The stump at Neville’s Cross – which has since also been removed
THE cutting down of an iconic 200-year-old tree has sparked sadness in the west Limerick village of Kilfinny.
The community is mourning the loss of the tree, which stood tall at Neville’s Cross since before the 1800s, and many are upset that they were not told about the removal.
“The tree was a focal point to a lot of people in Kilfinny,” said local woman Caroline Murphy.
“It was amazing at Christmas time when the lights were on. We had only commented a couple of days before it was cut down, on how fabulous it looked. I know some people will say it was just a tree… but to many, the tree evokes memories of ringing in the new year, meeting at the crossroads...” she said.
The reason for the tree being cut was, at first, a puzzle, but Limerick City and County Council confirmed that it was done for road safety reasons.
“Representations were made for its removal by local councillors in order for the line of sight at the junction to be improved,” said a council spokesperson.
“In addition, gardaí including high ranking members witnessed a number of ‘near misses’ at the junction. Staff of Limerick City and County Council also witnessed a number of near misses at the junction,” added the spokesperson.
Ms Murphy, along with many others in the community, feel that there could have been other ways to get around the safety issues.
“I feel it was unfair of anyone to decide to cut down the tree without a discussion of some description.
“My opinion is they should have laid the anti-skid surface and installed new signage, before taking the drastic action of cutting the tree – but then again, it's too late now unfortunately!” she said.
Some locals have said that the new crossroads – without foliage – may encourage people to speed more, as drivers had to slow down previously on approaching the tree.
Ms Murphy also worried about the birds, and wondered why the council couldn’t have waited “until after nesting season, and give all the birds nesting in the tree a chance”.
Kathleen O’Shea of the Kilfinny Community Council said that the tree “is like a bit of our history”.
Another local person said that people were “very attached” to it.
“There are so many stories around that tree. Many a New Year's Eve night, we stopped the traffic from all directions as we sang and danced in the new year. Every child for miles played with conkers from the tree. It was how we would give directions to Kilfinny – ‘turn left at the big tree’,” said one Kilfinny native.
Ms Murphy said: “I've heard from a lady in her 70s who used to pass the tree on her way to school as a child, and they used to sing songs at the tree each day.
“The tree was so perfect and had stood the test of time and survived so many storms, and yet it couldn't fight off the men with the saws or those in suits who signed on the dotted line to cut it down.
“Our ancestors 200 years ago planted a tree and nurtured it, and I'm sure over the years the tree has had some work done to preserve it and help it along. Someone then decided, without trying any other less invasive actions, to do the most drastic thing at the cross by cutting the tree out… There has to be someone accountable surely,” she added.
Kilfinny native and TD Tom Neville suggested that the wood from the tree could be made into a local monument, such as a bench. But another local eyewitness to the chopping said that the tree was cut down in rings and pieces, and they are doubtful that anything can be made from it.