the trees in summer. Trees of mixed species came in batches of 50,000 to be planted. There were very few broad-leaved trees. Trees came at the beginning of the planting season and were put in 'sheughs' (ditches) to keep the roots moist. When it was time to plant them the men would carry them, in bags, possibly two miles, to where the planting was taking place.

In those days there were no forestry roads, they were put in after planting. Occasionally trees had to be cut down if they were in the way of the road and sometimes the road was put along the ride lines (the unforested parts between each compartment of trees).

In 1968 Mr Hough moved onto forest harvesting - felling trees. Trees were wanted for pulpwood for chips to be made into paper and the first trees he cut down were on average 32 years old. A bushman's saw was used then but after a year chainsaws were used and axes to chop off the branches (snedding). The trees were cut into 7'6" lengths. Mr Hough could cut down 75 trees a day.

The trees being cut now are much larger, about 30-40 years old, and fellers using chainsaws can 'sned' 50 a day; but that does not necessarily take eight hours. In the earlier days of felling Fordson tractors with winches would pull out 10-15 trees to be cut into lengths on the road side.

Nowadays the felling is still done by chainsaw but after this modern technology takes over. The processor 'sneds' the trees and cuts them into appropriate lengths and then the forward harvester extracts the timber from the wood and stacks it on the road side. Greater mechanisation means that fewer men are employed by the Commission.

In 1940 there were eight men employed from the parish and the rest came from Dalry. They worked from 7.30 until 5.00pm whereas now they work from 7.30 until 4.00pm. There were, at one time, twenty fellers but now they are nearly all outside contractors. The local employees from the parish are the forwarder driver, a lorry driver, two maintenance men and a forest ranger. The game keeper, which Mr Hough's father used to be, has changed into the ranger.

The gamekeeper shot crows which damaged the grouse shooting. Now there are very few grouse but there are more deer, particularly red deer that come down from the hills, in winter. They cause damage as they skin the sweet tasting bark off the trees.

Dundeugh village was built between 1950 and 1952. All fourteen houses were once occupied by forestry personnel. It was built there because there were objections to extra houses being added on to Carsphairn.

Two memories from his time in the Commission during the war stand out in Mr Hough's mind. Two men were often sent to Dalry to pick up small loads of trees which had been dropped off at Glendinnings shop (now Mr Kerr's shop). They would cycle back to Dundeugh, across the river, with the trees, go onto the hill, put the trees in 'sheughs' and then go back down to Dalry for another load. This went on for several days until the trees were all collected.

Secondly, during the Clydebank bombing raids, the bombers dropped incendiary bombs on Marscalloch. At Midnight, Mr Hough, his father, the policeman, postman and minister were called out and with others put the fire out in about four hours. It was a large fire and the light of the flames was showing up the dams which would have been a target had more bombers flown over. Although the men had had a very hard night's work they were told to report for work at twelve noon.

The job that has given Mr Hough the greatest satisfaction over the years was felling because he was seeing the harvest of what he had planted. The most difficult job was draining and the greatest change he has seen is more modern machinery for felling and more contractors being brought in. Over the next fifty years he thinks the Commission will plant more broadleaf trees because the demand for them is increasing. We wish Mr Hough a very happy retirement.

Taped interview with Bill Hough

An extract from a recorded conversation with Mr Hough since his retirement and reproduced in Carsphairn Heritage Group's Newsletter no 7 dated July 1989.