Belfast Telegraph

Howls of laughter greet Kilkeel Christmas tree 'disaster'


The tree brought disappointment to Kilkeel.
The tree brought disappointment to Kilkeel.
The tree brought disappointment to Kilkeel.
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

There was widespread disappointment in Kilkeel at the weekend when the "showpiece" Christmas tree failed to live up to the great expectations set by the preceding Dickens-themed family fun day.

Hundreds descended on the Co Down town on Saturday, November 30, with events planned throughout the day ahead of the big switch on.

However, when the moment of truth arrived instead of a dazzling array of lights, there were howls of laughter.

Lights were only placed around the trunk and on some of the branches leaving most of the tree shrouded in darkness.

Newry Mourne and Down District council said this was intentional.

A spokeswoman explained it was becoming "increasingly difficult" to decorate the traditional planted tree as it had grown over the years and last year £8,000 was spent on lights which were so battered by the elements they could not be re-used. Instead this year lights were placed in such a manner to better shield them from the wind.

Councillor Sean Doran told the Belfast Telegraph that because of the difficulties experienced last year, meetings were held and a preview given of the switch on. He said Saturday night's disappointment was to be expected.

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"It was a total disaster," he said, "everyone knew what was going to happen. People were so disappointed.

"The fun day was a real success. It is one of the only truly cross-community events we have in the town and lots came down to celebrate.

"The tree just ruined the day."

Councillor Doran explained that the issue with the tree was it was too big. He estimates it sits 40 or 50ft high.

"When it is windy there is about 15ft of movement in it," he added.

"And we are close to the sea so it is always windy. Last year it was the case the branches moved too much and snapped the cables. It is too hard to decorate and they can't get lights up to the top.

"The best option is for a smaller tree."

The council has confirmed a new nine metre high tree will be placed in the lower square by the the weekend.

"Might be a little too late," added Councillor Doran.

"I trust that this will help ease the disaffection felt by the whole community over the Christmas tree."

Social media reacted with bemusement over the weekend as a video of the big switch on was shared.

One user asked if the tree was possibly one of the worst in Northern Ireland.

"There are most [social media] posts about that tree, that lights on it," said another.

The Kilkeel Development Association, which organised the fun day said the council had questions to answer, saying it was "shocked and dismayed" at the display of lights.

It thanked all those that made the preceding events such a success and all the councillors who worked to resolve the tree issue.

"Unfortunately [the] official light switch on was a major let down for the entire community," it said in a statement.

"As event organisers we are truly shocked and dismayed with the end result and unfortunately the damage has now been done."

Newry Mourne and Down District Council said it "recognised the disappointment" felt by residents and the decision to replace the tree was in agreement with the Kilkeel Development Association and Kilkeel Chamber of Commerce.

The Christmas tree in Fintona
The Christmas tree in Fintona

Meanwhile, a Christmas tree in Fintona, labelled by residents as a "sad-looking specimen" has been given a new look.

The tree leaned to one side and looked to have only a half dozen baubles and blue ribbons attached to it.

On Saturday an improved tree lit up the Tyrone village.

"Beautiful, some improvement," said one local of the tree which was covered in lights with its planter decorated as a present and a gleaming star placed on the top.

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