If these Trees could talk…

photo of ancient Ash tree by Cóilín MacLochlainn
Ash tree in Co. Longford    photo: Cóilín Mac Lochlainn

I never knew that trees were noted on Ordnance Survey maps but yes, this one was, and that was back in 1837 or thereabouts when they did their first mapping of the land.

And this tree must have been a fair size already, to warrant a special mention on a map, so – what age would you say it is now?

The photograph above was taken recently by my brother Cóilín and he came across this old Ash tree on a farm in Doire Choilm, near Ballymahon in Co. Longford. He reckons that it must be well over 200 years. If it was notable in 1837, it was probably thirty or forty years old by then, and therefore, must’ve been planted before 1800.

photo of ancient Yew tree in Muckross Friary, Killarney
Ancient Yew tree in Muckross Friary    sourceMonumentalTrees.org

But of course, Yew trees live much longer than Ash trees and we have some very old ones here in Ireland. There is disagreement over which is the oldest – there is one in the grounds of Crom Castle in Co. Fermanagh which is said to be over 800 years old; there’s another in Maynooth College which must be almost as old but my personal favourite, for its setting if not for its actual age, is the lofty old Yew in the middle of Muckross Friary in Killarney, Co. Kerry.

But speaking of old trees, my brother Éamonn told me about the ancient Olive trees that he saw, growing in the Garden of Gethsemane on the outskirts of the old city of Jerusalem. These are said to be over 2000 years old and therefore would be the same trees under which Jesus knelt when he went to pray after the Last Supper on that Holy Thursday long ago.

watercolour of ancient tree by Eoin Mac Lochlainn
one of my watercolours from the Deireadh Fómhair series, 2018

Finally to Iran where the Sarv-e Abarkuh (Abarkuh Cypress) is believed by some to be the oldest tree in the world, its age being estimated to be between 4,000 and 5,000 years old. Legend tells us that it was planted by an Iranian prophet called Zoroaster or by Japheth, the third son of Noah.

If you know of any older trees than these, let me know. These ancient trees are a link between the past, the present (and hopefully) the future. Heaven knows, they’ve been through a lot in their lifetime but they stubbornly persist, continuing to support and enhance the world with their mighty presence.

And by the way, if you’re not convinced yet about the importance of trees, read what an tUachtarán Michael D. Higgins has to say here







  1. Lovely post thanks Eoin
    Yes – ancient trees are so special – in England some were recorded in the Doomsday Book! My Mum and Dad had a really ancient Black Poplar in their garden in Hampshire that they believed was from the Middle Ages!
    Yews are fascinating – I think their potential for reaching such incredible ages stems (!) from the way they reshoot from their root stock even if they have been burnt or cut to the ground. That also explains how they appear to move round graveyards! Spooky as well as fascinating. There is also lots of legend about them ‘bleeding’ – because of their reddish sap
    All the best


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