Basswood gains new life – January 2021

Basswood on Cathedral grounds gains new life with carvers

When a 2020 summer storm struck and felled a large basswood on the east end of the Cathedral Green, Christ Church Cathedral congregation member and former forester Eric Hadley volunteered to step in and help with cleanup.

Unlike many large trees felled by wind storms, Eric saw that the roots of this tree had remained firmly planted while the tree trunk itself had snapped.

Closer examination revealed considerable rot within the tree. This outwardly strong-looking basswood was a bit of a disaster waiting to happen. And along came Mother Nature and her winds providing just that disaster!

Since there are other Tília Americana (basswood) trees on the Cathedral property, it seemed like a good idea to check for any signs of visible rot and potential for damage to the Cathedral building itself.

Sure enough, just outside the west end (main) door and directly in line with the stained glass window over that door, stood another big old basswood showing what Eric believed to be signs of rot.

a legacy for future generations

When Eric brought in Mike Glynn, assistant manager of Parks and Trees and city forester for the City of Fredericton, he confirmed the diagnosis and advised that this old beauty posed considerable risk to the building. He recommended it be removed.

Enter Calvin Thompson, manager of First Nations relations, City of Fredericton. Calvin contacted Cathedral officials to see if there would be an interest in offering the wood to the St. Mary’s First Nation community.

The answer was a resounding yes! Renowned indigenous woodcarver Percy Sacobie was delighted to accept the offer. Basswood has long been the wood of choice for indigenous carvers, coveted for its featureless, fine-grained, white wood that doesn’t splinter or chip easily.

Percy Sacobie, woodcarver, Mike O’Brien, Mayor, Eric Hadley

In addition, Bob Clowater of the Fredericton Woodcarvers group was interested in obtaining some of the wood for their 17 members who meet twice a week at the Johnson Street Seniors Workshop.

And thus, this venerable old tree, Tília Americana, will leave a legacy for future generations. It may no longer stand guarding those ancient Cathedral walls, but it will not be relegated to the wood chipper or the furnace!

Its God-given artistic form will be transformed into man-made artistic forms by New Brunswick woodcarvers and enjoyed for years to come.

-- by Gail MacGillivray


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