A gnarled old tree looms over the tombstones in a small church graveyard. Its trunk bent at an odd angle, it seems to crouch over the ground, its knotted branches outstretched in all directions.
According to local legend, this Spanish Sweet Chestnut tree sprouted from seeds stored within a dead sailor’s pocket. Supposedly, the 16th-century Spanish sailor buried beneath it had been carrying chestnuts with him while on his maritime journey, likely to ward off scurvy.
The sailor was part of the Spanish Armada. Unfortunately for him and the rest of his crew, gales whipped the waves into a furious frenzy, blowing their ship off course and wrecking it near Northern Ireland. One sailor’s body washed up on the shores of Ballygally in 1588, where kind locals discovered the corpse and buried it in an unmarked grave at St Patrick’s Church of Ireland.
But his grave didn’t remain unmarked for long. Soon, a sapling sprouted from the wet earth. It somehow managed to survive, despite the strong winds that so often battered the village. Now dubbed the Armada Tree, it’s viewed as an unlikely, unexpected transplant from the Spanish Armada. Scientists who analyzed the tree have dated it to the 16th century, adding some credence to its legendary origin story.