Pitlochry stalwart, Enchanted Forest manager and poppy collector Michael Cheesewright has died aged 82.
Born on May 7th, 1939 in East Norton, Leicestershire his parents – Jack and Edith – were farmers but Michael chose a career in forestry instead.
It was a move that would see him become an established community member of Pitlochry, Strathdon and Banchory during Forestry Commission postings.
Growing up on the farm
When young Michael wasn’t attending Tugby Primary then Market Harborough Grammar school he and his four siblings would help out on the farm.
But even when the jobs were done on the family’s East Norton Farm they’d then help others.
It was all hands on deck in harvest season and to shovel snow for neighbouring farms in the winter.
After school he begun work in forestry but national service called soon after.
“He joined the army to see the world… but only got as far as Derby!” said Michael’s daughter Linda.
Pitlochry forestry training
Following conscription he was sent to Faskally, Pitlochry, to attend forestry school from 1961 – 1963.
But right in the middle of his time there he met shop assistant Irene Walker at a country dance.
Despite her initial impression that he had two left feet the young couple formed a lifelong partnership marrying at the end of 1962.
They tied the knot in Pitlochry’s former East Church of Scotland.
Irene had been a member there and they then honeymooned in Aberdeen.
When Faskally ended they were then sent to Holt in Norfolk.
“It was the first time mum had been further south than Perth,” Linda added.
Starting a family
The couple spent three years in Norfolk where Michael did general forestry.
Irene worked in a canning factory until children came along.
In 1965 their first child Colin was born and during their second Norfolk posting to Brandon, Alan came along in 1967.
A further move took place to Thetford in Suffolk.
Linda was born there and in 1973 Alister was welcomed into the family in Kielder.
During Michael’s time in Northumberland he was offered the opportunity to fly abroad for the first time.
The trip to Finland involved assessing their equipment so he could advise the UK Forestry Commission on what to buy.
Linda said: “Not only was it his first time flying, he came home with a world of new experiences.
“He would tell us stories of trying out a sauna and being on a snow mobile.”
Further and further north
After Kielder the family moved to Strathdon in Aberdeenshire before a longer stint in Banchory where Michael was head forester between 1977 and 1985.
While in Aberdeenshire he joined the Royal British Legion and became an elder in Banchory East Church.
He was also a keen member of the Horticulural Society and loved gardening.
From Banchory to Newton Stewart and from there to Dunkeld, in 1987 the family finally settled back in Pitlochry.
They found a house near the Hydro and Michael became district forester in charge of harvesting and marketing.
Following his retirement in 1999 Michael then became site manager at Faskally’s Enchanted Forest.
Pitlochry was where Michael really became imbedded in the community joining scores of groups and committees over the years.
His roll call of community involvement included being part of West Church congregation and chair of Pitlochry and Moulin Community Council.
He became part of the Association of Scottish Community Councils, joined Perthshire Housing Association and also Pitlochry Highland Games Committee from 1988.
“My dad loved being involved with the Highland Games – always behind the scenes but thoroughly delighted to be there.”
Relentlessly helping his community
Other groups included the Pitlochry Area Initiative, Highland Perthshire Community Partnership, Pitlochry Benevolent Trust fund and Pitlochry Major Events Committee.
He also served religiously on the Pitlochry New Year Street Party.
He only took one year off – the only year it was cancelled.
Michael’s serving of his community extended to being site manager for concerts at Scone Palace and for Invasion Perth.
He was also an open day tour guide at Kinnaird Woods.
He and Irene were also presiding officers in Killiecrankie polling station from 2005-2015.
This plethora of public service earned him Pitlochry Citizen of the Year in 2006.
Poppy seller for decades
A cause close to Michael’s heart was collecting poppies.
Starting in 1989 he received long service awards and poignantly his funeral service was scheduled for Remembrance Day.
“My dad likely handed out hundreds and hundreds of poppies over the years so we are all wearing poppies to his funeral.”
Irene and Michael were married for 58 years and despite a diagnosis of dementia he still made time for his family.
Never too busy for family
“The remarkable thing about my dad is that despite being so busy – busy all the time – he was never too busy for us.
“And he stayed the same for his 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“He was an incredibly modest, caring, devoted man. And we’re already lost without him.”