Going, going Jong as council red tape axes historic tree

IT WAS a place of shame and penance where the unfortunate miscreants of Moulin contemplated the error of their ways while dodging the occasional rotten turnip.

But the "punishment tree" where thieves, gossips and adulterers were once tied up has been executed by the higher authority of health and safety regulations.

The "Jong Tree", as the 250-year-old tourist attraction in the Perthshire village was known, has been chopped down by workmen after inspectors insisted it was too close to overhead power lines.

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Angry villagers have accused the local council of behaving like the vandals who were once tied to the ancient ash tree - originally known as the Joug Tree.

The tree, which has stood in the churchyard for centuries, was used as a form of public stocks where troublemakers could be punished upon the orders of the local kirk elders.

Minor miscreants were shackled to the tree where, according to custom, they "received a steady hail of rotten vegetables and other unpleasant items". More serious crimes were dealt with at the sheriff court in the nearby village of Logierait.

Chris Tomlinson, who owns the former kirk building and the ancient Moulin Inn, where village elders met to "sentence" wrongdoers to a spell on the tree, said:

"It [the tree] was very old. It must have stood for 200 years at least. It was known as the 'hanging tree' as well as the Jong tree, but I doubt whether any hangings actually took place on it.

"Wrongdoers were tied to the jong tree and would get pelted with rotten vegetables and the like. No doubt one or two of the locals would now like to do the same to the tree-felling people.

"All that's left is about five feet of the main trunk, which a resident stopped them taking away. It used to be about 30 feet high, and the rest has gone."

The gnarled old tree used to lean close to the church, in the heart of the village's conservation area.

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Mr Tomlinson said: "I own the kirk but no part of the graveyard or external wall, which the tree was a part of. If [the tree] doesn't grow again, it will be a massive loss to the village. If the purpose of this operation was to completely remove it, that is vandalism, really."

Retired village postmaster Sandy Dewar, treasurer of the Moulin Kirk Trust, said the tree-felling had been "a desecration".

He added: "I knew nothing about it until I heard the chainsaws. You would have thought that whoever asked to cut the tree down would have notified us or asked permission.

"I don't known if the work's finished, but what's left is an eyesore. How this is consistent with the council's responsibility for the upkeep of graveyards is anybody's guess."

A spokesman for Perth and Kinross Council said the work was carried out on public safety grounds following an inspection of all the Moulin kirkyard trees.

He added: "The ash tree in question was extensively decayed at the base. Because it was situated next to a road and was near to overhead power lines, the council had no choice but to fell the tree."

Ancient orchards set to blossom again


WHITHER the Winter Whorle? Along with the Teuchat's Egg and the Tarvey Codlinthe, it is one of many ancient varieties of Scottish apple which have fallen into extinction.

Now, a campaign has been launched to safeguard some of the nation's most historic orchards, with experts warning they could disappear in just a matter of years unless action is taken.

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Besieged by imports, Scottish palates have become accustomed to the sweeter Granny Smith and Golden Delicious - both of which are grown abroad - rather than the likes of the Tower of Glamis or Seaton House, which have a sharper taste.

Steadily, the homegrown orchards, which grew apples commercially, have declined in number, among them groups of trees planted centuries ago by monks in the Carse of Gowrie, Perthshire, where plantations are home to fruit unique to the region.

Monks from Coupar Angus and other neighbouring monasteries planted the orchards on land gifted by the Hays of Errol in the 14th century.

Dr Crispin Hayes, an agriculture consultant, along with staff from the Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust, will begin a survey of the remaining orchards this month.

He said: "These orchards are important in terms of our heritage and biodiversity. The first phase is to locate the ones that remain and the next stage is to work out what we want to do to try and preserve them."

Dr Hayes warned that the number of orchards in the Carse of Gowrie area had dwindled from 40 at the start of the 20th century to just ten now.

Catherine Lloyd, biodiversity co-ordinator on Tayside, said the orchards from the north of Perth to Invergowrie required restoration.

She said: "If we can make these orchards commercially viable, then people will want to restore them and even grow new ones."