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.


  1. interesting stuff. But 'it's removal'? Tut, tut! We expect better from our librarians.

    1. Thanks Anne, noted and corrected. But don't blame the librarians. We are archivists, a whole other kettle of fish.

  2. While you're at it, you could correct 'it's trunk' too!

    1. Oh dear. Done. Thanks Duncan. I hope you still enjoyed the post.

  3. Yes, loved itr Dusty, thank you! By the way, how about Gorie's Oak outside Kirkness & Giorie as one of your Top Twenty trees? It;s 100 years old this year, adbn has a fascinating story behind it.

    1. Thanks Duncan. Good idea. I will pass your suggestion on to Archiver and, if we have an archive related to this tree, we will try to fit it in.


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