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Dick Balharry, Linn of Dee, 2013
Dick Balharry, conservationist

Richard Balharry MBE (3 September 1937 – 22 April 2015) was a Scottish conservationist, writer, and wildlife photographer.

Early life

Balharry was born and brought up in Muirhead, near Dundee. In 1954, after a year of technical college and an hour in a factory in Dundee, he landed a job as kennel boy and under keeper on an estate near Tighnabruaich, Argyll. In 1956, he went to work under Archie McDonald, the head stalker of Glen Lyon, and 1959 to the Red Deer Commission.


In November 1952, Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve was declared and Jimmy Polson, an experienced deer stalker, was appointed as keeper. In May 1962, he was appointed warden where he was responsible for over 10,000 mountainous acres and Caledonian Pinewood.

In May 1964, Balharry found a greenshank nest with a five eggs, a rare find, but was unaware at the time of the significance of his discovery.

In January 1977, at the 29th Annual Conference of the Scottish Ornithologists Club, Balharry delivered a talk entitled 'The Conservation of the Golden Eagle'.

In 1985, when the Nature Conservancy Council bought Creag Meagaidh, he was their chief warden for north-east Scotland and roughly managing the same area when the Nature Conservancy Council became Scottish Natural Heritage.

In May 1991, Tam Dalyell and his wife spent a day in the Caledonian Pinewoods of Mar Lodge Estate in the company of Balharry (while senior warden of the Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland), Adam Watson (while at the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Banchory), and Dave Morris of the Ramblers Association.

In 1996, he was created MBE for services to nature conservation. In 1997, he retired as SNH area manager for Badenoch and Strathspey, Moray and Nairn.

On 18 April 2015 Balharry was awarded the Royal Scottish Geographical Society's Geddes Environment medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to conservation.

John Muir Trust

In September 2003, Balharry succeeded Andrew Thin as chairman of the John Muir Trust.

In October 2004, at the Sustaining Wild Land Conference in Pitlochry, Balharry presented Adam Watson with the Trust's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Cairngorms Deer Advisory Group

In April 2006, Balharry attended the first meeting of the CDAG at The Inn at Loch Ericht Dalwhinnie.

Ramblers Scotland

In April 2009, Balharry was elected president of Ramblers Scotland, holding the post until March 2013. As president he was also a member of Ramblers Scotland's Scottish Council Executive Committee.

He took an active role in representing Ramblers Scotland on a number of issues including: ensuring the ethos of access legislation was upheld; fighting intrusions to wild land from inappropriate developments; and supporting the sound ecological management of upland areas.

In March 2014, Balharry was elected a vice-president of Ramblers Scotland, a post he held until his death.

National Trust for Scotland

In January 2010, he was appointed chairman of the National Trust for Scotland where he brought in a period of welcome calm and stability. In June 2010 he had an Honorary Doctorate of Science conferred on him by Abertay University, Dundee, Scotland. In September 2010 he was succeeded as chairman of the National Trust for Scotland by Sir Kenneth Calman.


Although born near Dundee, Balharry lived in Newtonmore where he died of cancer on 22 April 2015, aged 77.


  • Where the Eagle Flies, with Selina Scott for the BBC in 1986
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