A tree used by NCAD students to pick fruit and make jam is believed to be one of the oldest trees in Ireland, according to new evidence.
The pear tree located next to St Patrick’s Tower in the Liberties, Co Dublin, is visible in an 1892 picture taken during a whiskey tour of Ireland, while genetic tests carried out indicate that the pear tree was planted about 50 years earlier.
This would mean the Dublin tree is anywhere between 170 and 180 years old, possibly making it one of the oldest fruit trees in Ireland.
NCAD lecturer Gareth Kennedy told Moncrieff his students are already very familiar with the centuries-old tree.
“I'm lead coordinator on a project called NCAD Field,” he said. “It’s on the site of the college that was a carpark and sometime in the last decade was guerilla composted.
“It became a haven for urban horticulture... after the pandemic, it just wilded and became a really interesting space which we call a novel ecology.”
NCAD Field is the only third level course in Ireland where 20% of learning takes place outside and encourages students to connect with the urban environment.
“The pear tree is our neighbour in the Digital Hub,” Mr Kennedy said.
“Students just had their first day yesterday, and as part of that, we go to this pear tree to pick its fruit and make jam.
— NCAD (@NCAD_Dublin) September 27, 2023
“We’re just past the equinox and are now falling into the dark winter months and this act of gathering the fruit from what we call a venerable tree is a way of building togetherness and solidarity but also having something that we eat going into the winter months.”
The pear tree has several marks of history, including a ‘bangle’ wrapped around the tree in the 1950s to hold it up and photographic evidence of the tree from the 1890s.
“The Liberties is a rich place for urban legends and oral tradition,” Mr Kennedy said.
“The tree began to be seen as possibly being the oldest tree fruit tree in Dublin, maybe also the oldest fruit tree in Ireland.
We had a community gathering at The Digital Hub yesterday to mark the harvesting of the pears from our ancient pear tree. Thanks to the students and faculty from @ncad_dublin, and the wider community of the #Liberties area for helping with the harvest. #dublin8 #lovindublin pic.twitter.com/qGek3EzxRB
— The Digital Hub (@TheDigitalHub) September 27, 2023
While he would never challenge the tree is older than those in rural Ireland, Mr Kennedy thinks the history of the tree can connect students in the city to nature.
“The tree is a way of connecting and anchoring students learning in the Liberties, so that we're not in an ivory tower in the art college talking about the environment but not really engaging in the environment or the community,” he said.
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