Fr Brendan Duggan, parish priest of Athea, Mossie Lenihan and Gearoid Collins, of Beechgrove Landscapes, who planted the monkey puzzle tree | PICTURE: Brendan Gleeson
FR Brendan Duggan has been on the missions in Ethiopia and Kenya but he is putting down roots in Athea.
The parish priest was gifted a rare monkey puzzle tree which has been planted in front of the church. All it is missing is a member of the simian family.
“We’re looking for a monkey now,” joked Fr Duggan. That would make quite the picture for his nephew and photographer, Brendan Gleeson, who took the image above.
Fr Duggan said the monkey puzzle tree or araucaria araucana was given to him as a present by parishioners Gene and Noreen Brouder.
“It is a beautiful tree and so scare. It is about 12 feet high. It was very nice of the Brouders – they are good friends. It is right in front of the church. I am getting a second one for in front of my own house,” said Fr Duggan, who loves nature and gardening.
It is an evergreen tree growing to 3–5 foot in diameter and 100–130 foot in height. It is native to central and southern Chile and western Argentina.
Its conservation status was changed to endangered by the IUCN in 2013 due to the dwindling population caused by logging, forest fires, and grazing.
The Holy Ghost Father from Cappamore has lived in Africa, America and Germany. The Cappamore man has been living and working in Athea for the last four and a half years.
“It is a good country parish,” said Fr Duggan, who sadly said the month’s mind Mass of his much-loved sister Celia Gleeson in Athea church last Friday. It was streamed live for family and friends.
The new evergreen addition to the parish will surely impress Tidy Towns judges in the future.
“Athea is making great efforts in the Tidy Towns. We can use it as a Christmas tree as well. We normally put a Christmas tree in that spot. The local people are very happy with it. It is different and fills up the space,” said Fr Duggan.
The tree got its name from its early cultivation in Britain in about 1850. Sir William Molesworth, the owner of a young specimen, was showing it to a group of friends, when one of them – the noted barrister Charles Austin – remarked, “It would puzzle a monkey to climb that”.
As the species had no existing popular name at the time, first monkey puzzler, then monkey puzzle tree stuck.