Sacred Tree: OS Grid Reference – NO 31339 42894
The tree is at Templeton on the west hand side of the Newtyle to Balkeerie Road travelling north, just before the bend in the road at Templeton Farm.
Archaeology & History
The only written record of the tree is in Strathmore Past and Present by the Reverend J.G. M’Pherson (1885):
“After driving two miles eastward from the village of Newtyle along a most excellent level road, we enter the united parishes of Eassie and Nevay. The time-honoured boundary-mark is a conspicuous old ash, which popularly goes by the name of the Temple-tree. Tradition cannot guess its age. It is of considerable diameter, but quite hollow from the ground upwards for twenty feet. The bark is stripped off in several parts, and the thin shell of wood exposed is quite worm eaten; here and there being quite worn through, forming a rude door and rugged windows for the weird like interior.
“Large branches spread out, half dead-and-alive, with some foliage, scantily furnished with the life-giving root-sap. Could it speak it would tell of many a strange incident in its vicinity or underneath its arms. Its appearance might almost take one back to the time when the Templars left the neighbourhood; thus fixing its curious appellation”.
Sadly the tree described in the above quotation from 1885 has perished, but, just as it was not growing at the time of the Knights Templars’ local involvement, it is not unreasonable to speculate that it was a daughter of an ash tree that had formed a parish boundary marker of the original estate at the time of the Templars or even before. And now a daughter tree of that venerable 1885 tree grows in its place, the Temple-tree of the present day.
Various writers have attested to the Templar presence in Meigle, indeed M’Pherson writes:
“When the Knight Templars were in pomp…they had considerable interest in Meigle, several lands in the parish still being known as the Temple Lands. We prefer this derivation to the common one of templum, any religious house”.
In describing the now famous Meigle Pictish stones in the New Statistical Account, the Reverend William Ramsay (1845) writes;
“…A more satisfactory account of them has been suggested by Captain T.P. Mitchell, …He considers them as neither more nor less than the monuments of the Knights Templars, who unquestionably had a burying-ground at Meigle”.
While Mitchell was wrong in his attribution of the carved stones, he was clearly aware of the continuing memory of the Templars.
Modern research has shown that many of the Templar estates and lands in Scotland remained as separate fiscal entities within the Hospitaller lands up until at least the Reformation, which may explain the enduring Templar nomination of our tree.
Note: The tree formed the 19th century boundary of the parishes of Eassie and Nevay to the north, and Newtyle, both in Angus. We must assume the Templar lands boundary has been incorporated into the later parish system.
Note: This is not a clooty tree – please treat her with respect.
- Rev William Ramsay, Parish of Alyth, The New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845.
- Rev J.G. M’Pherson, Strathmore Past and Present, S. Cowan & Co: Perth, 1885.
- Robert Ferguson, The Knights Templar And Scotland, The History Press: Stroud 2010
© Paul T Hornby 2020, The Northern Antiquarian