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Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland
On the Old and Remarkable Ash Trees (Fraxinus Excelsior) in Scotland


By Robert Hutchison, of Carlowrie.
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Continuing the catalogue of old and remarkable forest trees in Scotland, initiated by the Highland and Agricultural Society last year, by an exhaustive report on the Spanish chestnuts (Castanca Vesca) of the country at the present day, the subject of this—the second chapter of the hitherto imperfectly written literature and record of our old trees—is the Ash. Probably next to the sycamore, if not equally with it, no tree has been more generally planted in Scotland than the ash (Fraxinus excelsior). By many it is considered to be indigenous to the country. Loudon evidently thought so; but another authority repudiated the idea, and based his conclusions upon the circumstance, that in no instance have any traces of the remains of ash trees been found in any of the peat-bogs or morasses from which, from time to time, roots and stumps of former sylva have been exhumed, nor in any deep excavations made in other soils, nor in the timbers of old buildings in Scotland. This argument, however, is easily met by the objection, that in none of such situations is it the least likely that ash tree timber would be found. In the first place, it is well known that in peat-bog soil or wet morasses ash will not grow; in the next place, the nature of the tree is to throw out shallow or surface-feeding roots, so that it could not be looked for in deep excavations; and, as to its use for constructive purposes, its wood is quite unsuited for such purposes, and too valuable for use in other respects, as, for example, for agricultural implements and tools, to admit of its being used for beams of houses. It may therefore be safely assumed that the ash is one of our indigenous forest trees in Scotland, as, from the earliest records, we find it in use, both as supplying material for the deadly instruments of warfare, and for the peaceful implements of agriculture.

In former times, curious superstitions were attached to this tree. The Scandinavians introduced the ash into their mythology, and their Edda represents the court of the gods as held under a mighty ash, whose summit reaches to heaven, while its branches overshadow the entire earth, and its roots penetrate to the infernal regions. Serpents are twined round its trunk. Man, according to the Edda, was formed from the wood of the ash tree. Pliny and Dioscorides both notice it as being repugnant to serpents, and as a cure for their bite. In our own land, at no remote period, country people had a superstition, that if they split young ash trees, and made ruptured children pass through the cleft, they would be cured. A curious tree is figured in " The Gentleman's Magazine " for 1804, p. 909, which was said to have been so used. It grew near Birmingham, and showed two trunks, parted, and quite distinct, at a short distance from the root, and afterwards joined again. It had been split to cure rupture in a child of a neighbouring farmer, and it is supposed that the two parts thus separated became covered with bark, and so formed two trunks at this point. Trees so used were preserved with great care, for the belief was, that if the tree was felled the rupture returned, mortified, and killed the person formerly cured! Probably the "Glammis" tree at Castle Huntly, in Perthshire, which is noticed in Dr Walker's "Catalogue of Old Trees," was a tree so used,—the word "glammis," in north country dialect, signifying "pincers" or tongs. This tree, from inquiry, is now gone. In 1812 it measured at 3 feet from the ground, 17 feet in circumference; and at the root, 27 feet. It fell of natural decay in 1864. Another superstition in regard to the ash, consisted in boring a hole in a branch and enclosing within it a living shrew mouse; so prepared the branch was used to thrash cattle afflicted with cramp or lameness, both of which were laid to the charge of the unfortunate mouse, and a cure was thereby supposed to be effected!

We have referred to the frequency with which the ash and sycamore have been planted in Scotland. They are frequently found in close proximity together around farm-steadings and hamlets in isolated spots, and on hill-sides exposed to the blast. The one was doubtless selected from the shade which its um-brageous foliage afforded; and the other, for the utility of its timber in mechanical purposes; and both, from their hardihood in withstanding the severity of the wind uninjured. Unlike the sycamore, however, the ash is more fastidious as to soil, and will not succeed in wet water-logged subsoils, where it soon becomes "stag-headed;" but in deep loam, or in soil of a friable nature, even at considerable altitude, the ash will attain great height, its roots running for long distances near the surface, or forcing its tortuous rootlets towards any running brook, under which it delights to spread them. No deciduous tree whatever in cultivation in our plantations, is more injurious to plants growing under it than the ash, from its long and numerously-spread fibrous roots, which, being near the surface, completely exhaust the soil, and deter the vegetation of other plants less favourably provided by nature with such feeders. Mr Fennel, in an article of interest on the ash, in "The Mirror" (vol. xxv., p. 212), notices a remarkable tree in Norfolk which, when cut down, although only 45 feet high, was found to have a root 133 feet in length. This habit renders it also an unsuitable tree to plant in hedgerows on farms, for it is apt to choke the drains with its rootlets.

The ash is deteriorated, when it has attained to about 20 feet in height, by severe pruning. This should be done when very young, or what is better, if planted in masses with other trees at due distance, yet sufficiently close to one another, nature will assist herself in rearing trees of straight clear boles, devoid of heavy side limbs, and this is the description of tree which presents most qualifications for timber purposes. It is the root-cut of the bole in the ash which is most tough, elastic, and durable; and this applies to the sapling as much as to the tree of full-grown proportions. Indeed, there is no tree which can be so soon found marketable for many varied purposes as the ash,— young trees, of a few inches diameter, being valuable for shafts and implement handles; while the shoots from the stools of felled trees are eagerly sought for, on account of their suppleness, elasticity, and toughness.

Having been, therefore, one of the first of the deciduous trees planted by our ancestors, it is frequently found in groups, or in lines and squares, marking the site of some old mansion or hamlet now no longer in existence; and such landmarks are quite common in Scotland. That this tree was used, although not so frequently as the sycamore or sweet chesnut and oak, to mark the spot of some event, or to celebrate some hero or saint, cannot be doubted from the many names which individual trees still bear in many parts of the country, although the events or the individuals themselves have faded from the world's memory. We have, amongst recorded trees of the ash species, now no longer to be traced or identified, the "Maiden of Midstrath," at Birse, in Aberdeenshire. This tree was supposed to have existed about the end of the sixteenth century. At the time of its fall, in a gale in 1833, it girthed 21 feet near the ground, and 18 feet at 9 feet above. Dr Walker and other tree historians have recorded a celebrated ash which stood in the churchyard at Kilmalie, Argyleshire; which is a common position in which we find old ash trees in other parishes in Scotland, whether from any superstition or not in regard to it, has never been ascertained. This Kilmalie ash was long supposed to be the biggest tree in North Britain. It was held in reverence by Lochiel, at whose parish church it stood, and by his retainers and clansmen, and this fact probably hastened its demolition, for in 1746 it was burnt by the soldiery to the ground. Examined in October 1764, its circumference could then be traced very accurately, and its diameter was found to be in one direction, 17 feet 3 inches, and its cross diameter, 21 feet. Its circumference at the ground, taken before two credible witnesses, was 58 feet. It grew in rich deep soil, about 30 feet above sea-level, with a small rivulet running within a few yards of its site. It was described then, by one who had known it before its destruction, as not a tall tree, for it divided into three great arms about 8 feet from the ground. Visited again in 1771, all vestige of it was quite obliterated. The famous Finavon Spanish chestnut tree, which was long considered the biggest tree in Scotland, is thus eclipsed by this ash, for the chestnut girthed at a foot from the ground, 42 feet 8˝ inches; but the two must have been contemporaries; and as Walker puts the age of the chestnut at about 500 years (prior to 1812, when he wrote), the Kilmalie ash was probably therefore about the same age. Another very remarkable ash grew at Bonhill, Dumbartonshire, being a sort of " family tree" of the Smolletts, who have been proprietors of Bonhill for a very long period. It had been surrounded, for its preservation, with a sloping mound of earth about 3 feet in height. In September 1784, at the top of this embankment it girthed 34 feet 1 inch; at 4 feet higher up, it was 21 feet 3 inches; and at 12 feet from the ground, it was 22 feet 9 inches; where it divided into three huge arms. At this point, the leading trunk had, about a century before, been broken over, in consequence of which the tree had become hollowed. One of these arms measured 10 feet 4 inches; another, 11 feet; and the third, 12 feet in girth; and yet they seem not to have been original branches, but only pollards formed after the trunk was broken over. As the stump had become quite hollow, and open on one side, we learn from Dr Walker that the opening was formed into a door, and the decayed heart scooped out, so that a room was formed in it, 9 feet 1 inch in diameter, with a conical roof 11 feet high; and was floored, and surrounded with a hexagonal bench, on which eighteen people could sit; and above the door, five small leaden windows were fitted. In this condition this remarkable trunk lived on, forming a great deal of young wood in the shell or bark; and in 1812, Dr Walker states that "it was thickly covered with fresh vigorous branches, and, by this sort of renovation, may continue to live, nobody can say how long." After very careful inquiry, we have been so fortunate as to ascertain that a remnant of this remarkable tree still exists. There is remaining a shell, about 12 feet high and 3 feet broad, of one side of its trunk, covered with healthy bark and young twigs. This relic is surrounded by an iron railing for its protection. The bark is still well covered with small branches; and about 18 inches from the ground, a pretty large branch has sprung up, which may, in future centuries, be a rival to its sire. Judging from the dimensions given by Dr Walker, this ash may fairly be allowed to divide the honour of being the largest of its day, in Scotland, with the Kilmalie tree.

In the parish churchyard of Bonhill stood another venerable ash tree, which, in September 1784, measured, at 3 feet from the ground, 17 feet 9 inches; but at 1 foot above the ground, it was no less than 33 feet in girth. It was about 50 feet in height, and had a wide spreading head. In 1768 it was measured by Mr Beevor, and found to be 16 feet 9 inches at 5 feet above the ground. In 1812 it was quite fresh and vigorous. This tree perished in a gale on 1st November 1845. Its circumference, at 3 feet from the root, was 26 feet 6 inches; and at its bifurcation, 22˝ feet. Its north branch was 13 feet, and its south limb 12˝ feet in girth. The circle round the base was 63 feet; and its height considerably over 100 feet; and the spread of its branches 100 feet in diameter. A lithograph of the tree hangs in the session-house of the parish church; and two chairs, made from the wood of the tree, stand in the vestibule of the church, and bear the following inscription:—"This chair, with another of the same wood and pattern, made by James Nairn, cabinetmaker in Bonhill, of part of the great ash tree that stood for centuries in the south-west corner of the kirkyard of the parish of that name, and fell by a very high wind on 1st November 1845, was presented to the Established Church in that parish by the Rev. William Gregor, minister thereof, on the 16th January 1847." The wood was sold to more than one joiner, and was made into articles of furniture. The lithograph of the tree referred to was sold in the parish, and is still to be seen in several houses; it was mounted in a frame made from the wood of the tree itself. The ash, already referred to, which grew at Castle Huntly, in Perthshire, called the "Glammis Tree," and which in 1796 girthed 17 feet at 5 feet high, and 27 feet near the root, was overturned in a gale in 1864, and was very much decayed. No precaution had been taken to prolong its existence, or stay the course of nature's decay during the latter years of its life. Many large old trees, the best on this estate, have been felled during recent years. Two ash trees on Inch Murin, Loch Lomond, are mentioned by Walker as having been of considerable dimensions, and although in a decaying condition, from having been broken over about 8 feet from the ground, they then still continued to throw out groups of branches from their sides. The one girthed in 1784, at 3 feet from the ground, 20 feet 8 inches, and the other, 28 feet 5 inches. One of these trees, we have just ascertained from Mr Gordon, forester on Luss estate, still exists, and is rather a curious relic. It is quite hollow, and appears to have at some time been broken over about 7 feet above the ground. Just below the break numerous shoots have, however, formed all round the trunk, and are now from 10 to 18 inches in diameter, and have established a connection with the old roots of the stump, which appear still vigorous. A zone of fresh wood and bark has been thus formed over the old hollow trunk, which now measures 25 feet in circumference. The thickness of this hollow shell is from 6 to 16 inches, and the whole forms a sort of roofless chamber, in which from four to six adults may stand without inconvenience. The moist climate and humidity of the district of Loch Lomond is very favourable for the development of tree-life, and in the neighbourhood there are some very large timber trees. The old ash tree at Mellerstain, in Berwickshire, noticed by Walker as being, in 1795, 80 feet in height, and then eighty years old, with a girth of 8 feet 1 inch at 3 feet above ground, which must have, however, considerably increased after he wrote, for, on inquiry, we have ascertained that when it was broken across about 6 feet above ground many years ago, it was of "very extraordinary size;" and Lord Haddington had a paling erected to protect the stump, which was covered over with ivy, but by degrees it decayed entirely, and no trace of it now remains. But, although we have thus traced the last days of so many of the notable trees chronicled by Dr Walker, Sir T. D. Lauder, and others, it still remains, before referring to the list we have tabulated and appended to this report, to notice the existence and condition, at the present day, of others still surviving, and whose dimensions are recorded in Dr Walker's and other catalogues. The ash at Earl's Mill (Darnaway), in Morayshire, which Sir T. D. Lauder in 1826 states to have measured 16 feet in girth at 3 feet from the ground, is still in existence, but is now a mere shell, girthing at 1 foot high 20 feet 6 inches, and 18 feet 5 inches at 5 feet from the ground. It is 60 feet in height, and has a clear bole of 10 feet (see Appendix). The old ash noticed by Dr Walker as growing in the fruit garden at Loudoun Castle in Ayrshire, still survives. It was in October 1776 9 feet 7 inches in girth at 4 feet above the ground, and in September 1879 it was found to be 21 feet 8 inches at 1 foot, and 13 feet 4 inches at 5 feet from the ground, with a bole of 15 feet, and a total height of 80 feet. It grows in black loam on a clayey subsoil at an altitude of 259 feet, and is exposed to the west. Its top is now dead, but its lateral branches still bear good foliage, although its trunk shows symptoms of decay. The ash at Lochwood Castle, Dumfriesshire, which, growing in a high and exposed situation (about 900 feet altitude), girthed, on 29th April 1773, 10 feet 6 inches at 4 feet from the ground, being then 70 feet high and quite fresh and vigorous, still survives in pristine vigour, and measured in September 1879 21 feet 2 inches at a foot above ground, and 17 feet at 5 feet, being about 80 feet in height, with a bole of 9 feet 3 inches in length. The Newbattle ash, which on 6th July 1789 measured 11 feet 4 inches, still survives, and, although showing signs of being internally decayed, produces abundance of healthy foliage. This tree in 1863 measured 14 feet in circumference at 3 feet from the ground, and is now (1879) 21 feet 4 inches at 1 foot, 15 feet 2 inches at 3 feet, and 14 feet 4 inches at 5 feet from the ground. This tree is as remarkable for its length of bole and lofty head as for its other dimensions; the bole is nearly 50 feet in length, and had the tree not had the misfortune to lose, very many years ago, a great part of its head, it would have now been probably the tallest ash in Scotland. Before this accident befel it, Lord Ancrum had its height accurately taken, and it was then found to be 112 feet. This must have been about the year 1790, as Dr Walker in 1812 notices the fact that a great part of its head had, since its measurement in girth in July 1789, been broken over by a storm. The ash on the island in Lochleven, which on 17th September 1796 measured 12 feet in girth at 4 feet from the ground, still survives, but is much decayed. It was split by lightning in 1801, and has never recovered from the damage then sustained. This tree is sometimes called "Queen Mary's Tree," probably owing to its conspicuous size and appearance rather than from any other reason, for tradition does not associate the queen's name with the tree from her having been said to have planted it, while there is a white hawthorn in the garden of the castle which is believed to have been planted by her during her imprisonment on the island. This thorn was blown over in 1850; but there is a vigorous and healthy young offshoot from it, now 12 feet high. The ash was probably coeval with the building of the castle on the island. The old ash at the ferry over the Tay, near the church of Logierait, Perthshire, in July 1770 measured 16 feet in girth at 4 feet from the ground. It was then a healthy well-shaped tree about 70 feet high, and was well known in the country by the name of the "Ash Tree of the Boat of Logierait." It still continues to live on and thrive. The lower part of the trunk is quite a shell, and has been formed into a summer-house or arbour, capable of containing a considerable number of people. Popular tradition ascribes the great size of this tree to the richness of the soil around it, from the fact of its having been the "dool tree" of the district, on which caitiffs and robbers were formerly executed, and their bodies left hanging on the tree till they dropped and lay around unburied! The present circumference of this tree is, at 1 foot from the ground, 40 feet 4 inches, and at 6 feet up it is 29 feet 7 inches. Another notable ash tree, mentioned in the chronicles of former writers, is the Carnock Ash, in Stirlingshire, known to have been planted by Sir Thomas Nicholson, Lord Advocate to King James VI. This tree, we believe, is still in existence, but as yet we have been unable to obtain exact measurements of its remains at the present time. In 1826 it was 90 feet high, and girthed at the ground 31 feet, and 19 feet 3 inches at 5 feet above the ground, and 21 feet 6 inches at 9 feet; at 10 feet it divided into three huge limbs, each of which was fully 10 feet in circumference. Several others of the recorded ash trees, in various districts, still survive, although as mere shells or stumps ; and the good feeling of their proprietors is shown towards the interest taken by the public in these and such-like relics of a bygone age, from the means so frequently adopted to preserve even the slightest remnant of such decayed and fallen greatness and majesty. It would be prolonging this paper too much to notice each instance of such care for the "ashes" of the dead past; and, having already, perhaps, too indulgently noticed the principal of these fragments of declining natural picturesqueness and former grandeur, we shall refer to some of the many hitherto unrecorded or unobserved grand examples contained and tabulated in the Appendix to this Report, and which represents generally the statistics of the old ash trees of Scotland at the present day. Of course, it should be mentioned that in this list many notably large or remarkable trees may have been omitted; indeed, it is almost impossible, within the limited time at disposal for the preparation of such a report, to enlist the sympathy and excite the enthusiasm of proprietors and foresters in all the districts of Scotland, to furnish materials,—each from his own estate or charge,—of every tree of large dimensions worthy of record; and while, therefore, the list may be thus so far imperfect, it may be hoped that the publication of so many accurately-ascertained dimensions of existing large trees will instil a spirit of enterprise into the minds of others who have not yet responded to various inquiries, so that they also may be induced, by contributing facts coming under their notice, to make the list, on some future occasion, even more complete than it is at present.

There are some districts in Scotland in which, without an intimate knowledge of the salubrity of the local climate, one would not expect to find trees of great magnitude. In Ross-shire, for example, we do not generally associate the county with a capability for raising heavy timber, but returns from Brahan Castle change the views on this subject which may have been entertained by many people. Here we find, along with other forest trees, an ash 110 feet in height, with a bole of 17 feet in length, and a girth of 18 feet 3 inches at 1 foot, and of 12 feet 8 inches at 3 feet above ground. This tree is growing vigorously, having increased in circumference, at 1 foot from the ground, 27 inches since 1863, or 1'80 inches per annum since that period. It grows in heavy black loam, on a subsoil of sand and clay. In the park at Brodie Castle, Morayshire, also, there are some fine and very large timber trees, including ash, of which we have been able to give details. These trees were planted between 1650 and 1680. At Keith Hall, Aberdeenshire, there are some very good specimens of ash and other hard-wooded timber trees, averaging from 15 feet at 1 foot, to 13 feet in girth at 5 feet from the ground, down to young trees, very healthy and thriving, at various altitudes from 200 to 350 feet above sea-level, in loamy soil over hard gravel, and also in bog-earthy soil over clay and till on the lower situations near the river side. We take the more trouble to notice this locality, and the growth of old trees, of which we nave given several instances in the tabulated Appendix, because a recent writer on the woods of Aberdeenshire, in an article published elsewhere, stated that there was no old and large wood in this locality "excepting a few old gean trees." Of these we have ascertained that there are some seven or eight rather poor specimens, while there are many fine old ash and other timber trees ot various descriptions, besides thriving young plantations of coniferous and mixed hard-wooded varieties. At Gray estate, on the farm of Benvie, Forfarshire, there is a very fine old ash which, now growing in deep clay on a sandy subsoil, girths 27 feet at 1 foot from the ground, and 16 feet 6 inches at 5 feet, and has a clean bole of 30 feet, and lofty towering head about 80 feet in height. Two of the ash trees given in the table, from Kinnaird Castle, Forfarshire,—being No. 1 and No. 5 in the list from that station, are not in full vigour, and are showing symptoms of declining age. No. 5 is hollow and decayed about 6 feet up the stem in the centre, and has been cleared out of its rotten timber and fitted with a circular seat capable of holding four men. It is still, however, covered with healthy and abundant foliage. The ash, No. 1 in the Kinnaird return, has always been known by the name of "Adam," and its neighbour, now gone, which grew about 100 yards from it, was called "Eve." Unfortunately Adam's partner was broken across about 15 feet from the ground, a few years ago, by a heavy gale of wind, and the stump, which had bid defiance to the blast for generations, is now fast crumbling to dust. At Scone Palace, and at Lord Mansfield's other estates in Perthshire, there are some fine specimens of old ash trees, though they are not so plentiful as the examples of some other descriptions of forest trees. A magnificent tall specimen is given in the returns, 115 feet in height, with a clear bole of 40 feet, and girthing 11 feet 2 inches at 5 feet above ground; while another, also at Scone, is 85 feet high, and girths 13 feet 8 inches at 5 feet above the ground. The Kincairney Ash, near Dunkeld, Perthshire, which Loudon assigns to a distinct variety, and calls Fraxinus excelsior Kincairnić, from its peculiarity and distinctness of habit in having its " spray alternately pendulous and rigidly upright, thus forming a tree of fantastic shape," is described in the return as 13 feet 9 inches in girth at 1 foot, and 12 feet 8 inches at 5 feet from the ground, with a short bole of about 8 feet, and 50 feet in height. It is, independently of the peculiarity referred to, a very picturesque tree, with most curiously twisted limbs. Unfortunately, we have just learnt that its chief branch has this year been broken off, from its having suffered last winter from the frost and superincumbent weight of snow. A very venerable-looking ash stands near the site of the Old House of Abercairny, Perthshire. In 1863 it girthed 19 feet at 3 feet high, and is now 19 feet 1 inch, having only grown 1 inch in bulk in sixteen years, a circumstance which, taken along with its gaunt and naked appearance, shows that this grand old tree is evidently on the wane. With commendable care and foresight, it is scrupulously attended to and protected by its proprietor. Would that many other landowners would go and do likewise ! Were this the case, many a noble old tree,—landmarks in the history of the locality in which they have grown, and to whose physical features they have lent their charms, and amid whose associations they have declined,—would be preserved for years to come to show what once they were, and to assist, by their survival, in recording and fixing what slender memory still lingers regarding many old reminiscences linked with their history, although dying out in practice at the present day.

A very handsome ash, which also grows in Perthshire,—that "land of trees" par excellence,—is the Bedgorton ash,—to be seen on the farm of Pitmurthly. At Bonskeid we have also found a good example. It girthed 20 feet at 3 feet from the ground in 1876, and is now 20 feet 2 inches. It has been a good deal disfigured by the loss of a large branch, during recent years, but is still vigorous and forming wood. On the South Inch of Perth there is a fine ash tree, growing next to a very fine Scotch elm. This ash measures in circumference 14 feet 5 inches at 5 feet from the ground, and is quite vigorous. An old ash, of historical celebrity, still stands in a waning state in the south-west corner of the churchyard of the parish of Moulin, near Pitlochry village. In olden times culprits were chained to this tree, while they were awaiting their doom (generally final) at the hands of the Council of Lairds, who were the administrators of justice (?) in the Highlands in mediaeval times. These were the same executioners of justice who used the ash tree at the ferry of Logie-rait as their gibbet for that district. What their preference for ash was, both prior to and for the execution of their victims, does not appear, but probably there existed in these superstitious times, some association of doleful nature with this tree. A remarkable collection or group of old ash trees may be seen at the churchyard of Oldhamstocks, in East Lothian, which is surrounded on each side by them in a single row. They seem very old, and gaps, where two have evidently perished, have been re-filled by two elms. The survivors number ten, and we have given the dimensions of some of the best in the tabulated list appended. They are very tall and weather-beaten, being exposed very much to the blast. The date on a portion of the church is 1581, about which time they were probably planted. Another singular group of three ash trees stands in a field immediately to the east of Whittinghame churchyard, also in East Lothian. The largest given in our appendix is a very handsome tree measuring in circumference 14 feet 5 inches at 1 foot, and 11 feet 3 inches at 6 feet from the ground, and has a large wide-spreading head 95 feet in height. It divides into two huge limbs at 12 feet high. The second of the group is 12 feet 6 inches at 2 feet, and 8 feet 9 inches at 6 feet, with a bole 20 feet in length, and is 85 feet high. The third is smaller. There are in the same field other eight ash trees, a lime, horse chestnut, and beech, all certainly very old trees. From their position, and also from the fact of there still existing a quaint old well about the centre of the field, and near the group referred to, there probably at one time had been some church or religious house about this site, of which no record now seems to exist. One of the tallest ash trees we have been able to record is growing, and is still quite vigorous, at Miln-Graden, close by the banks of the Tweed, in Berwickshire. It measured, in September 1878, 121 feet 3 inches in height, with a clear bole of 55 feet, and it girthed, at 1 foot from the ground, 15 feet 5 inches, and 12 feet 2˝ inches at 5 feet. In point of height this tree is only surpassed by one in the tabulated list, which is growing in Bute, on the estate of Mount-Stuart, which is said to have attained a height of 134 feet, with a bole, however, of only 36 feet.

Having thus reviewed the principal old and remarkable ash trees which we have been able to find in Scotland, as well as noticed and compared the condition at the present day of many individual trees previously chronicled by former writers, it only remains to notice some curious proverbs and superstitions connected with this tree in some localities. We have already referred to its being used for the supposed cure of ruptured children. The well-known popular adage in regard to its foliation, when contrasted with that of the oak, as prognosticating a wet or dry summer is familiar to every one. "May your footfall be by the root of an ash," is a north country proverb, signifying " May you get a firm footing," and is given as a God-speed to travellers. It is, of course, derived from the property possessed by the ash roots,—which will not live in stagnant boggy land,— of drying and draining the adjacent soil when merely damp. In the midland counties of England a proverb still exists, that, if there are no seed keys on the ash in any season, there will then be no king in the country within that twelvemonth, in allusion, doubtless, to the fact that the ash is never wholly destitute of keys. In some parts of the Highlands, a custom prevailed, at the birth of a child, for the nurse to put one end of a green ash stick into the fire, and while burning, to gather in a spoon the sap or juice which oozed out at the other end, and to administer this as the first spoonful of food to the newly born child. What the expected benefits to the child from so curious a custom may have been, it is impossible to say. In Devonshire the yule log took the form of the Ashton faggot, and is still, in some remote hamlets, brought in and burnt with great merriment. It is composed of a bundle of ash sticks bound or hooped round with bands of the same tree, and the number of these last ought to be nine. The rods having been cut a few days previously, the farm labourers on Christmas Eve sally forth joyously, bind them together, and then, by the aid of one or two horses, drag the faggot, with great rejoicings, to the master's house, where it is deposited on the spacious hearth, which serves as the fireplace in old-fashioned kitchens. Fun and jollity then prevail, and it is an acknowledged and time-honoured custom that for every crack which the bands of the Ashton faggot make when bursting, from being charred through, the master is bound to furnish a fresh bowl of liquor! These, and the fact of so many ash trees being planted in country churchyards, and near old monastic ruins, clearly point to the tree having been held in superstitious reverence from some old legend now lost or forgotten.

Appendix


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