A SPRUCE that was the only tree on the windswept island of Eriskay has been named as Scotland’s Tree of the Year 2018.
Netty’s Tree was planted on the Outer Hebridean island over 100 years ago by the poet, priest and land rights activist Father Allan McDonald, who lived on Eriskay until his death in 1905.
Named after a crofter, the late Netty MacDonald, who encouraged children to play on it, the spruce was until recently the only tree on the 2.7 square mile island.
Up to now, the island has been best known as the true Whisky Galore! island where the cargo ship SS Politician ran aground in 1941, inspiring the famous novel by Compton MacKenzie.
The Tree of the Year competition, run by The Woodland Trust, celebrates the country’s best loved trees, from historic giants to those with a special local story to tell.
The winners from Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales, were announced live on BBC One’s The One Show on Wednesday night. A vote organised by the programme will now decide the UK’s contender for European Tree of the Year, which will be held in February.
George Anderson of Woodland Trust Scotland, said: “Netty MacDonald lived on the nearby croft and encouraged all the island’s children to play on the tree as their cries and laughter reminded her of her own family who had grown up and moved away to work.
“Netty died aged 88 in 2010 but her daughter Anne MacIntyre is back on the croft and continues the tradition. Father McDonald would surely approve. His best known poem was Eilein na h’Oige – The Island of the Young.”
Mr Anderson added: “Having a tree to climb as a child seems like something many of us take for granted. When there is only one tree where you live, that connection becomes quite special.
“Imagine the generations of youngsters with memories of this tree. It is a very worthy winner. Now let’s get Netty’s Tree through to Europe.”
Judges chose six Scottish trees from public nominations which were then put to an online vote. The winner, Netty’s Tree, was nominated by Eoina Wilson who lives in Inverness but comes from Eriskay originally.
Scotland’s other contenders included a weeping willow from Napoleon Bonaparte’s grave that was later planted in Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire; the 180-year-old Camperdown Elm in Dundee; the so-called Filo Pastry Tree in Stranraer, Galloway, named by kids after a flaky spring roll snack; Malloch’s Oak at Strathallan, in Perthshire, known for its macabre past; and a sycamore planted at Coldstream, in the Borders, in memory of Scots who died in the 1513 Battle of Flodden.
Nellie’s Tree, in Aberford, Leeds, won the English title, while the Northern Irish winner was a Giant Sequoia at Castlewellan Forest Park, County Down. In Wales, the Pwllpriddog Oak in Carmarthenshire, came out on top.
The winning trees all receive a £1000 care award, thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery, which can be spent on work to bolster the health of the tree, signage and interpretation or a community celebration.
The Woodland Trust is now asking the public to whittle the four national winners down to one to represent the UK in February’s European Tree of the Year competition, which is run by the Environmental Partnership Association.
Sanjay Singh, Senior Programmes Manager with People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “The competition has turned up some fascinating trees with terrific stories. I am delighted that players of People’s Postcode Lottery have supported this celebration of the nation’s best loved trees.”