Obituary: Bill Mutch, 88

Bill Mutch advised governments on forest management. Picture: contributed
Bill Mutch advised governments on forest management. Picture: contributed
Share this article
Have your say

A leading forestry expert from Edinburgh who travelled the world advising governments and spreading the word about the importance of forest management has died at the age of 88.

Bill Mutch wrote two novels based around his experience of working in forestry around the globe, and his first book Steal me a Duchess, based in Nigeria during the Second World War, is rumoured to be attracting interest from filmmakers.

Mr Mutch was born in Salford, but grew up in Edinburgh, where he attended the Royal High School. His family lived in Davidson’s Mains, where his father, Wilfred, worked as a professional artist.

His grandfather had been session clerk and precentor at Cramond Church, and in his later life Mr Mutch became a founding member of the Cramond Heritage Trust.

After graduating from Edinburgh University, he began his career in Nigeria working for the Colonial Forest Service. Forced to return to the Capital after being struck down by dengue fever and dysentery, Mr Mutch worked as a researcher at Oxford University before becoming a lecturer in Edinburgh University’s forestry department.

His work focused on the economics of land use, and he published a number of studies, including one on the management of red deer populations in the north-west Highlands.

By the 1980s, Mr Mutch had established a global reputation, and he spent the next two decades travelling the world as a member of a number of international academic and forestry organisations. He was awarded an OBE for services to forestry in 1985, and a gold medal from the Institute of Chartered Foresters the following year.

Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1987, he went on to become director of Central Scotland Woodlands Ltd and a member of the Countryside Commission for Scotland and the Nature Conservancy Council.

He was also Scottish Natural Heritage’s first regional chairman for south-east Scotland.

The last ten years of his career saw him working as a consultant, advising governments, including India, China, Costa Rica and Sudan. He was particularly fond of Germany and Austria, where he enjoyed painting watercolours of the alpine meadows and their wild flowers.

Mr Mutch was also a gifted craftsman and restorer of antiques, and his greatest creation was a harpsichord that he built following the plans for an 18th-century French instrument held in Edinburgh University’s Russell Collection of old keyboard instruments.

Widowed in 2010, Mr Mutch lived out his last years at Newton Stewart, near Galloway Forest Park, in Dumfries and Galloway. He was buried in the kirkyard of Cramond Church, where he served as an elder for 45 years, and is survived by his daughter, Sheila.