The XIV World Forestry Congress which took place this year in Durban, South Africa, had as its focus Forests and People: Investing in a Sustainable Future. Shortly before the congress convened I had returned from a trip to Ireland. As I browsed through my photos and holiday notes of that very interesting country I noticed how many pictures and references there were to trees. Trees tell a story, a story not only of my holiday in the case of this blog post, but one that stretches from the distant past and, hopefully, into the future.
Let’s begin with the Druids. Druids were Celtish people of the Iron Age who were reputed to have lived in pre-Christian Ireland. Among other activities they held trees sacred and performed various religious ceremonies.
After the Druids came the Vikings (think of the enormous Scottish-accented men in the animated feature How to Train Your Dragon). In a museum in Dublin I had examined with fascination a Viking wooden boat carved out of a single tree trunk, found in recent times preserved in Ireland’s famous bog. For the uninitiated like me, a bog is a mixture of tree leaves and mud. As already intimated the bog has excellent preserving qualities and is also used, to this day, as fuel for fire.
Known at one time as the place of trees, Ireland’s forests have greatly diminished, largely due to human influence. Several garden areas we visited, however, showed how a concerted effort has been made over the centuries to repopulate the country with trees.
My last photo is not of a tree but that of a bridge in Derry-Londonderry. Derry was the Catholic name for the town, Londonderry the British name and the town is famous for the dreadful events of Bloody Sunday (popularised in the U2 song by same name) in which several young people were killed in Catholic-Protestant tensions. Derry is translated from the Gaelic as the “Place of the Oaks“.
To end on a lighter note, while enjoying a jaunting cart ride near the Ring of Kerry (translated as “ring of trees”), our driver stopped in a clearing and said: “See that red tree over there? That’s a Beech. See that smaller tree next to it? That’s a son of a Beech”!