A FORMER county ranger who used to write a much-loved weekly nature column for the Courier has died.

Archie Mathieson, from Longniddry, who was Scotland’s first ever county ranger, passed away last Wednesday, aged 77, following a period at Fidra Nursing Home.

Mr Mathieson was born in Kilwinning in 1937 and moved to East Lothian in 1970 to take over the ranger duties until he retired in 1990.

The county council set up Scotland’s first ever ranger service in 1970.

Mr Mathieson was given the honour of becoming the county’s first ranger and he was soon joined by several part-time rangers, car park attendants and ‘Wendy’, an eight-year-old Welsh cob stabled at Tyninghame.

His duties included looking after the county’s beaches, car parks and play parks, as well as maintaining the areas and dealing with the public. Mr Mathieson also enjoyed taking members of the public – including hundreds of school parties – on guided walks and giving slide shows on nature.

Before venturing east to new beginnings with his family, Mr Mathieson enjoyed two years’ national service in Germany, where he was a member of the 4th Royal Tank Regiment.

He then worked as a gamekeeper on the Hume Estate in Ayrshire and as a telephone engineer with the GPO before moving to a family cottage at Craigielaw Farm, near Aberlady.

Mr Mathieson met and married wife Ann while still living in Ayrshire in 1964, but moved his family to East Lothian in 1970.

Son Scot, 48, said: “Dad was always interested in the countryside and nature. When he was young he was looked upon with suspicion because of his devotion to learning about nature.

“But his great passion was passing on his immense knowledge and expertise to others, especially school groups, who he knew were the next generation of people who should be looking after the countryside.

“It was a very proud moment for dad to become the country’s first county ranger, but it was a very different job back then to what it is now. Basically, he was given his uniform and a van and told to get on with it.

“He made copious notes about the area and what happened to the environment during particular seasons, which, I must say, came in very handy for his weekly Courier column, which we all read avidly.

“He loved educating people about the natural landscape and the nature and wildlife within it, and I’m sure if he is remembered in that way he will be very happy.” Mr Mathieson was a keen bird watcher, gardener, photographer and fisherman. In his retirement he developed an interest in stick dressing and went on to make scores of intricate walking sticks, while he was also a talented watercolour artist and toy maker.

His Natures Notes column in the Courier, which ran until about nine years ago, included his own drawings.

He is survived by wife Ann, children Scot, Esther and Bruce, and grandchildren Callum, Fergus, Eva and Lily.

A humanist funeral service will be held at Mortonhall Crematorium Main Chapel, Edinburgh, today (Friday) at 2pm, to which all family and friends are invited.