Monday 5 December 2016

Save my tree please, sorry, it's gone, but have another one, 68 years on

Published 20/08/2015 | 14:48

Ian Mackinlay wrote a poem to the Hydro Board when he was aged 10 in 1947
Ian Mackinlay wrote a poem to the Hydro Board when he was aged 10 in 1947

A schoolboy who wrote a poem pleading with the Hydro Board to spare a tree has been gifted one 68 years on to make up for its loss.

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Ian Mackinlay penned the poem in 1947, when he was ten years old, asking the then Hydro Board to spare his favourite ash tree as the pioneering electrification of the Highlands began with the construction of hydro dams.

He then pinned the "Important Notice" to the trunk of the ash, where it was found by hydro workers.

The poem said: "To Hydro Board. Kindly see that nothing happens to this tree, or in your ear you'll find a flea, so don't put all the blame on me."

The hydro workers composed their own "Important Answer" which said : "The Hydro Board will do its best, to see your tree does not go west. But Regulation 93 forbids a notice on a tree ... so kindly keep your hardy flea, it really is no use to me, and we shall try to keep your tree."

However, the ash was in the midst of a glen that was to become part of a raised Loch Tummel and Clunie Dam which would help power the Highlands.

Mr Mackinlay, now 78, said: "It was a very nice ash tree that I used to climb with my cousins. It just had a lovely formation of branches leading up and you could sit quite safely up there.

"My aunt suggested I put a message on the tree asking them not to cut it down, so I just did it on an old envelope and stuck it to the tree.

"The next day I went down and there was this beautiful return poem back from a Hydro worker, rhyming and everything.

"I was very pleased to get a response and that the Hydro worker had taken the bother to make it rhyme and had written it so beautifully."

He found the poem and response whilst clearing his office recently and contacted SSE, which was formed in 1998 following the merger of Scottish Hydro Electric and Southern Electric, to tell them of his find.

The company is now gifting Mr Mackinlay a mountain ash tree for his own garden and will also plant one in the grounds of its £4.5 million visitor centre which is due to open at Pitlochry Dam in the autumn of 2016.

Mr Mackinlay, who lives in Glen Errochty in Perthshire, said: "It's very nostalgic for me to be presented with a mountain ash tree 68 years on from when Clunie Dam was built - it brings back many happy childhood memories.

"I'm also very pleased that a tree will be planted at the new visitor centre by SSE because hydro power has become such a part of the landscape of this part of Scotland.

"I never met the Scottish Hydro worker who wrote back to me but he made a young boy happy with his funny, well-rhymed and excellently handwritten note, even if my original tree didn't survive in the end."

The poems will be kept in SSE's soon-to-be-opened Pitlochry archive which stores historical blueprints, speeches and artefacts from across the last 75 years and will be open to the public by appointment.

Peter Donaldson, SSE director of renewable operations, said: "Mr Mackinlay's heart-warming story gives a rare insight into the impact of SSE's hydro generation in its early days. It remains embedded in Scotland's heritage.

"We are custodians of both the land and the incredible hydro infrastructure built by the Hydro Board. It's our responsibility to a work in harmony with local communities and deliver energy as sustainably as possible.

"If our Hydro Board forefathers promised to try and keep Ian's tree, it's our duty and pleasure to honour that promise - 68 years later."

John Swinney, Finance Secretary and MSP for Perthshire North, will meet Mr Mackinlay at the launch of SSE's archive centre on August 21.

Press Association

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