DOUGIE MacLean, the leading Scottish singer-songwriter, today officially launched a nationwide campaign to have an ancient oak in Perthshire chosen as Europe’s best loved tree.
The oak stands on the banks of the River Tay at Inver near Dunkeld.
And, according to local legend 18th century fiddler Niel Gow, the composer of many of Scotland’s best loved strathspeys and reels, wrote many of his most famous tunes while sitting underneath the tree.
Gow, a musical prodigy who died in 1807, was paid a retainer by the 4th Duke of Atholl who became his Patron. The aristocrat is said to have spent time sitting on the opposite bank, enjoying the music as it drifted across the water while Gow played his fiddle beneath the tall oak.
The oak, which stands on land now owned by Forestry Commission Scotland, was chosen last year by the Woodland Trust Scotland to compete against trees from around Europe in the 2014 European Tree of the Year contest.
MacLean, internationally renowned for his song “Caledonia,” performed his interpretation of Niel Gow’s “Farewell to Whisky” under the oak to kick start the campaign for votes.
He said: “Scotland is loved globally for its beautiful scenery and rich musical heritage, and Niel Gow’s oak is a something that builds a bridge between those two worlds. I’m sure that Scots from across the world will join me in getting involved by voting for it.”
MacLean continued: “I have a personal connection to the oak because I grew up and still live in Perthshire just a few miles from it, and I also play the fiddle. I’ve been fascinated by Gow’s tunes for many years and have performed and recorded a number of favourites, in fact Michael Marra’s song ‘Niel Gow’s Apprentice’ was written about me.
“It’s a beautiful feeling to rest under the tree and imagine Niel Gow sitting in the same spot, taking his inspiration from the scenery and the flow of the river.”
Carol Evans, director of the Woodland Trust Scotland,said: “Niel Gow’s oak is a fantastic example of a tree that has a great story to tell.
“Virtually every community in Scotland has at least one tree which is well loved and has a great story to tell, but it feels fitting to start our involvement in the contest in Perthshire, which is well known as the Big Tree Country.
“By telling and sharing stories about trees such as Niel Gow’s oak we can encourage more people to value them and want to protect them. It is such a fantastic tree with a beautiful story, we’re really hopeful of a good result in the competition.”
The ten countries competing in Tree of the Year are Scotland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Wales.
Members of the public can vote for Niel Gow’s oak at treeoftheyear.org. Voting closes at the end of February.