The Brian Boru Oak.

Gerard Madden


brian boru oakOpposite the Heritage Centre at Tuamgraney, there is an old driveway, which linked Raheen Manor, the ancient seat of the O’Gradys/Bradys, with Tuamgraney village. Hidden behind young plantations of Douglas Fir, Sitka Spruce and other commercial forest trees you will find the last surviving remnant of the forest of Suidain, the ancient oak, wild wood of the Sliabh Aughty Mountains of east Clare and south east Galway. The remainder has long since disappeared and only numerous townlands with the suffix ‘doire’ now bear testimony to its existence. The principal cause of its destruction were the iron works at Feakle, Tuamgraney, Whitegate and Woodford, which required huge quantities of charcoal as fuel. In England, careful coppicing provided regular charcoal supplies, but these methods were never adopted in Ireland. Today the barren landscape, broken here and there with the monotonous regularity, greenness and sameness of spruce woods is a pathetic memorial to this great wood1.  

The destruction of the woods was also looked upon, favourably, by the English Government as it took away the protection and shelter they offered to Irish rebels. As long ago as the 10th century Brian Boru, in his initial wars with the Vikings had his headquarters in Sliabh Aughty wood. On being pursued by Brian Rua O‘Brien in 1277, the MacNamaras with their cattle ‘dived into Echtge’s dense woods of lofty foliage, pleasant and fresh.2

The traditional Irish oak is the sessile oak. It is the main species to be found in Ireland’s most familiar woodlands. The Raheen oaks are magnificent, their 100 feet high branches transform the driveway into the nave of a green cathedral. Hundreds of invertebrate species along with many species of birds and animals make this wood an ecological paradise. It is arguably richer in plant species than the celebrated Killarney oakwoods. It has both acid loving and lime loving plant species, which make it potentially a very important educational site3.

Standing majestically on its own is the famous Brian Boru oak. This tree is reputedly 1,000 years old. It still bears fruit and thousands of its acorns have been planted throughout the country. No one knows who planted the tree - maybe it was Brian Boru. With a girth of twenty six feet below its lowest branches, it is one of the oldest, and best known oaks in the country.
Major tree surgery by the Tree Council of Ireland was performed in the eighties to prolong its life. It looks battered but unbowed, while Raheen House has been levelled. Dr Edward McLysaght on seing Raheen for the first time in 1909 stated ‘I felt a sickening of the heart when I recalled that hulk of a splendid place with the poverty-stricken looking village of Tuamgraney, at its gates ---  the charm of Raheen, apart from its surroundings of lake and mountain, lay in the woods – commercially of little value but aesthetically almost unique4.
Shelley had a place like this in mind when he wrote –

"Away away from men and towns
To he wild wood and the Downs
To the silent wilderness,
Where the soul need not redress
Its music, lest it should not find
An echo in another's mind"





1 G. Madden. The Iron Works of Sliabh Aughty.  Sliabh Aughty Vol 7

2 Caithréim Thoirdhealbhaigh. Edited and translated by Standish Hayes O’Grady, p.7

3 Jonathan Leavy. Raheen Oakwood. Sliabh Aughty Vol 3.

4 Edward MacLysaght. Changing Times, Ireland since 1898. Published 1978