John McEwen

1887 - 1992

Radical socialist and proponent of land reform. Born in Keltneyburn (Perth and Kinross), the son of a forester on the Garth Castle Estate, McEwen moved to Argyll with his family at the age of seven. He left school at fourteen and trained in forestry on the Earl of Seafield's Cullen Estate.

He went on to work at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh and the Glasgow Corporation Parks Department, before joining the newly-created Forestry Commission in 1920. He was responsible for their first planting (Monaughty Forest) and also Speymouth Forest. He organised a worker's trade union in the Forestry Commission and went on to work in Ireland, for the Board of Trade during World War II and then as an independent forestry consultant until his retirement in 1970.

His influential book Who Owns Scotland? (1977) promoted debate over land ownership and land reform. McEwen felt passionately that land was unfairly distributed - owned by the wealthy and powerful landlords, who managed it poorly and did not develop their resource. He favoured large-scale nationalisation as a solution.

In 1961, McEwen became only the second working forester to be elected President of the Royal Scottish Forestry Society. He was awarded an OBE in 1963 and created a Fellow of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in 1980.

He died in Blairgowrie just three days short of his 105th birthday. His memorial was the John McEwen Lectures, which ran from 1993 until 1999, when the Scottish Parliament began working on Land Reform legislation, enacted in 2003. The McEwen Archive is held by the A.K. Bell Library in Perth.

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