I go back 60 years to a time when there was a priest here on Tory Island called Fr Friel who lived in the parochial house. A local woman worked for him as his housekeeper – they were great friends.
Many people have tried to get trees to grow on Tory Island over the decades-but to no avail. Except for this tree here at the parochial house. As time passed a ditch down to the sea fed the tree with sewage. It is the centre of the Tory Island celebrations-it’s our Christmas tree as well as our Easter tree.
While to many tree experts this is a mere shrub-to the people of Tory Island this is our tree.
This tree is out on its own just like Tory Island is out on its own in the north Atlantic. It is so Tory that it doesn’t need help. As a live tree it stands up to severe gales and we are very proud of it.
What makes this tree different is that it has grown from a treble root system. While every birdwatcher that comes to Tory focuses on the tree with their camera. I would die for that tree.
Artist, Musician and King of Tory, Patsy Dan Mac Ruaíri (Rodgers) is Tory Island’s best known resident. As a young man he was one of the leading campaigners against the Government’s plans to resettle the islanders on the Donegal mainland following storms in 1974 that had cut off Tory Island for nearly two months.
Patsy Dan Rodgers was one of the original members of the Tory School of Art, whose patron was the renowned artist the late Derek Hill. Led by James Dixon they mounted their first combined exhibition at the New Gallery, Belfast in 1968. Their acclaimed appearance was to be the forerunner of many similar showings around the world in the years that followed. In recent years with a seemingly never ending supply of his work mostly portraying island life, he has been the driving force behind art on Tory along with Anton Meenan and Ruari Rodgers.
Patsy Dan’s contributions to his island’s culture and well being have been recognised by his fellow islanders who bestowed on him the title of King of Tory.