This oak seedling was relocated from Tomnafinnoge Wood to Merrion Square Gardens in Dublin. Tomnafinnoge is one of the last remaining ancient forests in Ireland holding a large concentration of native oaks that are several hundred years old and have been in a stable ecosystem since the 1700s.
Merrion Square is one of the oldest gardens in Dublin and has been recently listed on European Gardens Heritage Network of parklands. Constructed in 1762, Merrion Square Park is surrounded by Georgian homes once occupied by Irish notables such as Oscar Wilde and Y.B. Yeats and is considered to be a significant historic neighbourhood.
In 2014, Dublin City Council commissioned a Conservation and Management Plan for Merrion Gardens to rehabilitate the area following its inclusion in the Heritage Gardens Network. For many years the park had been neglected and required an assessment to determine what should be saved or implemented in keeping with its new heritage status. The plan is woefully inadequate and as far as I could see, Dublin city council has not considered what heritage means in terms of biodiversity or an ecocultural legacy. I located only two mature oak trees in the park and the plan made no mention of future oak plantings. Communities of trees were not prioritized in this plan. Primary considerations for the landscape were the iron railings, the footpaths and the maintence of views across the lawn. A ‘Jardin Anglaise’ approach was adopted for the original layout of the park with contoured grass areas, informal tree clumps, sunken curved paths and perimeter planting. This 200 year old layout is what will be maintained regardless of the stresses and demands of a 21st century community dealing with climate change. Nevermind any current understanding of the intelligence of trees.
The self seeded oak I removed from Tomnafinnoge Wood was replanted into its new home in Merrion Gardens not far from the sculpture of Jerome Connor’s “Éire”. In the Thirties, the Kerry Poets Memorial Committee had asked Jerome Connor to create a suitable sculpture for them. He proposed an image of Ireland based on Walt Whitman’s poem ‘Old Ireland’. There was no written agreement and Connor undertook to work without a fee, costs of production to be covered. He prepared wax and plaster and presented the model in Killarney. A faction on the Committee demanded that a religious symbol be included. Connor refused.
The work was considered pagan and rejected.
The Committee sued for the return of the advance and Connor declared bankruptcy and lost his studio. After Connor’s death Éire was cast in bronze in Dublin and placed in Merrion Square. She is unnamed, She has no plinth or pride of place. The bushes grow up against the inscription at the back that reads ‘This statue was presented by Joseph Downes and Son Ltd. in Dec. 1976 to commemorate the centenary of the ButterCrust Bakery, Dublin…’
Our tiny native oak was planted with a poem by my partner Paul Carter. Any act of healing or transformation must be accompanied by an invocation to spirit to be effective, so we planted our oak with a prayer.