Wood carver’s final work is now his own memorial

Bill Ross, who lived in Ardgay, died on Hogmanay aged 76. He made elaborate commemorative benches and is to be himself commemorated by his final unfinished piece.

Bill sitting on his second bench. / © Woodland Trust
Bill’s last bench with Lee, the woodworker who finished putting it all together after Bill’s death. © Woodland Trust
Bill in his workshop with work having started on bench no 3. We can see the beautiful hare and badger carvings. / © Woodland Trust
Detail of the badger carving. / © Woodland Trust

The story of his woodland benches began in 2015 when an oak tree by the A949 at Woodland Trust Scotland’s Ledmore and Migdale Wood was damaged in a storm and for safety reasons had to be felled. Bill approached Woodland Trust Scotland to ask if he could have the wood from the tree to make a memorial bench for his friend Philip Entwhistle. Philip, who died in 2012 was an entomologist who spent considerable time studying the insect life of the wood. Bill made a beautiful and unusual bench festooned with insect and other wildlife carvings, which was installed at a prominent viewpoint in the wood.

In 2017 another oak on the roadside had to be felled for safety reasons. This 215-year old tree was found to contain a lead musket ball. Judging by the rings this likely went into the tree around 1830. Bill set about building a second bench with timber from this tree. It was installed in the wood to mark the reintroduction of red squirrels to Ledmore and Migdale in 2019. The seat was placed in the pinewood at a suitable spot for squirrel watching.

At the time of his death Bill was working on a third bench from the same oak tree and already in discussions with the Trust about a possible fourth. 
Site manager Ross Watson said: “We found another expert carver, Lee Adams, to take on the task, without removing any of Bill’s marks, and leaving any unfinished carvings or features as they are. We are delighted with the results and this bench has now gone into the wood in Bill’s memory.”

The third bench features a gargoyle along with celtic patterns and carvings of wildlife including hare and badger.

Before retiring Bill was a quantity surveyor but he had a lifelong passion for woodworking. Over the years he made everything from bracelets and lamps to guitars, furniture, stairways and room interiors.

Bill’s sister Win Mainwairing said: “Wood was his love and perhaps his obsession. Fine carving became his passion and he would say it was the thing that brought him the most pleasure and not a little sanity. It was his therapy if you like and brought him peace. Heart problems ran in the family and he’d survived three major heart surgeries.”

Ross Watson said: “Bill was passionate about creating these benches for people to take time to sit and take in the wonders of Ledmore and Migdale. It is great that people will be able to appreciate his beautiful craftsmanship and artistry for years to come.” Further information on the woodland, including the squirrel reintroduction can be found on the Woodland Trust website.

by George Anderson

Last Updated on 10 September, 2021 by Kyle Chronicle

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