Fifty years old

 Moira was always an attractive location. Those lime trees Anne Lutton described down both sides of the Main Street were removed in the early part of twentieth century. Chestnut trees that once lined part of the driveway to the Parish Church unfortunately also had to be taken down.

There were also four lime trees in the middle of the Main Street. These two hundred year old trees marked a popular stopping point for the old Dublin stagecoach. Moira Rural Council called in forestry experts to inspect the trees and they were declared unsafe. The Council was advised that they should be felled.

Many residents vehemently opposed the removal of the trees. One resident wrote to the Belfast Telegraph in May 1958 asking “What good purpose can be served by their removal when such wonderful pleasure and happiness can be maintained by their preservation?” After much debate, a storm in September 1961 brought the matter to a head. One of the trees was blown down and it was obvious the others would have to follow sooner rather than later. But by 1965 the council could delay no longer. A photograph of the felling operation shows a man with a hand saw sitting on branches high above the road, with no obvious safety precautions, calmly sawing the tree down, branch by branch. Meanwhile a policeman stands on the street warning passers-by.

With the trees removed, the debate continued. Some residents were in favour of replacing the trees and others believed the street was better without them. The local tree lovers prevailed. The Council, after receiving a petition with one hundred and fifty signatures, agreed to plant four new trees.

But rather mysteriously on the night of 1st March 1967, five trees were planted and a sign erected saying, “We shall not be moved.” This must have galvanised the council because they planted four copper beech trees on 3rd March! At the time of writing these trees are now fifty years old and hopefully they will stand for generations to come!

Text: © David McFarland. Not to be reproduced without permission

Photographs from 50 years ago are available to purchase on the Belfast Telegraph photosales pages (link opens in a new tab)