An historic tree planting ceremony was held recently in the grounds of St Scholastica’s Convent at Glebe in Sydney. But the small sapling planted isn’t just any common tree. It’s the progeny of a 125-year-old Port Jackson fig, planted by Prince George (later King George V) and his brother Albert, the Duke of Clarence, during their visit to Sydney in 1881.
“That magnificent tree had given joy and delight to Good Samaritan Sisters, pupils of St Scholastica’s College and the residents of Glebe Point for 125 years,” said Good Samaritan Sister, Marion Firth, Director of the Congregational Centre at Glebe.
After 125 years of life, however, the Port Jackson fig, a native to Australia, fell “dramatically but gracefully” on June 11, 2006.
Good Samaritan Sister, Justin Simonds, recalled the event with clarity: “At midday on the Feast of Pentecost… there was a tremendous sound which I thought was wind above the house and I turned to look out the window and saw the beautiful Port Jackson fig tree falling to the ground.”
According to Marion, the “majestic tree, admired and loved by many generations”, had been “demonstrably failing” for several years. So on Arbour Day in 2005, 30 cuttings were entrusted to various sisters to strike and nurture.
“Three of those cuttings were returned to us here St Scholastica’s as tiny plants,” said Marion.
“Over the past seven years the tiny plants have grown into the beginnings of sturdy young trees, having received expert horticultural care, especially by our gardeners Sister Sue Hill and Tony Gauci.”
Those who gathered for the tree planting ceremony, about 20 in number, included the Principal of St Scholastica’s College, Loretto Richardson; the Director of the Boarding School, Annie Barnett; Sisters from St Scholastica’s and Polding Villa Convents; Congregational Counsellor, Patty Fawkner SGS; the team from the Congregational Centre; and gardeners, Sister Sue Hill and Anthony Gauci.
“There was a reverence and sacredness about the ceremony,” said Marion.
“Many tapped into the reflective and anticipatory mood of the commemorative ceremony we held on Arbour Day 2005, a year before the original grand old Port Jackson fig fell.”
An excerpt from the tree planting ceremony…
Today we plant the next generation of Port Jackson fig tree. It is our prayerful hope that this progeny will stand and grow into a strong witness to our Creator God’s work amongst us here at St Scholastica’s.
As it grows may it offer shade and shelter to pilgrims, to the birds of the air, to the native animals that live in or visit this area.
May it also continue to be part of the tapestry of the joys, the sorrows, the births and deaths, the laughter and tears, the coming and goings, all of which will be woven and absorbed into its roots, trunk, branches and foliage.
May it, like its parent, stand tall and proud of its presence in this place.