Storm claims historic tree

Kylemore Abbey (Apanoply via Flickr)

Ireland will be battered again tonight by strong winds as clean-up operations take place across the country.

The storms, meanwhile, have claimed an august victim in Connemara.

A 70 foot pine tree, thought to be between 100 and 145 years old, was toppled by the strong winds at Kylemore Abbey, near Letterfrack in Co Galway.

The tree was planted by Mitchell Henry, an English financier and politician, who built Kylemore as a present for his wife. “[He] came to Connemara on honeymoon… they fell in love with the place,” explained Brid Connell, Sales and Marketing Manager at the Abbey.

“This is essentially his holiday home, as he was based in London. Victorian people were the first to travel the world and bring back unusual plants… the tree that fell was very unusual to see in the West of Ireland.”

Sadly, the loss of these trees in Kylemore is becoming more commonplace as time goes on. The tree, a Cupressus Macrocarpa, also known as a Monterey Cypress, has an average lifespan of 130 years. A native of California, it can find it difficult to adapt to Connemara soil.

“The soil in Kylemore is very shallow and the roots of the trees are very shallow, so in storms these trees are easier to blow over,” Ms Connell said.

As of yet there are no definite plans to use the wood of the fallen tree but this is sure to change. “We use all the wood on the estate so [it will be used] either for firewood or making furniture. Last year we had a partnership with GMIT Letterfrack and the design students made children’s play-pieces from fallen wood.” Ms Connell said.

The wood is in high demand. Ms Connell said that the Abbey has had quite a few enquiries from furniture makers anxious to use the wood, especially since the tree’s demise featured on RTE news.

Kylemore Castle became Kylemore Abbey in 1920 when the Benedictine nuns settled there after leaving Belgium due to World War I. They opened a boarding school at Kylemore Abbey which closed in 2010.

The Benedictine nuns are mourning the tree. “The nuns are sad to see it go,” said Ms O’Connell.

“The tree had really large pine cones, which the nuns used to collect and spray silver and gold to make decorations.”

This article appeared on on January 5 2012. 

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