Aberfeldy

My maternal family tree is littered with Stewarts of Dull and Robertsons of Logierait, all of whom would have known Aberfeldy well. One of my very first memories is of standing on the little suspension bridge over the River Lyon just downstream from Fortingall. Both before and after WWII, my parents stayed regularly at the Fortingall Hotel during its time under the legendary hotelier, ‘Heppie’ Heptonstall. 

Though born in Edinburgh, my father was a GP in Lincolnshire, and so, apart from two years at a Scots prep school, I was educated in Norfolk, first in Hunstanton and then at at Greshams School, Holt. Most of my working life was spent in London; I worked for ten years for Michelin, finishing as Company Secretary of one of their subsidiaries. I then joined Canning, an international business language training outfit based in London and worked with them for eighteen years, travelling extensively and working my way up from Trainer to Course Director, to School Director, to Recruitment Director and finishing as Operations Director.

But, all the while, the word ‘Fortingall’ rang in my head with a kind of magic. And so in 1987, I bought a house there, settling permanently in 1993. Since then, I have studied the history of the area with diligence and love, to the point where, when I was asked to write this history, I felt confident enough to take up the challenge. The book took over two years of research, but I’m proud to say that those who have read it have thoroughly enjoyed it. Positive feedback from readers centres on:- a) the fact that I wrote it to be read by non-historians, and b) the story of the valley is set against events across Scotland and the wider world, making it “a sort of mini-primer for Scots history”, as one reader put it.

The book is available at www.aberfeldywatermill.com/

Ruary Mackenzie

Ruary is a spokesman for dragonflies. He has published two dragonfly books, The Dragonfly Diaries and The Dragonfly-Friendly Gardener (Saraband, 2014 and 2016). He has appeared frequently on both national and local television and radio, working with Chris Packham, Kate Humble, Bill Oddie, Simon King, Lionel Kellaway, Kelvin Boot, John Craven, Paul Heiney, Charlie Dimmock and Lenny Henry. In June 2010 he was awarded BBC Springwatch’s “Dragonfly Geek” award. He last appeared on Springwatch in June 2013 and is currently working with the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol on yet another radio programme. The latest magazine article about him and his work was published in the Scottish Field in June 2012. He gives talks nationwide, including at the British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water. Ruary www.ruarymackenziedodds.com opened Europe’s first public Dragonfly Sanctuary in 1991, and founded the National Dragonfly Biomuseum in Northamptonshire in 1995. The Biomuseum ran for seven years and, despite only opening during summer weekends, attracted 22,000 visitors. He and his team of volunteers have continued their awareness-raising work with the National Trust at Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire. They were instrumental in the setting up of Britain’s only Dragonfly Centre there, and have just handed over its running to the British Dragonfly Society. Ruary has advised on dragonflies at Highgrove and is a Fellow of the Linnean Society. Chris Packham wrote on the BBC website: “I met Ruary Mackenzie Dodds in 1991. It was a coldish, damp, very un-dragonfly afternoon when we were tinkering around with some now antiquated slo-mo camera. He had inaugurated the National Dragonfly Museum at Ashton Water and instantaneously I fell in love with his amazing passion for the Odonata. He had a big-wig job in the city. A dragonfly landed on his shirt and he saw the light. Magic eh! It by his own admission ‘changed his life’ and that life has since had an unswerving desire to communicate his epiphany to the world. When Ashton faltered, his motivation didn’t and the Dragonfly Project found safe and welcome refuge at the superb National Trust’s Wicken Fen Reserve. Here they now have a new Centre which is a focus point for the enthusiasm of all things dragons and damsels. Go, visit, enjoy. www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/odonata/dragonfly
Ruary is a committed writer. His previous book, the 192 page, fully-illustrated Aberfeldy The History of a Highland Community, was published by Watermill Books in 2010. www.aberfeldywatermill.com. Highly commended in the John Muir Short Story competition, he’s had a dozen short stories published in magazines, as well as poems in Outposts and Rialto. He has written a WW2 novel, based in France, Luc’s War, and a children’s book, Dorigen’s Dreams. He’s currently working on a sequel to Luc’s War. Ruary sees himself primarily as a travelling enthuser for dragonflies, keen to pass on his knowledge, and to encourage others to share his love and concern for these beautiful, amazing and endangered insects.