The Tree That Yeats, Shaw and Synge Carved Their Names Into
Did you know there’s a tree that some of the most prominent Irish literary figures have carved their names into? Eamonn Bell takes a look at the Autograph Tree.
Based in Coole Park near Gort, Co Galway, the Autograph Tree is one of the main attractions in the area and thought to be at least 150 years old.
The tree is located at the former home of Lady Augusta Gregory, an Irish writer, playwright and folklorist who played a large role in the 19th century Irish literature revival. She is considered to be the most famous literary figure to be born and raised in Galway.
Due to her prominent position in the Irish literary revival as well as her comfortable position in life, Gregory acted as a patron to many Irish writers from that period and had them stay at her house.
In the summer of 1898 Gregory asked Yeats to carve his initials into the copper beech tree in her walled garden. Over the years, many of the famous literary and political figures that stayed there added their signature including George Bernard Shaw, JM Synge and Douglas Hyde.
Yeats was so inspired by Coole that he wrote “The Wild Swans at Coole” while visiting her estate. He loved the Coole Park area so much that he eventually bought an old Normandy castle called Thoor Ballylee that was located near by.
When Lady Gregory died, the forestry service took over the management of Coole. Lady Gregory herself had hoped this would happen as it would ensure the care of the trees and also create employment for people.
Unfortunately, in 1941 the Department of Forestry demolished the house Lady Gregory and her assorted guests stayed in.
There are other areas of interest in the surrounding woods though, such as the turlough system at Coole-Garryland. Turloughs are seasonal lakes that occur during the summer. The Coole-Garryland turlough is unique due to its close proximity to the woodland area, making it the most diverse turlough in the world in terms of plants and animals.
This plaque photographed below shows the location of the autographs on the tree: