Douglas Bremner: Naturalist dedicated to the National Trust of Scotland
Tuesday 20 July 2010
Like the National Trust in England, the National Trust for Scotland has depended for its success on a wide range of individuals of talent who were prepared to devote their lives to the environmental and built heritage, and the cause in which they believed.
Douglas Bremner joined the National Trust for Scotland as a ranger, and was promoted again and again on their initiative without applying for a post, eventually becoming regional director of the southern region. He spent his final years entrusted with the task of compiling the authorised history of the charity.
His book, For the Benefit of the Nation, was initiated by Trevor Croft, the director of the National Trust from 1997-2001, who told me, "as regional director for southern Scotland Douglas had shown total dedication to his properties and staff. When he raised the question of his retirement, I knew there was no better person for one final task – researching and writing the history of the Trust to mark it s 70th anniversary. With his sound knowledge, deep commitment and utter reliability, I knew he could be depended upon to produce an exemplary work that would stand the test of time under his name."
Douglas Bremner was born the son of a chief inspector of schools. After a rigorous education at Aberdeen Grammar School he excelled in the zoology department of the University of Aberdeen. He always paid tribute to a remarkable staff headed at that time by Professor VC Wynne-Edwards and including Dr Fred Holliday – later Sir Frederick, and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Durham – Dr Duncan Heddle, RM Neill, Mike Begg, Phil Orkin, Donald Gauld and Saida Symmons. From his Perthshire home, Sir Frederick told me that Bremner was one of the students whom he remembered well. "Douglas was immensely enthusiastic and always good humoured," he said, "even when the dissection was not going well."
Bremner's first job was as a whaling inspector sent to South Georgia; it was his remit to send parts of whales back to the oceanographic department of the University of Southampton. He would speak about the clarity of the air and the lack of pollution, and at the time of the Falklands War was desperate that the fragile ecosystem of South Georgia should not be damaged.
On his return he became an assistant warden, and later warden, of Malham Tarn Field Centre in the Yorkshire Dales. Then in December 1969, after a meeting to which he was invited in Culzean Castle by James Stormont Darling and Alexander Kennedy (later Marquess of Ailsa), he was head-hunted as the first principle ranger of what was to be Culzean Country Park.
He was hugely successful in initiating the kind of scheme that had not been carried out in Scotland before, and the thousands that go every month to the Park are a tribute to the success which Bremner set in motion. In 1975 he was appointed chief ranger, responsible for the countryside and mountain properties of the NTS.
Roger Wheater, the distinguished director of Edinburgh Zoo and later chairman of the National Trust for Scotland told me, "there was no doubting the value of Douglas's zoological background in the contribution which he made to so many aspects of his career with NTS. However, it was his knowledge, combined with a real and deep passion for the work of the organisation, that was of particular benefit to NTS. It was his understanding of NTS responsibilities to the natural, as well as the built and historical heritage, that manifested itself in his deep commitment, both as a member of staff, and more recently as a member of the National Trust for Scotland."
As Head of Interpretation, and later as a Regional Director, Bremner contributed greatly to the cause of the environment in Scotland. He and his ever- supportive wife Vivian enhanced any gathering of the cognoscenti of the environment.
Douglas Bremner, naturalist, and administrator, National Trust of Scotland: born Bears Den, Glasgow 18 September 1938; Whaling Inspector, South Georgia 1966-1967; Warden, Malham Tarn Field Centre, Yorkshire 1967-69; administrator, National Trust for Scotland 1969-2005; married 1966 Vivian Caton (three sons); died Castle Douglas 12 July 2010.
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