I dunno – do Trees have souls?

watercolour by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of old Cairncastle tree

“We could see on the CCTV that the tree fell about half five in the morning. It was a very calm night, there was no storm damage… It is now resting across some gravestones so we need to be careful about moving it”

Thus spake Reverend Philip Benson of St Patrick’s Church of Ireland in Cairncastle near Larne recently.

According to local folklore, the tree had sprouted originally from seeds stored in a dead sailor’s pocket. (They were Spanish Chestnut seeds – at the time, it was believed that the chestnuts could prevent scurvy).

The sailor was with the Spanish Armada when his ship was wrecked off the Antrim coast. His body was washed up on the shores of Ballygally Bay in 1588 and the locals buried him in an unmarked grave. It wasn’t long afterwards that a sapling sprouted on the spot and it blossomed and grew there for the next 432 years.

Cairncastle churchyard with old Spanish Chestnut tree
The old Armada tree in Cairncastle graveyard   photo: Belfast Telegraph

It was a sad but dignified end to a wonderful old chestnut tree. It seemed to me that the old tree had simply had enough. It had done its bit and now, the time had come for it to pass on.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis

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