In contrast to fairy thorns standing alone in open fields, this is a town centre tree. Kilrea was developed under the Mercers Company as a local market town. In the 1770s mention was made of the ‘Gentry Tree’ (gentry being a euphemism for the special or fairy folk).
When a wall was built around the Presbyterian Church in the 1840s the tree was saved. It now stands in a special raised bed which juts out from the church wall into the pavement. Passers-by almost have to duck to get under the thorn and the larger lime tree which now overhangs it almost smothering the little old thorn under its lush green foliage. A wire leash running from a metal collar around the thorn actually tethers it to this lime tree for support.
The thorn is bent, leaning out and over and up again. Its trunk is split open, with woodworm and wood-boring beetles resident in its old timber. But still the thorn bears leaves, flowers and berries. It has hardly changed in living memory.