Martin Enright

Oh to hug this mighty Copper beech.

Better known as The Autograph Tree this Copper beech – Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’ at Coole Park, Co. Galway is about 200 years old.

In 1898 Lady Gregory asked Yeats to carve his initials on the bark of the tree. He was the first of many to do so. Others include  Lady Gregory herself, her son Robert, George Bernard Shaw, Séan O’Casey, Jack B Yeats, An Chraoibhín (Douglas Hyde), Augustus John, AE (George Russel), and John Millington Synge.

This tree, and all the other trees around Coole Park meant so much to Lady Gregory. Whenever she would receive a fee or a royalty she would plant another tree .

Seán O Casey said of her   ‘that books were nearest her mind, trees were nearest her heart’.

She appealed to every Nationalist to plant a tree in 1898, to every Unionist to plant a tree in in 1900 and to every waverer to plant a tree in the year in between. Let us all follow her example for 2016.

  1. B. Shaw was in Coole in 1915 when WB Yeats was 50 years old. Now in this 150 th anniversary of Yeats’ birth I cannot stand at The Autograph Tree without bringing to mind the sense of place he creates in his poems; ’In The Seven Woods’, ‘The Shadowy Waters’, or ‘To a Squirrel at Kyle- na- no’ from  The Wild Swans At Coole’   ( “Dim Pairc-na- tarav where enchanted eyes/Have seen immortal, mild proud shadows walk”)

The Autograph tree, set in a magnificent oasis of peace and tranquillity, evokes the past the present and future.

Ba bhoichte Coill an Chúil gan an crann stairiúil, uasal  álainn seo. (The woods of Coole would be much the poorer were it not for this historic, noble and beautiful tree)


Martin Enright ,

President, The Yeats Society, Sligo. 15-09-2015