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Oatridge Lumberjill Wins Special Award from Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society

Published Wednesday, 13th March 2013 in Study at SRUC news

Lumberjill - Fiona Fitzelle

Fiona Fitzelle, who recently completed an SVQ Level 3 in Horticulture at SRUC’s Oatridge Campus, was awarded the first ever Student Certificate of Merit by the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society.

Fiona was recognised for her work in horticulture, but her day job as an arboriculturist (or tree surgeon) certainly caught the judges’ attention.

The certificates acknowledge services to horticulture and gardening in Scotland and were presented by The Beechgrove Garden’s Jim McColl. The society has never before given a student a Certificate of Merit. The Carter Patterson Medal and Denise Henry prize are normally the only annual awards won by students.

However, according to Pam Whittle, President of the Royal Caledonian Horticulture Society: “The awards panel felt that Fiona Fitzelle’s nomination was very strong and demonstrated a different aspect of horticultural study. They wished to recognise Fiona’s achievement and so created a Student Certificate of Merit. This may well be a one off event, so Fiona’s award is even more significant.”

Fiona, a Midlothian Council worker, is one of Scotland’s few ‘lumberjills’. While working in the Council plant nursery she approached her line manager and asked him if she could spend more time with the tree squad. After a month’s trial she has now been with the squad for over two years. Her job entails very precise skills and is very physically demanding, requires the ability to plan ahead and have excellent spatial awareness. Any piece of wood falling from a height could be potentially fatal.

Fiona says: “I know a lot of people think it’s an unusual job for a woman but I love the outdoor life and the physical, technical and mental challenge of what I do.”

For more information please contact Emilia Barrero, Marketing Officer, SRUC, on 01506 864800 or

Caption: Fiona Fitzelle receives her prize from Jim McColl.

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