We of the Woodland League are heartbroken at the passing of our great and mighty Friend, our Founder, our Director and P.R.O. our champion, our warrior, our guide, our leader, our soulful Chara – Andrew St Ledger. “Our Mighty Oak has Fallen.” We wish to extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends and all that knew and loved him.
We will be together tomorrow in Feakle to celebrate his amazing life and know there are many from far and across the country and the world who will be with us as the wonderful community and extensive network that Andrew reached out to in his life’s work and love for building relationships with our life-giving forests.
‘Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad?
Tá deireadh na gcoillte ar lár
‘Now what will we do for timber,
with the last of the woods laid low…’
Tr. Thomas Kinsella
Andrew had a vision to respond to this old poem of Kilcash woods that represents places all over the land where forests were felled.
Living in the heart of “Inis na Bhfiodhadh”, meaning “Island of the sacred trees” (one of the ancient bardic names for Ireland), Andrew’s vision is to restore the remnant shreds of what was once a great oak forest known as the Great Forest of Aughty. Also known as the forest of Suidane (a reference to the sacred and beautiful, in ancient Gaelic) from Gort across to Portumna down to below Tuamgraney incorporating Brian Boru Oak tree. This was the forest of Brian Boru and his people, in fact Derrybrien was known as Brian’s Oakwood and was a known stronghold where the young old and sick found refuge in times of war.
Andrew drew up the first draft of a vision for the Great Forest of Aughty in 2012 and it was further developed in conjunction with Woodland League members and many other advisors.
As Andrew said:
“The Irish people are a forest people who have lost their forests and with it much of their ancient culture. Restoring the oak forests can have a very positive impact affecting other aspects of this Gaelic culture that remain, like the music, poetry, sport, dancing and storytelling, all of which are intrinsically linked to this ancient forest tradition.”
It was part of Andrew’s work and passion for these years to move towards realising this vision.
This year is the 20th anniversary of the Woodland League. For many of us Andrew connected us through the strands of his heart. He would have used the image of an oak barrel quite often when talking of cooperation between people. It appeared related to the coopers work of crafting wooden barrels and perhaps this is the actual root of the word cooperation. The conversation Andrew made about it turned to the ancient Irish analogy of a wooden barrel being strong in the hoop, the hoop being community and strong upright leaders being referred to as, “Staves of the Barrel”.
The word coop also refers to a small enclosure and another meaning – cup – that has a link to the grail cup/ vessel and grail question: What ails thee?
Andrew to us was a ‘Stave of the Barrel’ and also the one to bring people together.
This year he arranged the beautiful event that so many attended, bringing us together yet again. It was a celebration and marking of 20 years of the Woodland League: a beautiful event over the Summer in July: Re-imagining the Great Forest of Aughty, where the Woodland League was delighted to host a cross-cultural and community exchange exploring the Indigenous Forest management traditions of North America with special guests Ron Waukau and Mc Kaylee Duquain, forest managers of the Menominee Nation. The Menominee forest tradition have been an inspiration to the Woodland League for many years and serves as a beacon of inspiration for continuous, sustainable forest practices.
We are also very proud of the work Andrew did with the Woodland League Forest in a Box Project where his thoughts on this was very much focused on the children being the forest people of the future. The plan, again Andrew’s vision and part of his legacy, is that it is possible to increase the reach of the project nationwide to install “A Forest in a Box”, in every national school of which the aim is to inspire the creation of new native woodlands in the footprints of old native forest sites. This project has been underway for several years now. Andrew said, “These children are investing in their own future in a unique way that combines the past, present and future, it is amazing that some of the acorns are from the legendary local Brian Boru oak tree, reputedly 1000 years old”.
Of course, Andrew was involved in spearheading many campaigns and packing a mighty punch to all those who threatened our current and future native forests. Again in the spirit of cooperation, he with support of many he reached out to, brought together all of the people and groups of Ireland in a very successful Save our Forests campaign of 2013 (10 years ago) which became a great event at Avondale, Co. Wicklow.
Just this year as well, The Save our Forests – Save our Lands Alliance was created with his guidance. This Alliance on behalf of more than 40 national environment NGOs, community groups, political parties, independent TD’s and numerous individuals amongst other concerns called for actions and policy to Save, Restore and Expand our Ancient Rainforest Remnants.
Andrew’ wish would be for all of the valuable work done with him to continue.
We thank Andrew for gathering us all together always and we wish to continue what he stood for and started and reaffirmed in us and for us all again and again under the Woodland League overall vision: Restoring the relationship between people and their native woodlands.
May his deep soul and spirit journey forth at peace with the light of inspiration he kindled, the passion for continuing our love and the strength, compassion and friendship he shared with all of us who encountered and knew him.
May his heaven be a vast Forest in the Sky.
Slan Leat, a Chara go Mòr