Tuesday, June 30, 2020

"from little acorns" – The oak sapling of the Covenanter Alexander Gordon, "The Bull of Earlstoun"

Back in April 2012 I was invited to give an illustrated Powerpoint talk about the Covenanters in Ulster at the AGM of the Scottish Covenanters Memorials Association, in Fenwick in Ayrshire. From memory I had about an hour, thankfully it went very well. It was one of the stories I was privileged to bring to wider public attention in 2007 during my term as Chair of the Ulster-Scots Agency (with invaluable guidance from others) and had learned so much more in the intervening five years.

The next day I was invited to visit the home of one of the SCMA members, Andrew Blackley from Irvine, who gave me an oak sapling. It was one of a number that he had grown from a famous tree. I had been sent an email a few days beforehand in which he offered me –

"a sapling taken from an acorn of the very tree where renowned Covenanter Alexander Gordon 'The Bull of Earlstoun' hid whilst avoiding his tormentors. If you're interested in having this piece of living history, let me know and we'll arrange something"

The Covenanter Alexander Gordon (1650–1726; Wikipedia here) was known as "The Bull of Earlstoun". Dr Mark Jardine's comprehensive blog 'Jardine's Book of Martyrs' has a post about it here.

In April 2012 we were just about to build our house, but I accepted the kind offer and so the poor sapling was fitted into the car and brought back home with me on the Stena Line ferry. It had to survive in a pot for a few years but thankfully it's been in the ground for a while and is now coming on pretty well. I hope it will one day tower over the plum tree and blackthorn hedge it is beside.

Sadly Andrew Blackley has since passed away, but I am honoured to be growing one of his saplings on this side of the North Channel - which itself is this year for the first time producing its own little acorns.