Visitors to Ballinakill from the north side ( Abbeyleix) of the village, are met by a pair of very impressive twin trees. These common lime trees are considered ‘ Landmark’ trees, and are registered with the Tree Council of Ireland, due to the story of their existence, and are probably one of the most enduring landmarks of Ballinakill as a charter town.
In 1606 Sir Thomas Coatch, who was proprietor of the Manor of Gallen, was granted the right to hold a fair in Ballinakill, and in 1612 the town was incorporated by a charter of James I. This charter stipulated that one fair was to be held on each Thursday, and the following morning, in the week of Pentecost and another fair on every 5th of November.
The Calendar of State Papers 1611-1614 states the following:
“…..the days for the two ffayres one on the gunpowder day, viz the 5th November, the other on Thursday in Whitsun week (on neyther of which daisies there any ffayre thereabouts or in Ireland). The libertyes of ye corporation to extend throughout the whole manor of Gallen-Ridgeway (the castle and barone in Ballynekill and ye same castle, only excepted parck or impaled demesne).”
All entering the village were required to pay a toll at the twin trees, and as a result they were called the ‘Toll Trees’. It is not known when this toll was introduced but the trees are marked on the Skinner and Taylor maps of Ireland, produced in the late 18th Century, at a time when the roads to Durrow and Castlecomer did not exist. Neither is it recorded when the toll ceased.
The Fair itself, which had become known as the Ballinakill Cattle Fair, was last held in 1963 after more than 300 years of almost continuous trade, save for its cancellation in 1941, due to the foot and mouth outbreak.
Over time the lime trees came to be known as the ‘Tall Trees’ and in more recent times are referred to as the ‘ Twin Trees’, the name change taking with it the history of the common limes.
On July 20th 2009, the Tree council of Ireland, recorded the trees, as being 16 metres in height, with a girth of 2.96 metres. Their heritage is listed as that of Landmark, and their value as being, ‘trees with a story.’
And we are sure they could tell many!
Source: Ballinakill – Celebrating 400 Years as a Charter Town, by Christy O’Shea & Ger Dunphy