Encounters with historic oaks

Balfron oak

Balfron – The Clachan Oak

Interesting oaks feature large in some of my current projects. I am preparing a sample to age a fallen ‘Wallace Oak’ at Port Glasgow, and in reading around discover that there are several other Wallace Trees in Scotland with fascinating traditions attached. Old coppice and maiden oaks feature prominently in a community landscape survey project at Killearn Glen, being undertaken with the help of local people and Northlight Heritage. On my way back from site last weekend I stopped by the impressive Clachan Oak at Balfron (see photo). Besides helping to hold this hollow veteran together, the iron hoops had another function until the end of the 18th century. Petty criminals were chained to the tree with an iron collar around their necks connected by a length of chain to one of the iron hoops. This custom is noted in the wonderful ‘Heritage Trees of Scotland’ book (Rodger, Stokes & Ogilvie 2006) which records that this form of ritual humiliation was known as ‘the jougs’. More news anon on the Wallace oak and the Killearn project.

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