Many of us mourn the passing of Andrew Buckham on the day before the Selkirk Common Riding.
Andrew was definitely the epitome of a Scottish lad o’ pairts – firmly true to his Souter roots, but with a huge breadth knowledge of the world beyond, especially the natural world, almost all self-taught, together with his great understanding of international philately.
He was totally alert, almost bird-like in his accumulation of knowledge, which clearly started at ‘the schule’, in Selkirk and then with his forestry apprenticeship on Buccleuch Estates at Bowhill, under Duke Walter – himself a great forester.
During the Second World War, Andrew was a gunner in the navy on tankers in the Far East and into the Pacific. His descriptions of seeing men drowning in burning oil after their ships were sunk, and the quite incredible experience of being in the main gun turret with deafening noise and flashes, was as realistic and vivid as any film.
He used his shore leave to investigate the local wildlife and recalled when in the Burmese jungle, he put out his hand to pick up a small snake for examination. As he did so, a brown hand emerged from an adjacent bush and stayed his action, a voiced whispering “Nah, sahib!” He had been about to pick-up a deadly Krate!
I first met Andrew more than 40 years ago when he was head forester on Wells Estate at Bedrule where his knowledge of all wildlife – but especially moths and butterflies – blossomed and was prodigious. He could converse easily on the finer points of plants, beetles and other insects, as well as birds and mammals, and related them to the wider ecology.
He did so easily with everyone, from children to zoological experts and learned professors and lairds, scientists from schools, universities and museums. His knowledge of agriculture and forestry was great too.
Andrew was the first Countryside Ranger for Borders Regional Council, under the Countryside Commission for Scotland, and he took on that difficult task enthusiastically – not only for primary and secondary schools and their teachers, but also for all Borderers and visiting tourists.
A day in the field with Andrew, whether on the sub-arctic plateau of Broad Law, or in the crashing surf below the cliffs at Burnmouth, was always a delight and a breathless education.
He is survived by his dear spouse Anne and his daughter Carol. Our world is a much poorer place without him.