68 years on…SSE finally delivers Ian’s symbolic mountain ash tree

SSE has delivered a huge mountain ash tree to Ian Mackinlay to his Perthshire home to make good on an old promise. The 15 feet tree was too big for Ian to put in his own car, but luckily SSE is not short of the right personnel or vehicles to make such a special delivery, with Gregor MacGillivray, Hydro Plant Attendant from Tummel Bridge helping out this time. 

It was way back in 1947 when ten-year-old Ian penned a heartfelt poem asking the then Hydro Board to spare his favourite ash tree from the water as the pioneering electrification of the Highlands began with the construction of the hydro dams. Unfortunately Ian’s tree 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.

Fast forward 68 years and yesterday Ian finally got his tree! SSE has donated a mountain ash tree to Ian in recognition of his part in our hydro heritage, and it now occupies pride of place at the top of his beautiful garden near Blair Atholl.

Ian said: “I’m very grateful to SSE for the gift; it’s a wonderful gesture on their part. It occupies a lovely spot at the top of my garden and it’s surrounded by wild flowers grown from seed from the gardens at Alcatraz prison in America. It was quite a job to get the tree in but luckily SSE had the logistical expertise to organise it. I hope it will stand tall for many years to come.”

Gillian O’Reilly, SSE Head of Heritage and Community Programmes, added: “When Ian first contacted us we were all intrigued by his story and loved his poem. It has been lovely meet him and his wife when we opened our new archive at Pitlochry. Ian is a reminder of the deep connection SSE maintains with the local community and his tale is all part of our rich hydro heritage. We’re delighted to gift him a mountain ash as a reminder that we should always honour our promises.”

When Ian was 10-years-old he drafted his tongue-in-cheek ‘important notice’ warning the Hydro Board to save the tree from its impending fate - or else - and pinned it to the trunk. Hydro workers found the poem that started: “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.”

In response they crafted their own light-hearted ode titled ‘important answer’ saying:  “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.”

SSE will also plant a separate ash tree in the grounds of its £4.5m visitor centre - due to open at Pitlochry Dam towards the end of 2016. Ian’s poem and its response will be kept in SSE’s recently opened Pitlochry archive which stores historical blueprints, speeches and artefacts from across the last 75 years and is open to the public by appointment.

Tree Full Picture