Posted by George Morrison

Clash of the Ash        Word on the Week                 2nd October 2021.

The familiar sound of the clash of the Ash as the hurley’s come into contact with each other may be under threat.    The preferred timber from which they are made is our native species of European Ash.   It is under attack from a disease called Ash dieback, now rampant in Ireland.

Some may remember the devastating effect the Dutch Elm disease had on the Elm tree population.    A fungus causes the disease, it spreads thanks to the action of bark beetles, which carry fungal spores allowing the fungus to infect new trees.   Wych elm is the only native elm species in Ireland and is susceptible to Dutch elm disease. Once a very abundant tree in the Irish landscape, it is difficult to find living elm trees today.

We have one healthy elm tree on the farm.   It had gone unnoticed for years! Teagasc is interested in collecting samples to establish a collection of Irish Elm genotypes resistant to the Dutch Elm disease.   Our tree will be part of the collection.

Returning to Ash there may be hope for the tree in the long term.   At present the scene is quite dismal.   Ash dieback was first detected in Ireland in 2012 on plants imported from continental Europe. The disease is now prevalent throughout most of the island and is likely to cause the death of 90% of the Ash trees over the next two decades.

The symptoms are all too plain.   The older trees show stress in the crown usually accompanied by gaps in the foliage.    Where the trees border roads they present a hazard for which the landowner must accept liability.   The likelihood is that there will be large scale felling in the next few years.  

Fortunately, the wood, when dried, makes excellent firewood which will stoke many fireplaces this coming winter!    The other major use will be the making of hurley’s which will required to be stockpiled against future shortages!

The Bible speaks about trees at important places. Here are three of them. In Genesis Chapter 2 verses 16/17 we read of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil the fruit of which they were forbidden to eat.   When the enemy of God appeared in the form of a serpent, misquoting what God had commanded, the scene was set for the rebellion of our first parents.

In Galatians the curse of our having broken the law was seen to have been laid on Christ when he was nailed to the tree in His redeeming work (Chapter 3 verses 13/14).   In Revelation we read of the River of the Water of Life with the Tree of Life on its banks with its leaves for the healing of the nations (Chapter 22 verses 1/3).   A wonderful climax to our completed salvation.