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A tribute to Percy Morgan

A tribute to Percy Morgan – for his contribution to yew data collection
by Tim Hills

Percy Morgan
Percy Morgan

“I find that there is something about an old yew which inspires awe and veneration; see if this is true when you go by the old tree next time you go to a church.”

In 2005 Percy Morgan celebrated his 89th birthday. In his 70s he was actively engaged in finding yews, recording them and sharing this information with the Conservation Foundation, The Tree Register of the British Isles, Allen Meredith, Alan Mitchell and anybody else who might make use of his records.

A letter to the Conservation Foundation in 1992 reveals just how active Percy was. “Again I am sending you more yew tree records, this time, 150 trees in 31 churchyards. This makes information on 513 trees in 90 churchyards.”

To ensure that his data is not lost he has allowed the Ancient Yew Group access to his notes and measurements. These will be gradually assimilated into our own records.

Below are two examples of his notes, in which he records not only the large ancient specimens but also younger yews.

Much Marcle, Herefordshire

In the churchyard is a yew with a girth of 30 feet. The inside of the trunk is hollow with a 4 feet wide vertical gap in what is left of the trunk. Inside of the trunk are three seats; it is said that eight people can sit there. It is a large tree with the boughs held up by a frame of 7 feet high pillars most of the way around the tree, which grows south of the porch.

Much Marcle, Copyright© 2006 Tim Hills 
Copyright© 2005 Tim Hills

The east gate has a small yew each side of it and they are clipped to form an arch. The east boundary is made of yews again clipped to about 6 feet high. Although there is only one big yew in the churchyard there are many within the vicinity of the church. The old vicarage, which is a Queen Anne house of 1703, at one time had an avenue of yews of which there are still a few at the far end of the garden. A 30 feet long 6 feet high hedge of yews in front of the house is made up of clipped trees one foot in diameter.

Llantilio Pertholey, Gwent

4 Irish and 7 Common Yews. The largest tree, SW of the church, has a girth of 19½'. There are four other yews with girths between 19' and 13'. On tree to the north of the east end of the church has a girth of 5' with a gravestone dated 1853 right up against it.

Percy has also discovered trees for which there are currently no records: “The yew at Monmouth which I went to see the other week is on a hill called Pwll-y-deon, just south of Michael Troy, and was 20 feet at 5 feet above ground and I estimated it at about 50 to 60 feet high. It is ancient, there is no doubt about it, a good thousand or so years old.”

Our thanks to Percy Morgan. To keep such a large amount of information in order before the computer age was a huge undertaking. Those involved in yew research are grateful for his contribution to data collection and his willingness to share the information he has gathered.

It was with great sadness that I attended the funeral of Percival Frederick Askew Morgan on the 16th April 2008. He passed away peacefully on Monday 31st March 2008.

Copyright © Tim Hills 2005. All Rights Reserved.

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