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Snippets from the Glasgow Herald

1845, Nov 8 The Bonhill Ash Tree

Bonhill And Its Ash Trees .... that supplements the Glasgow Herald report in December, 1845

A very remarkable ash grew at Bonhill, Dunbartonshire, 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.


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