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Forgotten oak tribute to Somme dead in Belfast shortlisted as Tree of the Year

By Rebecca Black

Published 03/09/2015

The memorial erected at an oak tree in Woodvale Park which was planted in 1919 to remember those killed in the First World War
The memorial erected at an oak tree in Woodvale Park which was planted in 1919 to remember those killed in the First World War
The oak tree in Woodvale Park

An oak tree that is almost a century old and had stood as a forgotten memorial to the dead of the First World War has been shortlisted in a UK-wide Tree of the Year contest.

The tree was planted in Woodvale Park, north Belfast, in 1919 to remember those who had lost their lives fighting in the war.

A sister tree was also planted in Falls Park at that time, but it has since died. The trees had been forgotten until recently when the Woodvale tree was rediscovered.

Shankill historian Bobby Foster and a researcher from Queen's University Belfast used a metal detector to find the underground remains of a railing which once surrounded the oak.

With the help of Belfast City Council, the railings were restored around the tree and a new marker was added explaining its significance.

It stands close to the European War Memorial erected and dedicated last year which commemorates the loss of life from the outbreak of hostilities in 1914.

DUP councillor Brian Kingston paid tribute to the work of Mr Foster and the council, and revealed that the tree has been shortlisted for the Northern Ireland category of the UK-wide Woodland Trust Tree of the Year competition.

Trees from Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales will go forward to represent their nations in the European Tree of the Year competition, organised by the Environmental Partnership Association.

"The tree is mentioned in the excellent 'A Breath of Fresh Air, The Story of Belfast Parks' by Robert Scott, in which he writes about special events held over a weekend in August 1919 to celebrate the declaration of peace, including that 'special trees were planted in Falls and Woodvale Parks to mark the occasion'," Mr Kingston explained.

"The book mentions a tree also planted in Falls Park, commemorating in particular those from that area who served during the Great War including in the Connaught Rangers.

"It is understood that this tree subsequently died of natural causes and there is interest in seeing if it could be replaced with a new tree planted."

During the meeting of Belfast City Council on Tuesday evening, Sinn Fein councillor Steven Corr indicated that his party would support the replanting of an oak tree in Falls Park to replace the sister tree to the Woodvale one.

Full details of the six trees in Northern Ireland that have been shortlisted for the Tree of the Year competition will be released later this month. Voting is due to open on September 20.

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