Miss Baillie Hamilton of Rusper gave a short talk on trees to the Cuckfield Women’s Institute who met in the open air in the Vicarage garden by kind invitation of Mr Wilson:
All over England trees had made geography, while in the olden days they were used as a language. A bundle of thorn attached by the villagers to the door of a house was a symbol that the woman occupant had a sharp tongue, while a bundle of elderberry was a sign that a flirt resided there, and a bundle of birch expressed the villagers' wish for long life and prosperity, if any of those present had a bad-tempered husband, they should take away his feather pillow and substitute a pillow of beech leaves, as these would induce him to sleep so well that be would be amiable next day, and the legend said that be would never be bad tempered again.
Miss Hamilton spoke of the music of the pine trees and said that every tree had its history, folklore, legends, and function in the world. In every religion there was a belief in a future happy land and in all cases that land was filled with trees! The Queens of England had always been greatly interested in trees.
In Queen Elizabeth's time if anyone cut down an oak tree without her permission a heavy fine was inflicted for the first offence, and for the second the offender was executed. 'My sympathies are with Queen Elizabeth, and I wish she was alive now,' added the speaker, amid laughter. In Queen Elizabeth's time there were 63 large forests in the country, but very few of these remained today.
Queen Anne encouraged the planting of walnut trees but many of these were cut down during The Peninsular Wars to make musket stocks. The speaker referred to the old monks veneration for trees and in conclusion said that all we had had, all we had got and all we were likely to get was due to the trees of England, and we should reverence and love them.
Mid Sussex Times, 20 August 1929
Illustration: A man and a woman standing and arguing. 1822. Hand-coloured lithograph. Wikimedia public domain image.
Contributed by Malcolm Davison.