LONGSTANDING forestry machinery company Caledonian Forestry Services has closed its doors after nearly 40 years, due to retirement.

The Perthshire-based family-run firm, which specialised in the sales, servicing, fabrication, and repair of forestry machinery, closed on 18 September, bringing to an end a 38-year journey for co-owners Jim and Lorna Watt.

“We started in 1982,” Jim told Forestry Journal. “When I left school I became an agricultural engineer, repairing tractors and equipment. So, when we started off here, we did some of that and then the forestry side took over. We started repairing forestry machines and then the forestry truck side escalated.”

“The business grew arms and legs after that,” Jim recalled. Initially trading under the Jim Watt banner from 1982, the firm became a limited company in 1992 and began trading as Caledonian Forestry Services.

In the mid 1980s, the business began fitting harvesting heads from Finnish manufacturer Pika Oy and sold many excavator/harvesting head conversions for thinnings to the Forestry Commission and other contractors. Harvesting heads were new to the market back then, Jim said.

In 1991, Caledonian was offered the UK dealership for all Kesla machinery, which it accepted and expanded over the years. Caledonian has had a good relationship with Kesla over the years, and the firm continued to deal with Kesla machinery right up until it closed its doors. At the time of writing, Kelsa is yet to announce a new distributor.

Caledonian would go on to acquire the sole UK dealership for the Palax brand of firewood processors in 2003, which Jim called “a very good move for the company”. Going forward, Palax will be served by Powells Forest & Garden Equipment, based in Wormbridge, Herefordshire.

Caledonian is known throughout the industry for the bespoke forestry machinery it has developed and manufactured over the years, and Jim has always enjoyed that side.

Now that they have called time, Jim admitted that he has mixed emotions. “We just felt that it was time. We always said that we would work until 60 and then wind down. There are some very sad days, and other days I think ‘yippee’! I’ve spent most of my working life in business, so to suddenly just stop is surreal.”

In an ideal world, Jim and Lorna would have been kicking off their newfound free time with a holiday, but, unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has got in the way.

Jim said: “We are just going to take stock for a few months and then there are other things that I want to do. I’ve got quite a lot of restoration plans on the go, and I’m finally going to get into that.”

Jim and Lorna would like to extend their heartfelt thanks to their loyal customers, many of whom have become friends, for the years of support they have given them. “We will certainly miss them,” Jim said. “Also, to our employees who have been with us for many years, through thick and thin, and thankfully are all in new employment.”

All at Forestry Journal wish Jim and Lorna well in whatever they choose to do next.

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