The Oldest Living Thing in Whithorn

Viewing Whithorn in the Google satellite photograph, and in the aerial photograph below, the great domed canopy of the massive beech tree, that grows on the back dyke of the Old Town Hall, stands out.

This beautiful tree has been the climbing frame for many a Whithorn child who carved their initials, sometimes intertwined with their first love, high into its branches. It is difficult to age but perhaps the tree dates from the building of the replacement clock tower in the early 18th Century.

Certainly at that time the pursuit of tree planting was being enthusiastically undertaken in the surrounding countryside according to the report in the First Statistical Account Of Scotland, written 1791-1799. “The face of the country is improving daily, not only by the cultivation bestowed up the land, but by a passion for planting which shows itself among the landowners. From the subterraneous timbers, found in all the mosses, it appears that this peninsula had once been well clothed with Oaks, Firs, Etc. It was afterwards rendered perfectly bare, of every tree and shrub.”

“About the year 1722, William Agnew late of Castlewigg, began to plant upon his estate, and may be considered as the father of this important species of this improvement in this neighborhood. His nephew Hugh Hathorne, Esq. Succeeded him, and planted with great spirit and success; so that now, every species of Oak, Ask, Beech, and Fir, are in great perfection in the forest; and these with single rows, verges and clumps, have a very happy effect upon the appearance of the country. The beeches upon this estate are of very large girth, and great height.”

Sadly since this was first published on an earlier Blog in, the tree suffered in a storm – but part of it was rescued and it is still living.

First published October 2009

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