Thursday, 5 December 2019

20 Days of Orkney Trees #4

Our last post showed an image of trees being planted for St Magnus Cathedral's Octocentenary. Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed some trees already in the background of the photos.

We found these earlier, rather fabulous, images of Provost Slater and other dignitaries planting trees in their full Council regalia and we thoroughly approve.

Any captions for these photos will be heartily welcolmed and added to this post and we may even send a sweetie (possibly pre-licked) to the reader who makes us laugh the most.

We do not have a definitive date for these photographs but they must pre-date 1936 as they were taken by Tom Kent and they probably date post 1925 as that is when John M. Slater became Provost of Kirkwall.

But what about the trees in the background of these images???? We have also found some articles from the Orkney Herald newspaper discussing trees in the Willows in 1922:

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

20 Days of Orkney Trees #3

Our last post was about the Norwegian gift of a tree which graces Kirkwall's Cathedral every Christmas. The tradition originally began in 1987, the year of St Magnus Cathedral's 850th anniversary.

50 years previous to this, some trees were planted in the Willowburn area of the town to commemorate the building's Ocotocentenary:

Anyone familiar with the Willows wood will be surprised to see them in such a sparse state. Now, the burn is surrounded by mature trees, many of which are home to crows and surrounded by flowers in the Springtime.

This photo, taken by Dougie Shearer in the early 1980s, shows how full the trees became. Many are sycamores, like the Big Tree of Albert Street.

These aerial photographs, also by Dougie Shearer, show how many leafy tree tops were bubbling up between Kirkwall's buildings by the latter part of the 20th Century:

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

20 Days of Orkney Trees #2

Yesterday, we wrote about Kirkwall's Big Tree and today we shall tell you about another important Kirkwall tree.

Every year, a tree is cut down in Bringsv√¶rd Forest, near Grimstad in Norway, and is brought to Kirkwall Cathedral as a symbol of friendship between the two towns.

This tradition began in 1987:

Orcadian 12th November 1987

Saint Magnus Cathedral was founded by Kali Kalason, later to become Rognvald, nephew of St Magnus. Young Kali grew up in Norway and perhaps played in the woods which would later provide Kirkwall with our Christmas 'big tree'.

I want you to make a vow... you'll build a stone minster at Kirkwall more magnificent than any in Orkney, that you'll have it dedicated to your Uncle the holy Earl Magnus and provide it with all the funds it will need to flourish.

St Rognvald's father, Kol Kalasan to his son in the Orkneyinga Saga

and you can see Orkney Islands Council convener Harvey Johnston cutting down this year's tree here: (Mr Johnston does somewhat undermine the whole thrust of our advent theme by saying 'Orkney has no trees' in the article. Grrrrrrrr.)

Information taken from Orkney-An Illustrated Architectural Guide and an article in edition #73 of Living Orkney, both by Leslie Burgher.

Monday, 2 December 2019

20 Days of Orkney Trees #1

Oh we love advent readers!
We love it!
We LOVE it!

This year, we bring you 20 Days of Orkney Trees. Every day until Christmas (except Sundays), we shall prove that, contrary to popular belief, Orkney DOES have trees. Like, at least 5 or so?

The Orkney Isles (with the exception of hilly Hoy), are relatively flat with both wind and rabbits proving a challenge to hopeful tree-planters but, as you shall see, there are many wonderful sylvan corners; some ancient, some Victorian and a great many newer additions.

We just have to start with one tree. THE tree of Kirkwall, known by all as 'The Big Tree'.

The photo above was taken by Tom Kent and shows that the large Sycamore stands right in the middle of the shopping street. It had originally been part of a walled garden as can be seen below...

...and when the wall was removed, the tree stayed.

The Big Tree protected by a cage.

Over the years, there has been much discussion of this hardy plant and it has been threatened with destruction many times. Indeed, its obituary has already been written by Ernest Walker Marwick:

Click to enlarge

 In 1875, T. H. Slater demanded that the council prune the branches on his premises' side 'to avoid litigation and by way of compromise'. The council agreed:

As recently as 1987, there was a council meeting held to discuss its removal but a decision was reached to pollard it instead. The Big Tree still stands in Albert Street, Kirkwall, having outlived the author of its obituary by over 40 years. There is a large metal pole through its trunk, but it still stands tall and surely contributed to the High Street winning the 'most beautiful in Scotland' accolade last month:

Information taken from Kirkwall Town Council minutes dated 3/2/1875,
Orkney Archive reference D31/73/1and
Orkney County Council minutes dated 6/10/1987.