By Mary Angland
The great horse chestnut tree had stood in our garden for as long as I remembered. My grandfather had planted it way back in 1908 when his family moved into the cottage and he was a young lad of thirteen. There it stood majestically with so many memories embedded in its branches and trunk.
It would have seen the stealthy movements of the IRA as they passed on their way to an ambush during the War of Independence; it witnessed the Black and Tans raiding the cottage, the departure of my grandmother, dying from TB, to the hospital in town, communions and confirmations.
So many milestones in our family, good and bad, and the tree standing there, watching, observing, noting all the events and special occasions of our family down through the decades.
It was a marvellous tree to climb. Its massive branches soared out over the garden and up, up into the heavens. From the top, one could see the village and the river, a long finger of water meandering through our acre before disappearing among the trees of the adjoining field.
At the top of the tree, you were invisible from the ground. It was a favourite spot of mine. I loved climbing the tree, sitting there on the top-most sturdy branch, looking down at everything happening on ground level, gave me a lovely airy feeling. My stomach somersaulted as I heard the cheerful whistle of Paddy and peeping from between the branches, I saw him whizz past on his bicycle on his way into the village for groceries.
Underneath the tree, my grandfather always made a haystack from the hay saved in the acre surrounding our cottage. The hay was brought in on a hay-float drawn by the easy going black horse owned by a neighbour.