Among the many fine oaks in the Crom estate, Co Fermanagh, is one that has a remarkable story, for which it has suffered over the years.
Back in the seventeenth century, the Crichton family lived in the old castle, now picturesque ruins by the lough shore. (Subsequently they moved across to Inisherk, where some of the finest oak trees grow today, – but that house burnt down and finally the family settled in the present castle).
The castle was under siege in 1689 and fearing defeat the family collected their money and jewels and buried them deep under an oak tree growing nearby. In fact they won the battle, but rumour had it that the buried treasure was never recovered – perhaps, given the troubled times, it was thought safer to leave it in the equivalent of a modern bank deposit.
So, well into this century, people dug for treasure. The nearest oak now (though it has to be said that it is unlikely to date back to 1689) is a battered specimen which has lost great branches to storm and lighting – but more than that – its has practically been dug up.
The trunk grows straight, the roots anchor it to the ground, but between the two there is open space with tunnels going in towards the roots from all angles, signs of the desperate treasure hunt.
The story is further complicated by links to ‘fairy gold’ buried by the tree and guarded by magic powers, or by leprechauns. There was a death threat in force to anyone except a member of the Crichton family and a single family retainer – outsiders risked their lives trying to find the treasure.