350-year-old tree is felled

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IT TOOK 350 years to grow to over 80 feet high but just one day to fell the iconic tree at Brownlow Castle.

One man darted around the massive sycamore like a monkey swinging on ropes and expertly winching the tethered chainsaw from branch to branch.

A small group gathered to watch the spectacle as branch after branch crashed to the ground.

It was an expert operation by A Total Treecare Company, specialists tree surgeons called in to remove the sycamore.

Negotiations to remove the tree finished recently when tree surgeons diagnosed that the sycamore was diseased.

Residents in nearby Oakleigh had complained the tree was blocking their light and autumn leaves were a large problem.

Following discussions with the Orange Order which owns the property at Brownlow House, it was decided that the tree should be removed in the interests of health and safety.

Vincent McAlinden who coordinated the operation to chop down the tree said: “We are into tree preservation but unfortunately this tree had badly deteriorated. It was really a health and safety issue.

“It was completely rotten in the middle.” He said had the tree been situated in a different location other than overlooking people’s homes, it may have been a different story.

Mr McAlinden, who is also a specialist carpenter, said he has cut special sections of the tree for Brownlow House as a momento.

He has also organised sections for a number of local residents who have requested a piece of the ancient sycamore as a keepsake.

A spokesperson for Lurgan District of the Grand Orange Lodge said: “The tree was causing a nuisance and had grown to such a height that it was blocking out light (for residents). We agreed to explore getting the tree trimmed substantially but actually found after detailed examination that it was in a dangerous condition due to disease, so it was removed completely.”

Ulster Unionist Cllr Colin McCusker, who was approached by SDLP Cllr Declan McAlinden on the matter, said its removal was for the “wellbeing of everyone concerned”.

Cllr McCusker added: “As an organisation, the Orange Order in Lurgan have been working very hard to build relations with everyone in the town. The removal of this tree is just one aspect of that process of good relations in the community. We are confident that this massive gesture will be reciprocated by the local residents and wider community and we look forward to a building a better Lurgan for everyone. This tree was 300 years old and had been a landmark in the grounds of Brownlow House, the decision to remove should not be underestimated.”

Mr McAlinden said the Order’s move was a “milestone” in building good relations with residents.