The Forvie Stevenson Centre

  • In Forvie NNR’s 60th year, Ron Macdonald, a former manager with SNH and Forvie local, writes about a recent visitor to Forvie NNR, the legacy that gave life to the Forvie centre in its transformation from the Little Collieston Croft and the life of the remarkable person behind it.
Little Collieston Croft photographed in the 1950’s or 1960’s when still a working farming unit and before its transformation into the Forvie Stevenson centre.

At the end of July we had a visit from Kathleen Stevenson, niece of the late Margaret Stevenson whose legacy to Scottish Natural Heritage in 1998 supported the refurbishment of the original Little Collieston cottage and barn which holds the Reserve office and visitor centre and also the purchase of small additional areas of land on the Reserve.  A new environmental education classroom was also built with support from Shell UK.

Margaret Stevenson was born in the summer of 1915 in Lumsden, Aberdeenshire. Throughout her life Margaret had a deep interest in animals, wildlife and natural history, and was a keen birder.

Margaret’s secondary schooling was at the High School for girls in Aberdeen after which she attended the Glasgow University Veterinary School. At that time it was the only vet school in the country which accepted female students, and Margaret was the only one in her class…which also included Alfie Wight who became her friend and gained subsequent fame under the pen name of James Herriot, author of a series of very popular books about the life of a vet.

Margaret’s brother Sandy emigrated to the United States to continue his studies, subsequently joining the World Bank where he worked as an economist working on projects for developing countries until his retirement.

After retiring from her veterinary practice in Swindon in the 1950s Margaret joined her brother and his family in Maryland near Washington D. C. where she worked as a bacteriologist specializing in animal borne diseases.

Both Sandy and Margaret continued with their interests in nature and conservation both locally and abroad. They both were lifelong members of the RSPB as well as American conservation organisations.

Throughout Margaret’s life her focus was nature and self sufficiency. Upon retirement she bought a small farm in Maryland, and created both a designated conservation sanctuary  area on the property as well a large vegetable garden from which she fed herself throughout the year.

In her final years, Margaret returned to Scotland to live in Greenloaning, Perthshire where she passed away in 1996. In her will she left a bequest to the Scottish Natural  Heritage which was used to establish the visitor centre at Forvie NNR as well as to purchase additional land for the Forvie reserve. The centre was  inaugurated by the late author, broadcaster and former chairman of SNH, Magnus Magnusson along with SNH officials in the presence of Margaret’s brother Sandy and other family members.

We had a lovely chat and walk on Forvie with Kathleen and her cousin Ron. Margaret’s kind legacy has made a huge contribution to the management of the Reserve and helped many visitors appreciate just how special Forvie is for people and wildlife.

Kathleen Stevenson with her cousin Ron, far left with Dave Pickett Reserve Manager (far right) and Ron Macdonald, former SNH Manager (second left) outside the Forvie Centre.
The late Margaret Stevenson
Magnus Magnusson, KBE, Chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage and Sandy Stevenson, Margaret’s brother, opening the Stevenson Forvie Centre in June 1988.

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