Educated at Ballater School and Banchory Academy in the 1930s and 1940s, she was sparked by a determination to enjoy and create readable literature. She had a gentle human fascination for the natural world, and appreciated the changing seasonal colours of nature and landscapes.
For a time she worked in Balmoral Estate Office. In 1951 she married Jimmy, a head forester, at Glenmuick Kirk. Thereafter she left Deeside as Jimmy moved to jobs in Argyll and other forests. Meanwhile, creating family life and bearing three children, Margery, Chris and then me, she appreciated the diversity of Scottish country life and culture. Her later poetry reflected this. Indeed, her absence from Deeside only enhanced her strong feelings for north-east literary and music traditions.
After returning to Deeside near Banchory in 1969, Betty returned to office work and became a typist at the Nature Conservancy's Mountain & Moorland Research Station at Banchory. She continued there at the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology until her retirement in 1990. She enjoyed typing at home the drafts of The Cairngorms by Nethersole-Thompson and Watson, published in 1974. At the office she typed many scientific papers, and contributed her thorough typing to the presentation of the main scientific evidence for the Nature Conservancy Council's case at the Lurcher's Gully Public Inquiry in Kingussie. This proved to be the main evidence that helped prevent the development. After a trip to the high tops in 1975 she came to love the Cairngorms, and over decades I accompanied her on many walks to the main summits and glens.
During these years she remembered her time working on The Place Names of Upper Deeside, published by Aberdeen University Press in 1984, with fond appreciation. It involved interviews with many Deeside folk whom she had known well since childhood. This co-authored project, and other joint publications with Adam Watson on Deeside history, encouraged her to nurture her own cultural potential and creative attributes as a poet and writer. There resulted her two compilations of poems, Ballater Bairn and Awa fae Ballater, and a book of prose, Lookin back tae Ballater.
Betty Allan's literary output displays a desire to be expressively readable. She enjoyed bringing out the character of Ronald Burn in her book Burn on the Hill, a sensitive and creative editing of this eccentric mountaineer's hand-written diaries. She empathised with the disadvantaged and the sidelined in human society. On her many outings with me, she showed a quiet capacity for meticulous research when we visited many of R.G. Burn's former haunts. She was good enheartening company. Her many travels and rambles after retirement involved studying Pictish carvings and standing stones throughout Scotland. These represent continuity of landscape and community, past and present. This fascination with megaliths is a recurring theme in Scots literature. Betty's interest led to her making inquiries about Auchmaliddie stone circle near New Deer. As a result, this unusual quartz stone circle belatedly will be 'scheduled' by Historic Scotland, that is, it will now be protected from the possibility of complete oblivion.
It was as a writer of verses in Ballater Bairn and Awa fae Ballater that she reached her full self-worth. Her gift for poetry made her enjoy life. Her poem 'Scurrie Steen' has an enduring theme of fascinated enquiry, linking the past purposefully to the present. The river Dee's importance as a great life-giver is well illustrated in her poem 'Dee'. The poem 'Ghaists o Noth' draws on landscape experiences to convey the multi-facetted culture of humanity in the past. Betty Allan used poetry to integrate differing issues into the tapestry of mainstream life. In moral terms, living means steadily learning to live. What could be better?
David R. Allan, 27 February 2001
The funeral service and celebration of his talented life took place at Insh church on 4th January 2001. But as a NEMT member it is his later life in Speyside actively involved in the many concerns arising that interests us, and we thank his colleague Pat Wells to allow us to extract from her tribute to him, written in January.
Victor was a founder member of BSCG and served as convenor for many years. He was tireless in his pursuance of accurate facts and the detail of conservation issues and his knowledge and memory were encyclopaedic. His enquiries were dogged and searching but always courteous. Since BSCG was established in 1976 it has been involved in many difficult issues and the workload has been considerable. Issues included proposed helicopter skiing; the sale of Creag Meagaidh to Fountain Forestry; serious environmental problems in Glen Feshie, and the Lurcher's Gully road and large car park proposal. In addition there were numerous publications of local and national planning papers, and the Cairngorm Working Party proposals to study and consider. Victor steered the group through all these.
The second proposal from the Cairngorm Chairlift Company and the then HIDB to develop Lurcher's Gully for downhill skiing proved a major issue. Victor was an enthusiastic member of the Save the Cairngorms Movement and rarely missed any of the dozens of meetings held during the Campaign's work to prevent the development.
Victor attended the very first meeting of what became Scottish Wildlife and Countryside Link - since renamed Scottish Environment Link. The meeting was initiated by Drennan Watson with a view to co-ordinating the NGO's environmental lobby. It was a cold dark night and we met in a cold dimly lit back room at Battleby (now SNH). The warmth and the light that night came from the participants - not least from Victor.
Since the mid-seventies Victor and other conservation colleagues have felt that the best way of protecting the unique heritage of the Cairngorms is to have a National Park with a board of management with full planning powers and a strong commitment to the long term conservation of the area. The sorry arrangement currently mooted falls far short of what is needed, if adequate protection is to be afforded.
Perhaps as a tribute to Victor and his work and enthusiasm for conservation in the Cairngorms we can redouble our efforts to ensure that the Cairngorms National Park is really worthy of the area after which it is named. After all, Victor was not only a true gentleman - he was a "Cairngorms fan". He will be greatly missed.
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