‘Muckle blaw’ brought to mind

Great Gale - damage at Ballogie
Great Gale - damage at Ballogie

A dinner to mark the 60th anniversary of the great gale of January 31, 1953 – the Muckle Blaw – which devastated forests on Deeside, attracted a large attendance of estate owners, agents and foresters to hear the reminiscences of those who remember that fateful night.

The evening was organised by Andrew and Malcolm Nicol of Ballogie Estate who recalled stories handed down to them of caravans “birling” past windows, snow half-way up telegraph polies in Braemar, a truck struggling in first gear against the wind, people having to run as trees came crashing down and hen houses taking off across the park.

“The Muckle Blaw wreaked havoc near and far,” said Andrew. “High pressure due west out in the Atlantic brought severe gale force winds and guests of 113 miles per hour were recorded at Lossiemouth. It was not only the sheer volume of timber that was blown but the fact that it was valuable mature timber.”

It was a bitter blow for many Deeside estate owners, including the Nicol’s father, Colonel J W Nicol, who later admitted it almost forced him to sell the Ballogie estate. He, like many other estate owners, was depending on the little mature timber left on the estate following wartime felling, to provide the capital for improvements to the estate, including a replanting programme.

It took many years to clear the tangled trees after the gale and re-plant all the wartime felling and gales sites. But it created a great deal of employment and led to the development of a thriving sawmilling industry, include the Jones mill at Aboyne.