During Spring 2011, staff and volunteers at the National Trust for Scotland’s David Livingstone Centre, Blantyre said farewell to a much-loved local landmark as the Queen Mother’s Beech Tree was felled. The tree, which was planted when the museum opened in 1929 by the late Queen Mother, had become infected with Meripilus giganteus, a virulent and fast-acting plant disease which made the tree unsafe. Over the years, the plaque commemorating the planting became embedded in the trunk of the tree, making it an unusual living monument to the museum’s opening.
Local artist Richard Price used wood from the felled tree to create a unique, commemorative artwork in memoriam to the proud tree and its famous planter. At the time of the tree being felled, acting Property Manager Frances McChlery said:
“We are all very sad to say goodbye to this tree which has been onsite since the museum opened all those years ago. However, we will ensure that the tree and the significance of its planting are not forgotten. Richard Price will help us to create a fitting tribute, one which will endure for all time. And we already have plans to plant a suitable replacement tree to mark the commemoration of the bi-centennial anniversary of David Livingstone’s birth. It will be a fitting way to begin our anniversary celebrations in 2013.”
In 1928, during the renovation of Shuttle Row, and before the centre opened, 120 young pine trees were planted by children from schools over a wide area of Lanarkshire. The trees were grown and supplied from a plantation near East Kilbride. Proposed by the Scottish Executive, Sir Henry S. Keith, Hamilton presided over a company of about 500 children at the planting ceremony with several speakers in attendance. Forty eight schools were represented as well as six local Sunday Schools. A child from each planted a tree arranging them carefully in pre-set positions in double rows along the main entrance way. A small metal disc was affixed denoting the school represented. The children were told of plans to renovate the rest of the park with floral plots and shurbs and of the plans to make provisions for picnic areas.
During the speeches, it was said that there was no more notable tribute paid to the memory of David Livingstone than the planting of these 120 trees by the school children of Blantyre and surrounding areas. Quoting Dr Livingstone the message ended “Fear God and work hard”, a message hoped the children would carry for their lives. After the tree planting session, which lasted fully 2 hours, the children and guardians, including visitors and guests were entertained to an extensive tea spread in the old school, where Livingstone himself had obtained his primary education.