Slamannan eco-warrior George is Falkirk’s national river champion

George - in a typical riverbank setting - with volunteer manager Amy Fergusson.
George - in a typical riverbank setting - with volunteer manager Amy Fergusson.

He is a 73-year-old “force of nature” when it comes to protecting the environment - especially around the local rivers he knows so well.

But now Slamannan’s greenest champion of local rivers and natural wildlife habitat has officially become “eco-royalty”, after gaining a stunning national champion accolade at a major UK-wide event.

George Macintosh with the certificate which proves he's a champion.

George Macintosh with the certificate which proves he's a champion.

George Mackintosh, whose life revolves around his passion for the great outdoors, is a National River Champion, a title he was delighted to receive at a prestigious ceremony down south in front of 350 delegates.

The UK River Champion award is managed by the River Restoration Centre, a UK organisation providing advice and information on river restoration and catchment management.

George made the trip to the event despite having recently suffered two slipped discs, and says he’s delighted with an accolade that will raise the profile of the work carried out on rivers including the Avon and Carron.

As a leading light of the Slamannan Angling and Protective Association and a fund of innumerable “tales from the riverbank” it’s perhaps surprising to find his earlier life included an entire career in heavy industry.

But George, from Westquarter, was hooked on angling from a very early age, and his love of the great outdoors inexorably led to what amounts to a full time commitment.

“Whether it is teaching children about ‘trout in the classroom’ or improving natural habitats there is always plenty to do, says George, and some wonderful people to work with to make things better for everyone”.

He adds: “The one thing I really can’t abide is litter - there’s no need for it, and it spoils things for everybody for no reason.

“We really need to get to grip with that problem if we’re going to keep improving our natural resources”.

“We work quietly away, year after year, not really expecting to be noticed - so this award is great, because it recognises that very positive things are continuing to happen”.

George has spent years volunteering with the River Forth Fisheries Trust and local landowners to carry out four phases of river restoration, bringing in hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of funding to carry out these works.

In addition to the restoration work, George has supported the Trust deliver its learning programme about fish to around 25 schools over the past five years.

He has helped around 750 youngsters learn about rivers, trout and why they are so important for everyone and the environment.

Now he is working alongside the Trust on the Upper Avon to improve the river through the RiverLife: Almond & Avon project.

It aims to stop bank erosion, improve stream habitat and boost river edge habitat for wildlife.

George is a key driver for these works and, says the Trust, without his enthusiasm and ambition in championing the river Avon a lot of this work would not have been completed.

The River Champion said: “I am thrilled to have been nominated by friends at the River Forth Fisheries Trust for the River Champion awards and even more thrilled to have been chosen as a river champion by the River Restoration Centre.

“The river Avon near Falkirk is my local river which I have fished since I was a boy and helping it in any way I can provides me great joy and satisfaction that I can provide for it just as it has provided for me over the years.”

Alison Baker, Trust Manager at River Forth Fisheries Trust said: “Volunteers like George are the true heroes of our rivers in the Forth area.

“The Trust has had the pleasure of working with George for a number of years and at every step of the way we have enjoyed his enthusiasm for action on the ground.

“George has helped the Trust on several projects throughout the Forth, not just on the River Avon and his support is greatly appreciated.

“This is just one of many reasons we felt the need to show our appreciation of his hard work and effort by nominating him for the River Champion award.”

That view is heartily endorsed by River Restoration Centre managing director Martin James, who said: “The River Restoration Centre commends the many years of effort that George has put into improving the River Avon. A local Slamannan fisherman, his drive to recognise problems, engage the local community and find out what should be done has successfully found funding and delivered four projects along the river.

“He is fully deserving of a ‘River Champion’ award and we hope his excellent work continues into the future and inspires the younger generations with whom he is working in the local schools.”