JUBILEE joy turned to despair for Fort William schoolchildren when careless contractors butchered 30 trees the youngsters had planted in honour of the Queen!
Pupils at Fort William Primary School, on Achintore Road, planted three varieties of tree in nearby Seafield Gardens in March to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee, in a project supported by the national charity The Woodlands Trust.
As well as the royal link, the trees - a mixture of rowans, silver birch and cherry - were designed to be a colourful legacy of the school which is to be closed and merged with Upper Achintore Primary in a brand new community school building at Lundavra Road.
But last week the children and their teachers were left absolutely gutted when they discovered grass cutters contracted by Highland Council had chopped through every single one of the special trees while strimming the grass in the popular park which overlooks Loch Linnhe.
P4 pupil Kayla Bell told the Lochaber News: “The trees we had planted in Seafield Gardens have been cut down by the people who cut the grass. We are very disappointed about that as we were hoping they would grow for people to remember the Queen’s jubilee, but they are no longer going to grow after our hard work.
“We had planted 30 trees now we have none.
“The trees would have been beautiful for everyone to enjoy.”
And P6 pupil Emma Watchman added: “We put in a lot of hard work and we are very disappointed about them being cut.
“We planted cherry trees, rowan trees and silver birch.
“We are disappointed because it would have made Seafield Gardens look beautiful and so people will remember the Queen’s jubilee.”
Fort William Primary head teacher Sue Commander said: “Everyone was very disappointed because of all the hard work that had gone in to the project.
“The trees all had a protective sleeve round them but they were still sliced through.
“The children are all very eco aware and also they knew the planting was for two reasons - the jubilee and also a lasting legacy from their school as they are all conscious of the fact the school is to close in the very near future.”
Mrs Commander said Highland Council had responded swiftly and positively to the situation and that Ricky McNab, a local TEC Services official, had visited the school on Tuesday this week to speak to staff and promised the trees would be re-instated as soon as possible.
“While it is a big disappointment we know it wasn’t intentional and I’m very pleased to say the council and the contractors have responded promptly and have vowed to make amends and we thank them for that,” said the head teacher.
A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “The contractors, ISS, of Kilmarnock, held their hands up immediately and have promised to provide 30 8-10ft trees to replace the ones destroyed.
“The company say they will be happy to plant the trees themselves or help the pupils to plant them. A representative of the contractors intends to visit the school to discuss the way forward.
“The council and contractors have responded very quickly to the situation and recognise the disappointment felt by the pupils and staff at Fort William Primary.”