Roger Lines writing from the Atholl Hotel, after a week at work

My father, Roger Lines, had been interested in trees since he did his Scout Forester badge. He noted the trees he saw while serving in India, and after his return he took a degree in Forestry at Bangor.

He joined the Forestry Commission, based in Edinburgh, and wrote this letter home, a week after he started, which I think was in late 1952.

Atholl Hotel

Sat Evening

Dear M & D

Thank you for your letter with the ration book. Let me go through your letter. My office is now looking a little more lived in, with a cosy fire (much better coal up here) and my Alpine Calendar for 1940 on the wall. My IN tray is normally full and my OUT tray empty.

I have now formally started constructive work for the F.C. by having thrust onto me an expt (experiment) on the flushing of Spruce which has plants in a nursery at Tulliallan (just across the Forth from the Kincardine bridge). I have to get them planted out at Newcastleton Roxburgh in the spring. Unfortunately the labour for this comes from the hotel at Kielder which is closing at the end of the month, so it is possible that the expt will be shelved until next year. All the labour will be sacked and the Conservator has been to London to see if someone has just made a mistake. London told him there was no mistake so it means that the whole forest will just about have to close down. Its all mad as the cost of this would be terrific in terms of neglect, rabbits getting in, plants getting swamped with weeds etc. You cant get accountants to see this sort of thing though.

I have discovered after working here a week that office hours are 9 – 5.30 with 45 mins for lunch and 9 – 12.30 on Sat. Actually I thought they were 8.30 – 5.30 and have often worked til ten to six. Even so I dont feel exhausted at the end of a day as there is no-one to harry you and I get through more by doing it in my own time. I have spent quite a lot of time (office time, they are very good about that sort of thing) so far trying to find suitable digs.

I advertised in the local paper and got about twenty replies. Some were in Leith, too far away, others I visited and wasn’t impressed. The vast majority were in flats or tenements which are a great feature of Edin. These great grey granite blocks go up 4 or 5 floors and have a dimly lit main stair. Most are 100 yrs old but in reasonable condition. I went to see the Fergusons the evening I got your letter, but Nora had already gone down south. After they had gathered who I was (rather awkward) they were very hospitable and I have a standing invitation to go down and watch T.V. any evening when I am not busy. They also were very helpful in giving me advice about the digs letters I had received and finished up by giving me tea and shortbread. Having visited some more of the recommended ones I have finally got myself “bedded-down” with Mrs Harper 27, Dalrymple Crescent, Edinburgh 0. Phone Edin. 45574.

In contrast to the flats, this is a large single house set in its own garden, rather like some of the older houses in Sutton

Mrs Harper seems a reasonable person, well educated and with two chn. I am going to have a bed sitter about the size of the spare room. Large sitting room which I imagine I shall only use in summer. More later, I move in on Monday. £3-3. less lunch during week and reduction for time away. The point is that Dalrymple Crescent is a turning off Lauder Rd.

Weather so far hasn’t been to bad, not so much snow as fog and ice, but we have had nice days as well, and I seem to be getting on well with our Scots foresters (v. important). Office Staff is 13 including me but the chiefs are M.V. Edwards the boss, ex Burma, knows Darjeeling, highly intelligent little man. chn; John Zehetmayer English. Navy Lt & Oxford 5yrs in Research & one of the bright young men. 2 chn ; Faulkner, young ? 2yrs

Notes

This unfortunately is where the letter that I have ends – the final page has gone astray somewhere.

Better Coal – in those days Scotland was still a coal mining country.

People

A list of Forestry Commission Research staff in 1969 (about 17 years later) can be found at https://www.forestry-memories.org.uk/picture/number4352/
Many of the names are familiar as colleagues and friends of my father

Michael Vincent Edwards

I have been able to find the start of an obituary (written by Roger Lines) at https://academic.oup.com/forestry/article-abstract/42/2/204/626401

with the next page at https://academic.oup.com/forestry/article-abstract/42/2/206/626407 which mentions the welcome offered to my father, which started on his first day.
He was awarded an O.B.E. in 1967

John Zehetmayer

His obituary can be found on Wales Online here.

Roy Faulkner

I think he transferred down to Alice Holt and, as children we would go and see him and his family, and participate in “Nurdling” – where this YouTube clip seems a bit similar to what I remember – basically a kind of mad obstacle course.

Places

Lauder Road

Although it seems unlikely, I think the early Headquarters of Forestry Research in Scotland may have been in Lauder Road, I know they did not move into the ‘new’ offices at Sighthill straight away.

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