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Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland
On the Old and Remarkable Oaks in Scotland

(Quereus Pedunculata et Sessiliflora), in Scotland.
By Robert Hutchison of Carlowrie.
The Gold Medal.]

Although these two well-known varieties of the British oak (Quercus Robur) are sufficiently distinct botanically to be classed as separate species in a report like the present upon the large and old oaks in the various districts of Scotland, it is necessary to treat them indiscriminately, and, indeed, as it is not so much the intention of this chapter of the old and historically remarkable trees, to present any scientific or botanical description, or narrative of their physiology or morphology, as to lay before the reader as accurate and full a catalogue as possible of the many majestic specimens of this monarch of the woods abounding in its native habitat, it is probably quite pardonable to treat these two varieties together without distinction, especially as it has been found extremely difficult to obtain sufficiently reliable difference in each from the mass of returns furnished by careful correspondents, whose kindness and trouble in correctly furnishing minute data of dimensions and other details, it would be quite unfair to tax by asking further information as regards a purely systematic botanical distinction. Both varieties are found growing together in Scotland in their natural condition, and both are indiscriminately employed for commercial purposes when converted as timber of home growth. Of the two it may be safely asserted that Q. pedionculata is by far most generally met with, and the details in the appendix to this chapter on oaks are mainly occupied with examples of this variety. Quercus sessiliflora is much more commonly met with in England than in Scotland, and there are some immense trees of it in that country, but principally in the southern counties, as, for example, in many parts of Kent, Sussex, and Devonshire; and on the authority of Mr Bree, Q. sessiliflora is the almost exclusive representative of the Quercus family in the lake districts of England, in Westmoreland and Cumberland.

All former writers on arboricultural topics agree in allotting the foremost rank, both in point of dignity, grandeur, and utility, to the oak. Its beauty of outline when fully developed, combined with its strength, and unyielding resistance to the effects of the blast in exposed sites, are its chief characteristics of habit during life; and when manufactured into timber, the wide and almost universal purposes to which it may be profitably and suitably applied, are as characteristic of it as are those of it during life which we have referred to. "It is a remarkable circumstance," as has been well observed by Sir Henry Stewart, "that the most ornamental tree in nature, should also be the one the most extensively and strikingly useful."

It is thus seen that although Britain can only lay claim to two species of the great genus Quercus as truly indigenous to her soil, while the rest of the family, amounting (taking evergreen as well as deciduous) to upwards of one hundred and fifty distinct botanical species, are all of exotic origin, and are distributed in both hemispheres of the globe, either in temperate zones, rendered so by their latitudinal position, or in tropical climates by their elevation,—yet these two are by far the most important, for they surpass all others not only in majesty of proportions and duration of life, but also in general utility, durability and strength of their timber, so that for all uses to which these properties are absolutely essential, the two varieties (or rather species) of the oak now under notice, if equalled, are at all events not surpassed by any other tree indigenous to Europe.

The oak being thus one of the few indigenous hard-wooded trees in Britain, it appears, from ancient records and references in old parchment deeds, to have had a very wide distribution generally throughout the country. Indeed, before the clearing away of the old forests had commenced in early historical times, it appears to have been the chief, if not the only, component of these early forests, and to have covered a very large area of the surface of Scotland. Sufficient living remnants of these ancient forests still exist, and to which reference will afterwards be made to show the wide area of the distribution in Scotland of the oak, while in other districts, where these natural or self-sown forests have disappeared, or are now only rarely marked by a few straggling survivors, the remains of -noble and massive trunks of oak trees are frequently stumbled upon, embedded sometimes in the alluvial deposits along the banks of rivers, or in bogs, submerged under deep layers of peat moss, the growth and accumulated debris of centuries. In this manner, also, many oaks are found where now no living specimens are to be seen within even a wide range of the spot, and also where now no oak plantations are to be met with ; especially near sea-water mark, stumps of large and old trees, composing aboriginal forests now untraceable, are sometimes found in situ standing erect, but quite concealed excepting at very low tide ebb, near river mouths and along some of our coast line. For instance, at Kirkconnell, Newabbey, Kirkcudbrightshire, some years ago, Mr Maxwell Witham,—to whose courtesy we are indebted for interesting information regarding many trees of other varieties in his neighbourhood,— recovered from the sands opposite his property an "antidiluvian" oak tree, broken at both ends and measuring 36 feet in length and 14 feet 8 inches in circumference at the middle of the trunk, thus giving 484 cubic feet of timber. He further informs us that the whole valley of the Nith at its lower end (about Kirk-connell and Newabbey on the borders of the Nith, and Newabbey Poer or stream) is thickly underlaid, at a depth of from 4 to 7 feet, with large oaks, which are frequently exposed, and brought to light by the shifting of the river Nith or its tributary streams. In this locality some large and fine oaks still exist at the present day, and by reference to the appended returns to this paper, it will be seen that they girth from 14 feet 9 inches to 20 feet in circumference at 1 foot, and from 13 feet 9 inches to 17 feet 6 inches at 5 feet above ground. Other submerged forests—if they may be so called—of oaks exist on other parts of the coasts of Scotland ; while in the Highlands, and the more remote northern counties, as well as in several of the adjacent islands of the Hebrides, oak trunks are fallen upon in cutting peats where now not a tree is to be seen. Were these districts, and the Scottish islands generally, therefore, always incapable of growing timber, as they are too generally supposed and believed to be at the present day ? The evidence goes to prove that they were not, and strong grounds for hope may be consequently entertained that, with perseverance and the introduction of the suitable descriptions of trees, these wastes may be again, through the energy of their proprietors, replanted with success. Of course, it must not be imagined that we advocate the planting, in sea-board situations, of the oak, for although these remains of former oak forests, of which no history save their gaunt stumps and fallen trunks now remain, are found under sands, and even below the tide-mark in various localities, this may be owing to the variations and upheavals of the beach, to inroads by the sea upon the land, and to various causes of a similar nature having altered the relative position of sea and land at the present day, from what these occupied when these now submerged woodlands waved their foliage and reared their gigantic trunks in pristine health and vigour. We find similar traces of early indigenous oak plantations in Scotland having existed in very remote times in far inland situations and even at considerable altitudes. For example, at Dunkeld, in Lady Well Wood of the Athole plantations, and upon a flat plateau in the upper part of the wood, at considerable altitude, there is a curious formation of the ground, —abrupt heights or knolls being interspersed with basin-like hollows,—where, some years ago, in the course of draining these hollows, the workmen came upon the remains of the trunks of many old indigenous oaks embedded in the soil. They were of great size, and lay strewed in one direction, as if at some remote period the whole had succumbed at one time to some sweeping hurricane which had lashed across the district, levelling whole tracts of wood before it, the soft nature and dampness of the site in these hollows making the trees there a more easy prey to its violence than in drier and firmer soils. Where these remains interfered with the draining operations they were cut across and allowed to lie. The wood was still hard and sound and of a black colour.

Of old and remarkable oaks in Scotland noticed and recorded by earlier writers, several still exist, and have been identified, and their present dimensions taken, for the purpose of this report, and these will be found in the tabulated returns annexed. A few of these early recorded trees may be here referred to, before passing on to consider in detail many remarkably fine specimens of this noble tree, not hitherto or only imperfectly noticed by former writers.

The old oak standing north from the Castle at Lochwood in Annandale, recorded by Dr Walker as measuring, on 29th April 1773, at 6 feet above ground, 14 feet in circumference, and as being then about 60 feet high, with a fine spreading head exactly circular, and covering a space of about 60 feet diameter, still exists, though evincing symptoms of extreme old age. Measured at the same point in 1873, it was found to be 16 feet, having only grown 2 feet in a century. Measured carefully in October 1879 it was then 19 feet 8 inches at 1 foot;—18 feet 10 inches at 5 feet above ground, and its bole was 12 feet 10 inches in length. In Dr Walker's time this tree was supposed, but upon what authority is not stated, to have been about 230 years old. Walker cursorily notices another oak, inferior, he says, to the first mentioned, growing near it, but in 1773 "measuring near 15 feet in girth." In 1873 it measured at same point 17 feet, and at 2 feet above ground it was 19 feet. Of this tree he gives no further details ; but we find in 1879 that it girthed 24 feet at 1 foot, and 20 feet at 5 feet above ground, and had a hole of 19 feet 2 inches in length. These trees are still growing in comparative vigour; they are planted in a good dry woodland soil at a high altitude, being not less than 900 feet above sea-level.

The oak at Barjarg in Nithsdale, measured on 15th July 1796, was 17 feet in circumference close by the ground. At a height of 16 feet it measured 11 feet 11 inches, at 32 feet it was 11 feet 7 inches, and at 46 feet from the ground it was 6 feet 8 inches in girth. Dr Walker further states that this tree on 13th July 1773 measured 16 feet at the ground, and at 16 feet high it was then 10 feet 3 inches. It had therefore increased 1 foot in hulk at the base and 1 foot 8 inches at 16 feet from the ground in these twenty-three years. More recent records of this oak, undoubtedly the finest in Dumfriesshire even in its decaying state at the present day, may prove interesting, as showing its waning progress with the flight of time. In 1810 it was 17 feet 2 inches in girth at 4½ feet from the ground, and in 1879 it measured 19 feet 3 inches above the conoidal base and 16 feet 3 inches at 6 feet above the ground. The bole is straight in its timber to the height of 50 feet, and the spread of the branches covers an area 60 feet in diameter. We have also ascertained that this tree was measured by a carpenter in 1776, and was found then to contain 250 cubic feet of timber in its stem. In the year 1762, the Lord Barjarg of that period was informed by some very old residenters on the estate, that about 90 years previously (1670) it had been "bored" with the design of cutting it down, if the wood in the core had been sound. From the hole bored some branches sprouted, one of which was then (1762) of considerable dimensions. From this it may be inferred that it had then begun to wane; but it is another instance of very old trees, which from some circumstance or another, after showing considerable symptoms of decline, such as hollowness in the stump or in the branch clefts, again putting on new vigour, and covering over nature's incipient decay with rejuvenescence and new life. This oak appears to have long enjoyed celebrity. It was called the Blind Oak of Keir, [Keir is the name of the parish in which it is situated.] and is said to be mentioned by that epithet in some ancient title-deeds pertaining to the district, written under the shadow of its umbrageous boughs at least two centuries previous to 1810. It has made two narrow escapes from being lost to its native county, of which we trust it may long continue to be the boast, for besides being tested for soundness with a view to sale as above stated in 1762, its proprietor was, about the beginning of the present century, offered £30 for it as it then stood!

Other notable oaks in this district will be referred to subsequently in this report, when we come to describe specimens not hitherto recorded by previous writers.

An oak growing on the roadside between Inversanda and Strontian in Argyllshire was measured on 27th October 1764, and was then at 1 foot from the ground 17 feet 3 inches; at 4 feet it measured 16 feet 3 inches; and at 15 feet, where the bole divided into branches, it was 13 feet in girth. It is stated by Dr Walker to have been then in a decaying condition, and from a careful investigation made in the district recently, no trace of it has been found, nor can any one be found who can tell the tale of its fall and removal or subsequent history. Walker mentions the fact that the remains of many other great oaks, approaching to the same size, were observed by him in this vale of Morven, and were all situated among rank heather, in deep peat earth, lying above banks of mountain gravel. This tree was probably, therefore, the last survivor of one of Scotland's indigenous oak forests of very early times in that district.

Another of the early Scottish recorded oaks growing on the island of Inchmerin in Loch Lomond, has either so altered by its decay as to be now unrecognisable, or has disappeared entirely. An examination of the island last year failed to lead to the identification of "Jack Merin," as this oak was called, although several very interesting and hoary veterans were found, and are now recorded in the appended returns. "Jack Merin" stood near the middle of the island towards the east side, and measured, on 22d September 1784, 18 feet 1 inch. It was then "fresh and vigorous, and remarkable for its fine expanded head, without any appearance as yet of the stag horns." The only oak tree now corresponding with the position in the island ascribed to Jack, is a most magnificent specimen of a short-stemmed spreading tree. Measured on 15th August 1878, the indefatigable forester who explored the island to endeavour to identify and measure Jack's dimensions at that date, reports this tree to be 22 feet 6 inches in girth at 2 feet from the ground, and divides into several heavy limbs at 4 feet from the ground. He estimated that the bark of this tree alone would weigh about 3 tons, and that he had nowhere seen such a weight of oak timber growing from a single trunk. This description is not quite incompatible with the meagre account handed down to us of "Jack Merin," with whose site it corresponds, and although Walker states the soil in 1784 to be "a moorish, weeping soil," this also may hardly be considered as differing essentially from the soil as stated in 1878, when it was described as being " deep, humid soil." At all events, if this tree be not the veritable "Jack Merin" of 1784, it occupies as nearly as possible the same site, so that if Jack has since " gone aloft," to use the words of Mr Gordon, who measured this and the other Loch Lomond oaks in 1878, this veteran must have been his contemporary and neighbour, and as such deserves notice, as being now, perhaps, the only living witness of his "ascent"! The next oak in point of size on the island, in 1784 measured 11 feet 2 inches in girth. Such is all the description handed down to us. Of course, from such meagre evidence it is now impossible to identify this tree at the present day; but we may give the particulars here of the only other very venerable and hoary relic of an evidently far distant century growing near the northern shores of the island. At 4 feet above ground it girthed, in August 1878, 17 feet 6 inches, and at 7 feet the bole divides into three huge limbs, the two largest of which measure respectively 12 feet, and 6 feet 9 inches in girth. A branch springing from the largest limb measures 9 feet in girth, and the diameter of the spread of branches is 111 feet. "Several branches of large dimensions appear to have been wrenched off at various times in its history, while its lean foliage and numerous old unrecuperated saw draughts tell of its vigour having been spent." Other large and old oaks still thriving on this island will be found on reference to the appended returns.

As we have already seen in considering the old sycamores in Scotland, that many fine specimens are either ascribed to the planting by the hand of the unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots, or as commemorating eventful incidents in her history; so in like manner, we find that the oak has also its appropriate patron, many trees in different parts of the country being called "Wallace's Oaks," and associated in tradition with incidents in the life and chequered career of Scotland's great liberator. Sir William Wallace's oak in Torwood near Stirling, has been in the annals of Scotland immemorially held in veneration. In this ancient Torwood, it stood in a manner alone, there being no trees, nor even the ruined remains of any tree to be seen near it, or that could be said to be coeval with it. The tradition of its having afforded shelter and security to Wallace when he had lost a battle, and was escaping the pursuit of his enemies, probably served to secure its preservation, when the rest of the wood at different periods had been destroyed. In 1771 it had fallen into a state of advanced decay, having at some previous date separated clown the middle, and one half having entirely mouldered away. The other half, however, remained, and was then at one point about 20 feet in height; what the tree ever was above this is lost in obscurity. From the peculiar mode of renovation of old trees already referred to, a young bark had shot upwards from the root in several places, which had thrown out fresh shoots developing into branches, towards the upper part of the old shell of the trunk. This healthy young bark spread like a callus over several dead parts of the old trunk and over an old arm. It measured then, so far as the girth of the tree could be estimated from the size of the half that remained, about 22 feet. It had never been tall, having forked into several large limbs about 10 feet from the ground, thus affording at the division a very likely and convenient place of concealment for a fugitive. From information kindly furnished by the Rev. J. M'Laren of Larbert, we further learn regarding this historical and interesting tree. He writes as follows:—"The real Wallace oak is gone for ever. It stood in what was a part of the Torwood some centuries ago, but the knoll which it occupied has been long separated from what is now called the Torwood by ground which has been cleared, and is quarter of a mile from the present wood.. The old forester (ætat 72), who has lived nearly all his days in the Torwood, cannot remember ever having seen the veritable tree; but Mrs Stirling of Glenbervie, who is also of a similar age, remembers well having accompained her late husband and a young Oxonian, who was filled with zeal about Wallace, to see the oak, on a bright day in May 1835, and that then the old tree stump had sent forth a young shoot. Since then the copse has been rampant, and quite obliterated the old tree. The knoll is still called 'Wallace's Wood;' a small plantation it is, and a field adjoining it, 'Wallace's Bank,' and another field near by is 'Wallace's Kail-yard.' There is, however, an innocent imposter, which the people about insist on calling Wallace's oak. It stands within the policies of Carbrook, close to Torwood, and is evidently some two or three hundred years old. But though a respectable tree, it is far too young to have been connected with Wallace." Near the latter tree is an old thorn, which is called "Cargill's Thorn," from the circumstance that that renowned Covenanter is said to have stood under its branching head, when he excommunicated Charles II.

About a mile south-east, close to Glenbervie House, stands a small but evidently very old oak tree, about 7 to 8 feet in girth, called the "Jowg Tree," from the fact that a pair of "jowgs" were in olden times fastened to it for the temporary exposure of delinquents. There is a tree bearing a similar name at Ochtertyre in Perthshire, and the appellation is not uncommon in other places.

Another famous "Wallace Oak" grew near the village of Elderslie, Renfrewshire. In 1825 the trunk of this oak measured 21 feet in circumference at the base, and 13 feet 2 inches at 5 feet from the ground. It was then 67 feet high, and the branches covered altogether an area of 495 square yards. In 1854 this sylvan giant and land-mark of the past had become the merest wreck of what it was even a few years previously. Time and the storms of centuries had done their work, but worse than all, the relic hunters had been unceasingly nibbling at this once majestic trunk. Little more than a blackened torso then, this oak remained, with only a few straggling shoots showing any symptoms of vitality. The dreadful storm of February 1856, completed the destruction, for by it this grim old sylvan veteran, with thousands of his less remarkable compeers, was levelled with the dust, Hundreds of relic hunters in the district, hearing of Wallace's overthrow, hurried to the spot, and soon accomplished with bowie knife and gully a thorough dissection of the prostrate hero. Mr Spiers of Elderslie, however, hastened to the rescue, and had the mangled and mutilated remains of the trunk conveyed and safely lodged in his residence at Renfrew, where they have since found a fitting resting-place. Several articles of furniture have since been converted out of portions of this tree by the proprietor of Elderslie and Houston, and when a few years ago the foundation stone of Houston parish church was laid, the mallet used on the occasion was made from a piece of Wallace's Oak. Two vigorous and thriving oaks in front of Houston mansion-house were reared from acorns of this famous tree, and so eager were the inhabitants of the district to secure some mementos of Scotland's liberator, that some of them even collected the sawdust in bottles for preservation when the stump was cut up! The tradition lending interest to this historical tree is, that Wallace and several followers on one occasion, when hotly pursued by the vindictive Southerns, found welcome shelter and safety among its umbrageous foliage.

The largest oak tree of which we have any record in Scotland grew in the very old oak wood on the north side of Loch Arkeg in Lochaber, where we learn from Walker, that in 1784 there were many trees from 10 to 14 feet in girth at 4 feet from the ground. This one, however, measured at 4 feet above ground in that year, 24 feet 6 inches. He does not state the condition in which the tree then was, but all trace of it has now disappeared. From these records it will be observed that even the largest oaks of which any record has come down to us in Scotland, probably from the difference of soil and climate, are greatly inferior in dimensions to the large oaks in Southern Britain; for such well-known trees as the Wetherby Oak, which Mr Beevor informs us measured at 4 feet from the ground 40 feet 6 inches,—while there are others in England which are said to have been still larger,—quite eclipses those found in our more northern climate. Nor do any of the remains of indigenous oak forests, found either submerged or embedded in peat in Scotland, lead to the supposition that their denizens had attained to greater sizes than those we have mentioned. In Inverness-shire, at the head of Loch Garry, Sir T. Dick Lauder found the remains of a prostrate oak forest upon the surface of the solid ground, among which he found one tree with a clean stem, 23 feet in length and 16 feet in circumference at the butt end and 11 feet towards the smaller end under the fork. The stock whereon this oak had grown and close to which it lay, was quite worn away in the centre, and so hollowed out as to encircle a large and thriving self-sown birch tree of more than 3 feet in girth.

Of other oaks still existing in Scotland, and remarkable for age and size, but probably little, if in some instances at all noticed, we find notable examples in a few remaining trees of the Jed Forest, in Roxburghshire, where there is still to be seen "The Capon Tree." It is a short-stemmed but very wide-spreading oak, with a circumference at the base of 24 feet 3 inches. The legend attached to it is, that it formed the trysting-place for the muster of the border clans in bygone times; although probably, from its name "Capon"—and of which there are other trees similarly styled in different parts of Scotland,—it served another purpose also, having probably been the selected spot, and under the shade of whose umbrageous head, the early border chieftain attended to receive the rents or tithes of his vassals, many of the lands being held of their superior by an annual payment of fowls, cattle, corn, &c, and frequently we find the reddendo of a "capon" was a common act of fealty. Not far from the capon tree stands another oak, probably also a relic of the ancient Forest of Jed. It is called the King of the Woods, and is a beautiful and vigorous tree, with a trunk 43 feet in height, and a circumference of upwards of 17 feet at 4 feet above ground. Other interesting old oaks are still found in the remains of the Caledonian Forest in the park of Dalkeith, in Cadzow Forest, at Lochwood in Dumfriesshire, and in single trees in many parts of Scotland. These are given in considerable detail in the appended returns to this paper, and reference will accordingly now only be briefly made to some of these of most interest.

The returns contain no examples of oak from Aberdeenshire, where its presence seems to be somewhat rarer than that of other descriptions. At Keithhall in that county, although planted in the most suitable soils and sites, the oak does not appear to thrive. The soil, too, is a deep loam, which is generally favourable to oaks, and in the higher parts of the estate it is a light black soil on a stiff clay or "pan." In Morayshire, along the banks of the Findhorn, there are a great number of fine oaks, one of the specimens given in the schedule girths at 1 foot from the ground 27 feet 9 inches, and has evidently sprung from an old oak stool, for it divides into seven limbs, which, growing together for about 3 feet from the base, divide, and form as it were seven separate trees, each limb being the size of a good useful tree. At Brodie Castle, Morayshire, there are some very good oaks, growing in a sandy loam soil upon a subsoil tending to clay. One given in our returns is a very massive tree, girthing 16 feet at 1 foot, and 12 feet 11 inches at 5 feet from the base. It carries a good girth well up its bole, which is 35 feet in length. This and the other oaks returned from Brodie Park were planted between the years 1650 and 1680. On the estate of Gray, Forfarshire, there is a noble oak tree, supposed to be about two hundred and fifty years old, and girthing 26 feet 2 inches and 17 feet 2 inches at 1 and 5 feet respectively, growing in a black deep clayey loam upon a sandy and gravelly subsoil, and containing by the forester's measurement 623 cubic feet of good measureable timber. Upon Lord Mansfield's estate of Innernytie la Perthshire, in the Craigbank Oak Wood, in a secluded dell on the brink of the river Tay, stands a venerable aged oak, which has hitherto escaped the notice of the arboriculturist, and judging from its ancient appearance, there seems no reason to doubt that it has weathered the blasts and tempests of at least five hundred winters. At 5 feet above ground it measures 20 feet 10 inches in girth, and is still growing vigorously, and making wood annually. Many other magnificent oaks throw a mantle of hoary and honoured antiquity around the woods and policies of the royal palace of Scone. Near the two-mile stone from Perth, near Balboughty plantation, stand three fine specimens, which are remarkably large for their age. The first two (see returns) are Quercus sessiliflora, and the other Q. pedunculated The first were planted in 1808, and the other a year later. Measured in August 1878, the first has a fine bole of 56 feet in length, and is 80 feet high. It girths 5 feet 7 inches at 5 feet above ground, and contains 76 cubic feet of timber. The second is about the same height, is 7 feet in girth at 5 feet, and has 93½ cubic feet of timber. The third (Q. pedunculata) has a clear bole of 57 feet, girthing 6 feet 11 inches, and contains 114 cubic feet of timber. In the policies at Scone, near the river Tay, and in a hollow, stands a majestic wide-spreading oak, planted by King James VI. of Scotland and I. of England. The diameter of the spread of its branches covers 75 feet. It is now 55 feet in height, 15 feet 3 inches at the base, 14 feet 2 inches at 3 feet, and 13 feet 4 inches at 5 feet from the ground. Not far distant stands a sycamore, also planted by the same monarch, and girthing 12 feet 3 inches at 4 feet from the base. North of the old Scone burying-ground, in which are some stones of the early part of the fifteenth century, including that of Alexander Mar, sixteenth Abbot of Scone, who flourished when the battle of Flodden was fought, is an oak of great symmetry and vigour, planted in 1809. It is now 70 feet in height, with 40 feet of straight clear stem, and is at the root 10 feet 4 inches in girth, and 8 feet 4 inches at 5 feet. Although at Castle Menzies the soil is light, and resting on pure gravel or sand, at no great depth, there are some fine oaks. In our returns, two specimens are described which grow there. The first is near the pond, and is a noble tree, girthing 15 feet 6 inches at a foot, and 12 feet at 5 feet from the ground. This tree is 70 feet in height, and but from the fact that it has had one large limb near the top broken off some years ago, would have been much taller at the present day. This untoward accident befel it in 1858, which was in the district a very late and backward season, snow falling heavily before the leaves had been shed. The superincumbent weight of snow on the topmost branches and foliage broke off many branches about Castle Menzies policies, and sadly disfigured some of the fine trees there. At the east gate of the park of Castle Menzies stands a remarkable oak (see returns). The peculiarity of this tree is, that it presents on one of its large limbs, about 25 feet from the ground, a curious branch about 6 feet long, with pure white foliage, densely matted and quite distinct from all surrounding and adjacent branches. The white variegation, though completely local, is very persistent, and has continued now for years. The interest in this odd freak of nature is further increased by the presence (gradually disappearing) of an old bell, which, in former times, was suspended between two of the limbs, but which is being stealthily and quietly overgrown, and embedded in the development of the limbs, and must ere long be entombed in its living sepulchre ! But in no part of the tree-growing and tree-loving county of Perth are better examples to be found of the oak as well as of other hard-wooded trees than at the Athole woods surrounding Dunkeld. Although the ancient forest of Birnam Wood has never quite recovered the famous march of its ancestors to Dunsinane, many thriving plantations are rapidly clothing the hillsides, while still a few remnants of the old aboriginal trees, and others planted fully two centuries ago, remain to testify to the magnificent proportions of those early plantations, which in the course of time and nature have gradually given way to younger followers. Near the river Tay at Birnam, and behind the hotel, may still be seen two immense trees, an oak and sycamore, popularly credited as being the sole remnants of that celebrated forest. Both are in full foliage and green vigour at the present day, and likely to live for many years to come. The sycamore having been already noticed in the foregoing chapter on that tree, we now briefly refer to the oak. It is 19 feet 7 inches in girth at 5 feet from the ground, and grows in a good deep alluvial loamy soil, on gravel subsoil, quite close to the river Tay. Other remains of decayed oak root stumps have been frequently found in the vicinity, no doubt relics of that great primeval forest which so disturbed the peace of Macbeth. Within the Dunkeld policies are many large and interesting examples of oak trees, and of these we are able, from personal observation, to give a few records. In the "King's Park" in the policies at Dunkeld, an oak flourishes near the river side which girths at its narrowest point, 4 feet from the ground, 15 feet 2½ inches, and at 3 feet from the ground, it is 15 feet 8½ inches in circumference. It has a fine bole of 12 feet, and then branches into five huge limbs, each of them being the size of any ordinary tree. Its spread of branches measures 99 feet in diameter. On the opposite bank of the Tay from the point where this oak grows, is seen the famous oak under whose kindly shade the celebrated Neil Gow was in the habit of retiring with his violin, and where tradition reports he composed some of his finest pieces. This tree is pointed out as "Neil Gow's Oak."

"Famous Neil,
The man that played the fiddle weel."

This celebrated fiddler died in 1808, in the romantic little hamlet of Inver, not far westward from the site of the oak now identified with his name and fame in song. Another magnificent specimen of the Quercus pedunculata at Dunkeld is given in our returns, and is very characteristic of the growth and habit of this variety under favourable auspices. Another picturesque oak at Dunkeld stands on the terraced bank on the opposite side of the Tay to "Neil Gow's Oak," and in full view of that tree. It is called the "Duke and Duchess Oak." It is a huge massive stump, 16 feet in girth, dividing into two large limbs quite near the ground, the cleft being fitted up as a seat. It is evidently a fresh growth from one of the aboriginal oaks of the district. The grounds of Moncrieffe and Moredun Hill, Perthshire, are rich in old and stately hard-wood trees, and amongst these are many fine oaks. One comparatively young tree of great promise and vigorous habit may be noted. It was planted in January 1822, on the occasion of the rejoicings in connection with the natal day of the late Sir Thomas Moncrieffe. It stands in the centre of the fine old avenue of beech trees already referred to in the chapter on that tree, and is surrounded by the small Druidical circle which had existed there long prior to the planting and laying out of the grounds. It is now 72 feet in height, with a remarkably tall, straight, and clean bole, and is 10 feet 6 inches in girth at 1 foot, and 8 feet 4 inches at 5 feet from the ground. In cursorily noticing the many fine specimen trees in Perthshire, we must not omit to notice those at Methven, where there are some splendid examples of the oak as well as of other descriptions. Especially to be noted is the "Pepperwell Oak." It stands in the park in front of the castle, and is said to derive its name from its proximity to a refreshing spring so called. This tree is noticed in the New Statistical Account of the parish published in 1837. It is therein described tree of great picturesque beauty, and contains 700 cubic feet of wood. The trunk measures 17½ feet in circumference at 3 feet above the ground, and its branches cover a space of 98 feet in diameter. It has attained an increase of girth of 3 feet since the year 1796. In the year 1722, 100 merks Scots were offered for the tree, and tradition reports that there is a stone in the heart of it, but, like the Golenas oak, it must be cut up to ascertain this." In 1867 the tree girthed 21 feet 7 inches at 1 foot from the ground, and 19 feet at 6 feet from the ground. It has, however, considerably increased in bulk since these measurements were taken, and is now at 1 foot from the ground no less in girth than 23 feet, and at its narrowest part, about 5 feet from the ground, it girths 19 feet 5 inches, being thus 2 feet more at this point A count in 1837. It stands by the side of a steep bank, so that the length of the bole is somewhat irregular. On the higher or upper side, it measures only about 8 feet in length, while on the lower it is nearly 12 feet long. Four immense limbs spring from the bole, and a fifth was wrenched off several years ago. This tree is about 80 feet in height, and is positively known to be at least four hundred years old. An interesting relic of the old Strathallan Forest remains there in the oak given in the returns. This tree is called "Malloch's Oak," from the tradition of a man of that name having been in olden times summarily hanged upon it for storing up and hoarding meal during a time of scarcity. There is still extant the contract of the sale of oak trees in the Castle Wood, where this tree stands, and in which "Malloch's Oak" is strictly reserved. This document is two hundred years old. The tree must then have been a familiarly known old tree, and it is popularly supposed to be from five to six hundred years of age. It is much decayed on one side, but still flourishes in a green old age, the decayed part, which is at a point where a large limb has at one time been taken off, being plated over with iron. It girths 19 feet at 1 foot, and 14 feet 8 inches at 5 feet from the ground. A large horizontal limb, which may have formed a very convenient gibbet if the legend be true, extends 56 feet outwards from the trunk, and is now supported by two posts. Not far from this tree another remarkable and noteworthy oak grows in "the birks of Tullibardine," near the spot where the old castle of that name stood. Tradition reports that under this tree, which is known by the name of "The Chair Tree," the family of Tullibardine, in feudal times, dined and held high revelry on special occasions. It is surrounded by a ring of earthwork resembling an old "feal dyke," which is 28 yards in diameter, and in this circus arena it is said the castle horses were formerly trained and exercised. It girths 17 feet at a foot from the ground, and carries this circumference throughout nearly the entire length of its bole, which is 20 feet high. It is apparently not so old as "Malloch's Oak," but apparently also an old "Forest" relic. Near the roadside on the property of Dollerie, and near the right bank of the river Turret, about a third of a mile above its junction with the river Earn, stands a remarkable oak called "Eppie Callum's Oak." The head is wide for its height, and the trunk is very round. It girths 19 feet 8 inches at 1 foot, 15 feet 10 inches at 3 feet, and 15 feet 3 inches at 6 feet above ground. The legend of the name of this free is that a certain "Eppie Callum," who lived at the place, planted an acorn from some celebrated oak in an old teapot (she must have been a civilized old woman for her day), and when the acorn had produced a rather inconveniently large young plant she planted it, teapot and all, in her kailyard, which occupied the spot at the roadside where the tree now stands. The story will only be verified by futurity, when the oak comes to be removed, and the remains of the veritable teapot are found embosomed in its trunk ! On an oak in the vicinity on the Crieff and Comrie highroad, just opposite Ochtertyre West Lodge, there is a very curious growth or huge wart-like excrescence on an oak tree, worthy of note from its size. It is spheroidal in shape, slightly oblate, with a short axis in supporting branch,—inclination of branch about 45 degrees, girth of the branch 14 inches, and girth of the growth at its widest circumference 6 feet 3 inches.

The oaks in the returns from Glendevon, Perthshire (900 to 950 feet altitude), and from Moreland, Kinross-shire (900 feet altitude), are good specimens for so high a site above sea level, and although the oak is thereby seen to develop less timber-bulk at such a height than in lower situations, it is proved to grow timber there of fine quality, and the constitution of the tree for hardihood to exposure is satisfactorily tested.

The many districts in Perthshire, besides Athole and Dunkeld already referred to, where buried trunks of huge oaks have been found and exhumed, all point to the inference that its entire area, and that of neighbouring shires also, was at an early period one huge impenetrable forest. In the days of the aborigines such vast forests extended all over Scotland, giving to the inhabitants, indeed, their name, for Caledonia originally means the country of "the people of the coverts." These native forests appear to have consisted principally of fir, birch, and oak. In Balquidder large stumps and trunks of a defunct forest of oak are frequently found. In Strathtay fossil wood is often met with, and in the gardens at Murthley Castle, from the bottom of a lake in the American garden, several large oaks have been discovered above 6 feet in girth. Remains of birch, alder, hazel, were also found in a tolerable state of preservation in this lake bottom. Glen-more, a narrow valley in the parish of Fortingall, was in early times part of the extinct Forest of Schiehallion; and for a long period the stumps of fir trees, and large trunks of oak, furnished the inhabitants of the district with a profitable product,—the fir being used as fuel, when it is stated to have "emitted a light more brilliant than gas," while the oak wood, on being dried and exposed, proved so hard as to be manufactured into sharpening tools for scythes which were readily marketable. In the bed of the Tay frequently large oaks have been found in situ, and in good preservation.

But returning from this digression, and having in considerable detail noticed the remarkable oaks of Perth and the more northern districts of Scotland, we hasten briefly to direct attention to the trees in other counties further south. At Tullibody House, Clackmannan, there is a very handsome oak of immense trunk, girthing 21 feet 11½ inches at 1 foot, and 18 feet 3 inches at 5 feet from the ground. It is acknowledged to be by far the largest tree of the kind in the parish and district around. This tree is quite vigorous, and has grown 7 inches in girth at 3 feet from the ground since October 1870. The oaks at Pollok, in the parish of Eastwood, Renfrewshire, are notable examples, and have been carefully measured from time to time since 1812, and the following results of their growth ascertained at 5 feet above ground.

Ayrshire can boast many fine examples of the oak, and there also it appears to have flourished at a very early period in great luxuriance and forest grandeur. In Galston parish, in that county, good trees appear to have covered the area of the country at a remote age, and many fine specimens exist at the present day. An oak trunk was some years ago found embedded in the ground, about 500 feet above sea level, having a straight massive bole, 48 feet in length and 10 feet 6 inches in girth at its upper extremity. Lanfine Woods, Barr Castle, Cessnock Castle, Auchans Castle, Loudon Castle and woods, Auchinleck, and Sorn Castle still maintain, by their many lordly trees, the reputation of the county.

In Lanarkshire there are many interesting and remarkable old oaks. We may first notice "The Pease Tree," growing on the estate of Lee in the parish of Lanark. It stands in a hollow, originally the outlet of the burn or rivulet, which has formed in the soil and subsoil a deep ravine, or gill as it is locally termed. The soil is a medium loam with beds of sand and gravel resting on the usual sandstone, shale, &c, of the coal formation. The trunk of this veteran is now quite hollow, and, at the height of about 8 feet from the present surface of the ground, forms itself into three branches, girthing respectively 16 feet 8 inches, 15 feet, and 11 feet 4 inches. Parts of these massive limbs are more or less decayed, and standing boldly out as they do, weather-beaten and divested of their bark, from amongst the living branches when clothed in their summer greenery, give to this noble tree a reverential dignity and grandeur well befitting an artist's study, and carrying the mind of the beholder back through long centuries of changes and revolutions which have taken place

in the history of Caledonia, since the genial sun and rains first called forth the nature-sown acorn to send down its tiny rootlets into mother earth. "The Pease Tree" is said to be one of the few remaining scattered remnants of the great Caledonian Forest, which stretched across the centre of the lowlands of Scotland from Ayrshire to St Abb's Head on the German Ocean, and in which it is said the Roman Emperor Severus kept 50,000 men for seven years cutting down trees, in order to prevent the forest affording shelter to the natives. The name "Pease Tree," is popularly and locally believed to have been given to this tree from the pease grown on the adjoining farm being annually stacked around and upon it for the purpose of being winnowed; but the name more probably derived its origin from the situation in which the tree grows, from paes or pis, an old British word signifying a rivulet or spout. Tradition says that Oliver Cromwell and a party of his followers dined in the hollow part of the trunk, and also that in a former era a lady of the family of Lee was in the habit of plying her spindle and distaff there. It is satisfactory to record that this venerable tree appears to be growing more luxuriantly than it did some years ago, from the fact that an oak was planted merely to occupy its place when the hand of time or the blasts of winter should have completed their work. This tree is now 7 feet in girth at 3 feet from the ground, and the entrance to the hollow butt of the old tree is yearly growing smaller, so that in a few years a man will have great difficulty in getting an entrance. The dimensions of this remarkable tree are as follows:—Height 68 feet; circumference at 1 foot 28½ feet, at 3 feet 23 feet, and at 6 feet 28½ feet. It appears to be Quercus sessiliflora, while the oak planted to occupy its place is Quercus pedunculata. The most interesting and important groups of old oaks in Lanarkshire are the trees remaining in Cadzow Forest, near Hamilton Palace. The forest is the property of His Grace the Duke of Hamilton, and lies in a gently sloping position towards the north. The two enclosures now known as the Lower and Upper Oaks, the former containing 70 acres, the latter 83 acres, form together part only of the old forest, because adjoining these remains on the south and west are old pasture fields and plantations, surrounded by a stone wall 6 feet high and about 3 miles in extent, which was most probably the boundary in feudal times, when Cadzow Castle was the scene of many stirring and knightly events. On the east side the forest is bounded by the river Avon, and on the left bank of this river are the moss-covered crumbling ruins of Cadzow Castle. The soil is admirably adapted for the growth and development of oaks, being a clayey loam resting on a subsoil of clay. In some places the trees stand quite close together, while in others they stand singly, or seem to surround large open patches covered with rich natural pasture, on which the famous breed of native wild white cattle browse, and form an appropriate association with this ancient relic of Caledonian forest life. The principal characteristic of all these trees is their shortness of stature, combined with great girth of trunk. The dimensions of ten of the largest and best specimens are given in the appended returns. Most of the trees, and even the healthiest amongst them, are fast hastening to decay. No planting, pruning, nor felling is allowed within the forest. Tradition states that these oaks were planted about the year 1140, by David Earl of Huntingdon, afterwards king of Scotland; but this cannot be looked upon as a fact, for their appearance and habit clearly point to their self-sown existence, and, moreover, in the remote period assigned to them by the legend, little if any attention was paid to the planting of trees, and the clearing of the native forests was held in far higher importance than the planting of them.

Another interesting remnant of the old Caledonian Forest still exists in Midlothian at Dalkeith Park. This portion embraces 130 acres, and has been most carefully preserved for centuries, its hoary and gnarled giants being still fresh and vigorous, and likely to flourish for generations to come. The survival of this ancient tract of woodland is all the more to be prized when it is recorded that, about one hundred and fifty years ago, the then owner of the ducal demesne had determined that the trees should be cut down, and accordingly most of the old trees still standing were marked for the axe, but by the sudden death of their owner, the intended improvements were stayed, and the forest thus providentially escaped annihilation. The mark or "blaze" then cut on the sides of the trees in the course of years healed over, and became invisible, but its position is still distinctly seen upon the rugged bark of these hoary monarchs after the lapse of a century and a half; and the figures scribed on the "blaze" in lotting and numbering the trees were still quite legible upon the removal of the superimposed bark, in cutting up one of the trunks recently blown down. The dimensions of the "King of the Forest," the largest survivor in the group, are given in the appended returns. Many other trees closely approach this monarch in size,—some of the specimens having straight clean stems, others having no hole to speak of, and all with rugged, swollen, and curiously knotted trunks, with fantastically twisted, gnarled, and contorted gaunt-like arms and branches. The timber of these trees is remarkably rich in colour, and beautifully grained, and even trunks blown down—no felling being permitted—fetch high prices, so eagerly sought after is their timber by cabinetmakers for decorative furniture.

Remains still may be traced in Selkirk and Peebles-shires of the old Ettrick Forest, which formed another division of the great Caledonian Forest. In the still richly wooded lands of Castlecraig, Dalwick, and Posso, in reclaiming land, oak trunks are still dug out, and are found strewn together as if they had been overthrown by some flood or angry tempest.

The remarkable oaks at Lochwood, and in other places in Dumfriesshire and south of Scotland, have already been noticed, and reference to others of equal interest may be permitted to the appended returns; but before concluding this report on the old oaks of Scotland, it would be unpardonable if we did not notice one still existing at Moffat, and interesting from the fact that we owe its existence at the present day to that eminent and enthusiastic tree-lover, whose early records and notices of trees we have so frequently quoted and referred to. This tree stands upon a slope on the west side of the Annan, near the Dumfries road, to the south of Moffat. It is a fine old oak, massive, knotted, and gnarled, with wide-spreading branches, and head finely foliaged in summer. It is called "The Gowk Tree," and Dr Walker, with true affection for its associations, in the early part of this century secured its preservation by a considerable money payment, when the whole of the forest trees on the bank were cut down by the curators of the Marquis of Annandale, because it was in that tree the cuckoo annually first heralded the advent of spring in the parish. Although it lost a great limb about twenty-five years ago,—almost as large as many a well-grown oak tree,—it is still fresh and vigorous.

The returns appended to this report will be found to describe the particulars of many trees which have not been referred to in this paper, nor, indeed, previously recorded at all; they are stately and noble specimens, in their different localities, of "the forest's old aristocrats," each of which

"Takes back
The heart to elder days of holy awe.'

To give a detailed account, or even to name the various oaks in England, remarkable for their size or for their historical associations, many of which still exist, would occupy more space than the limits of a chapter devoted to the old remarkable oaks in Scotland would allow; but it may render this chapter more complete if a brief reference is made to some of the most important of them. They are " full of story, and haunted by the recollections of the great spirits of past ages." In Norfolk, "the country of oaks," is still to be seen the ruined relic of Winfarthing oak, which in 1820 is said to have measured "70 feet in girth at the root and 40 feet in the middle." It is said to have been known in the time of the Conqueror as "the Old Oak," and its age is popularly believed to be over 1500 years. The largest and oldest oak tree in Windsor Forest, "the King Oak," measures 26 feet in circumference at 4 feet from the ground. "The Great Oak" of Thorpemarket, still in healthy vigour, but evincing great age, girths at 1 foot from the ground 22 feet, and has a bole 42 feet in length, and is 70 feet in height. In Kent, "the Majesty Oak," at Fredville, girths 28 feet 6 inches at 8 feet above ground. In Nottinghamshire, "the Parliament Oak" in Clipstone Park, is 28 feet 6 inches in girth at 4 feet from the ground. Under this tree, in 1290, Edward I. held a parliament, whence its name is derived. "The Shelton Oak," near Shrewsbury, still exists, and is fully 26 feet in girth at 5 feet from the ground. This tree is celebrated from its having been climbed by Owen Glendower on 21st June 1403, that he might reconnoitre the battle of Shrewsbury on his arrival with supports. In Bagot's Park, Staffordshire, is a majestic oak tree, 28 feet in girth at 5 feet from the ground. The celebrated "Cowthorpe Oak" in Yorkshire, said to be the largest tree in England, still lingers on in hoary grandeur. Near the ground the stump girths no less than 78 feet, while it is 48 feet in girth at 3 feet above ground. It is quite hollow—in fact a mere shell, uncared for, and tenanted by cattle in their quest for shade or shelter. Eighty-four persons are stated on one occasion to have stood within its hollow trunk, and it could have accommodated a considerable number more. Many fine majestic oaks still thrive at Chats-worth, in Derbyshire, and at Lyme Hall, in Cheshire. These are relics of the old High Peak forest. Some of the measurements made by us in 1876 were as follows:—

These data may be interesting, as the trees last referred to do not appear to have been hitherto recorded.

In conclusion, we would merely refer those interested in comparing the other remarkable oaks in England with those we wave herein recorded in Scotland, to the interesting and valuable Pages of the Amoemtates quernoa of the late Professor Burnet, in which the historical facts, legends, and traditions connected with the history of individual oaks of ancient date are fully given.


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