Internationally renowned singer-songwriter and composer Dougie MacLean and the Woodland Trust are urging Scots from around the world to vote for the nation’s entry to a European tree contest.
Niel Gow’s oak on the bank of the River Tay near Dunkeld is Scotland’s first entry to the European Tree of the Year competition. To mark the launch Dougie MacLean performed his interpretation of Niel Gow’s “Farewell to Whisky” under the oak to start the campaign for votes.
According to local legend 18th century fiddler Niel Gow wrote many of his most famous tunes underneath the tree, while his patron the Duke of Atholl would stand on the other side of the river listening to the music as it drifted across the water. Today the ancient oak sits on land owned by Forestry Commission Scotland.
Dougie MacLean said: “Scotland is loved globally for its beautiful scenery and rich musical heritage, and Niel Gow’s oak is a something that builds a bridge between those two worlds. I’m sure that Scots from across the world will join me in getting involved by voting for it.
“I have a personal connection to the oak because I grew up and still live in Perthshire just a few miles from it, and I also play the fiddle. I’ve been fascinated by Gow’s tunes for many years and have performed and recorded a number of favourites, in fact Michael Marra’s song ‘Niel Gow’s Apprentice’ was written about me.
“It’s a beautiful feeling to rest under the tree and imagine Niel Gow sitting in the same spot, taking his inspiration from the scenery and the flow of the river."
Scotland’s entry to the contest has been coordinated by the Woodland Trust Scotland.
Carol Evans, director of the Woodland Trust Scotland said: “Niel Gow's oak is a fantastic example of a tree that has a great story to tell.
"Virtually every community in Scotland has at least one tree which is well loved and has a great story to tell, but it feels fitting to start our involvement in the contest in Perthshire, which is well known as the Big Tree Country.
“By telling and sharing stories about trees such as Niel Gow’s oak we can encourage more people to value them and want to protect them. It is such a fantastic tree with a beautiful story, we’re really hopeful of a good result in the competition.”
The ten countries competing in Tree of the Year are Scotland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Wales.
Members of the public can vote for Niel Gow’s oak at treeoftheyear.org. Voting closes at the end of February.