THEY were known affectionately as ‘Lumberjills’ during the second world war.
In 1942 hundreds of women and girls as young as 14 were recruited 
to replace male loggers in Scotland who had left to serve their country.

They were expected to do everything their male counterparts were involved in including felling, snedding, loading trucks and trains and 
milling timber all over Scotland


Forestry has long been perceived as a male-dominated industry but decades after The Women’s Timber Corps was disbanded, in August 1946, growing numbers of females are learning the craft.

There are currently 40 apprentices at Forestry Land Scotland (FLS) –
the Scottish Government agency responsible for managing national forests – and 11 of these are women. 

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A further ten female, mid-year students have joined FLS in the past three years, as part of the organisation’s work-based learning programme.

Female employees include Lesley Reilly, an expert chainsaw operator with FLS, who recently felled a particularly large, diseased ash on the site of a former ironworks – now a woodland – at Wilsontown 
in Lanarkshire.

The tree – some 25m tall and around 1m in diameter – was growing alongside a public path, posing a danger to the public and was one 
of a number of large, complex, ash trees felled by her recently.

The tree felling process took an experienced FLS team led by Ms Reilly, who is currently on maternity leave, three hours to complete safely.


The 1.25 tonnes of timber from the diseased ash will be put to good use: the wood is destined to be used to create bespoke furniture by a local maker.

Previously a craftsperson working in wood, she started with FLS as an apprentice, in 2013. 

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Rachel Orchard, an apprentice working in Durris, Aberdeenshire, 
has a degree in Liberal Arts & Sciences but says she “quickly realised that 
I didn’t want an office job.”

She said: “I’ve always loved trees and was curious to learn more.

“Thankfully, the outdoors lifestyle has turned out to be everything I 
hoped for.

“With most forests serving many purposes like recreation, habitat generation, and sustainable timber production, it’s a varied role. 


“I find the work stimulating and take great satisfaction from completing tasks that have a physical impact, such as using a chainsaw to safely fell a tree. “

Will Huckerby, Assistant Delivery Manager at FLS Central Region said the sector is “crying out” for new recruits.

He said:”Whether you start at college, sign up for an apprenticeship or learn your skills on the job, there are some great opportunities for building a career. 

“A career in forestry is hugely varied: it could see you working 
with communities, managing wildlife and helping to save threatened and endangered species, making sure that visitors get the most out of their forest experience or ensuring that the timber we produce gets to market.

"Frontline’ jobs can range from seasonal work to full time employment and can cover a huge variety of roles and activities – from tree planting 
and forest management through to harvesting work. 

He said other behind-the-scenes roles include business analysts and 
HR, finance and procurement.