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Contributed by Lorraine O’Dwyer
Once Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales were covered in a thick temperate Celtic Rainforest. Over the centuries the trees were cut down and used for everything from weapons and tools to heat and shelter.
Some trees were considered of much more value than others though.
According to the Brehon Laws, the laws of Ancient Ireland, the trees were sectioned into four groups. They were:
The airig fedo (‘nobles of the wood’), the aithig fedo (‘commoners of the wood’), the fodla fedo (‘lower divisions of the wood’) and the losa fedo (‘bushes of the wood’).
To harm or cut down a Noble tree without the permission of your Chieftain could see you fined 2 and a half milk cows!
The village of Ferns gets its name from the Alder Tree or Fearna in the Irish language. There was a large Alder forest surrounding Ferns and it makes perfect sense that a Celtic army would make a settlement here as the Adler was the Tree of the Warrior.
Firstly, when boiled the bark and leaves make a powerful antibacterial bath that heals conditions like athelets foot, lice and prevents sores or blisters from becoming infected.
When the leaves are heated up in a cloth bag, they act in a similar way to products like deep heat, just what you need for those aching muscles after a day on the battlefield!
The wood, while not great for an average campfire burns incredibly hot as charcoal. Making it the favoured fuel of the Blacksmith. He needed it to make and mend axeheads, arrowheads, and swords.
And speaking of which Alder is so lightweight yet terribly strong making it ideal for spear shafts, axe handles and shields.
Finally, when you cut into the bark of the Alder, the sap oxidizes, turning to a bright crimson red colour. And so the warriors saw a kinship with the tree that bled as they did.
Today the Alder forest is long gone, but if you ever wonder why the mighty MacMurragh tribe settled here, now you know!