Historic Perthshire oak up for Europe tree award

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AN ancient oak in Perthshire which legendary fiddler Niel Gow sat under while composing has been chosen as Scotland’s entry in a contest to find Europe’s best loved tree.

The oak stands on the banks of the River Tay at Inver near Dunkeld where Gow, the fiddler who wrote many of Scotland’s best loved strathspeys and reels stayed until his death in 1807.

Gow, a musical prodigy, 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 stands on land now owned by Forestry Commission Scotland and has been chosen by Woodland Trust Scotland to compete against trees from around Europe in the 2014 European Tree of the Year contest.

A spokesman for the truist explained: “The aim of the annual competition is to find Europe’s best loved tree - a tree with a story that can bring a community together. This is the first time a tree from Scotland has been entered”

He continued: “Niel Gow is probably best known for his tunes ‘Niel Gow’s Lament to his Second Wife’ and ‘Farewell to Whisky’. Many of his compositions are still played today at concerts and ceilidhs around the world.”

“Gow stayed in Inver for most of his life and, according to local legend. many of his best known tunes were written underneath the oak.

A bench has been installed in the shadow of the tree inscribed with a lyric from Michael Marra’s song ‘Niel Gow’s Apprentice’, which pays tribute to the large legacy that Gow left to Scottish music.”

Rory Syme, from the Woodland Trust Scotland, said: “Niel Gow’s Oak is a perfect example of a tree that has great story to tell and a real connection with people. It’s fantastic to be able to sit under the oak and experience the same sights and sounds that inspired such beautiful music.

“The tunes that were written under the tree have been exported all over the world and we’re sure that the folk music community will get behind the entry in a big way.”

He added: “By celebrating Scotland’s best loved trees and the links they have with local people and history we can help to ensure their protection.”

The winning tree is expected to be announced in February next year.

The annual Niel Gow Fiddle Festival has been held annually in Dunkeld and Birnam since 2004 to celebrate Gow’s life and music. Gow is also the subject of a famous painting by Sir Henry Raeburn which is in the collection of the National Galleries of Scotland.