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Memories 3. The Sawmill

On his return from WW1 in 1918 John Cameron set up a small forestry & timber business. Over the years he acquired the forestry rights to huge areas of land on the estate of The Countess of Seafield around Boat of Garten.  He was building a new house for himself, Alice his Swiss wife, daughter Elsie & son George at Chapelton, on land across the lane from the old farmhouse. On the yard by the new house, he set up a small saw-mill. This successful business venture grew and whilst they were not wealthy, it set them up for a lifestyle well above that of most people in the area. Following John's premature death in 1948 his son George reluctantly took over the business.

 

The timber business creates large amounts of what was then regarded as a waste product, sawdust. At the time there was virtually no use for it and it was worthless, bit still had to be got rid of.

For years the Sawdust accumulated in huge heaps behind the old farm buildings, these heaps grew to the size where they were visible for miles around. If you were trying to spot Chapelton in the distance, never mind looking for the house, the sawdust heaps were much easier to find. They may have been an eyesore, but to Mike and myself on our holidays they were great fun to play in, climbing up the heaps then rolling or tobogganing back down. They eventually grew to the size that they were obstructing the view from Chapelton over to the Cairngorms.  Something had to be done!!

George fixed up a huge extractor fan that sucked up the sawdust from the saws and blew it through big overhead pipes to an incinerator. With no new addition and some shovelling up of the existing heaps, they slowly shrank.

In what must have been the mid 1960's the timber business outgrew the facility at Chapelton and there was no room to expand much on site. So George acquired a suitable plot of land  in Boat of Garten , on the A95 where the road to The Boat branches off. Here he built  a very much bigger modern sawmill and timber yard.  When he retired with no son or interested heir to pass it on to, George sold the sawmill and the business to a large national timber concern.

My clearest memory of the sawmill is of the more gory variety. As well as the huge great main saw table, that would handle whole trees, there was a much smaller saw that they used to cut up the rubbish wood and side branches into usable sized firewood. This was used as fuel for Chapelton, any of George's workers could take what they needed for their homes and the surplus was sold on as firewood.

 

So far as I can remember, this smaller saw was totally lacking in any sort off guard, and I remember watching fascinated as the guy cutting the wood was distracted by telling me some tall tale. His sleeve got caught in the spinning saw and his arm pulled into it. I don't remember anything about the outcome but clearly remembering seeing the saw blade bite deep into his arm whilst bright red blood squirted all over the place. In the ensuing panic whilst they attempted to staunch the bleeding wrapping his arm up in towels and tying something around it, nobody noticed that I had been in the firing line for the blood. I had wiped it out of my eyes but it was running down my face. As I was no longer the centre of attention whilst said worker was being stuffed into Georg's car, and off for medical attention.I wandered back into the house where I encountered my Mum. Mum had been at the back off the house so was unaware of what had happened, she took one look at her darling child dripping with blood and promptly lost the plot !! Before long it was ascertained that whilst I may have been covered in blood,  it was not in fact mine.

I have often wondered what happened to the poor man, if he kept his arm, if they got him to the Doctor without the inside of George's car being soaked with blood.  Most of all though, I wonder what the hell did the poor sod of a GP in Boat of Garten do when this bloke with a half severed arm suddenly arrived in the middle of his morning surgery ? One can picture the scene.

The next page is speculation as to how such an emergency would have been dealt with. Not perhaps of much interest to most. The red button will skip it.

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