Fenor’s finished masterpiece

John at an Oleo-Mac demonstration with some of his creations.

John at an Oleo-Mac demonstration with some of his creations.


FENOR’S famous ‘Holy Tree’ has been completed and is continuing to attract crowds to admire its beautiful workmanship.
John Hayes of ‘Special Branch Carvings’ is the man behind the fantastic creation which is located in Fenor graveyard.
He completed his ambitious project at the start of September and says he has been very humbled by the response he has received.
“I never thought it would have this impact. The response has been overwhelming,” he said.
John came up with the idea for the 45 ft high wooden sculpture when discussions were taking place about removing an old tree located alongside Fenor church.
The tree had become damaged and had reached a stage where it couldn’t repair itself.
As it towered over the church, it posed a significant health and safety risk.
After revealing his vision for the much loved tree, John received support from the local priest and the parish council and subsequently from the entire community in Fenor.
He believes the history associated with the tree, as well as the use of carving methods which are relatively new to Ireland, contributed to the enormous interest in the project.
The sculpture includes three angles and a dove which represents the Holy Spirit.
John says he is very happy with the outcome, but admits that he never had an overall plan.
In total, he worked on the project for 35 hours a week for 42 weeks.
“It was a slow and steady process as I wanted to get everything right. I wasn’t in a rush,” said John.
Since he began his work, there has been a constant flow of visitors to Fenor to admire the ‘Holy Tree’.
On social media, photographs of his work have received lots of comments, likes and shares and he has been inundated with messages of praise from all over the world.
As a result, ‘The Holy Tree of Fenor’ is not only attracting many local visitors but also those from further afield.
The national interest in John’s creation was heightened thanks to prominent slots on both the RTÉ News and RTÉ’s ‘Nationwide’.
“It’s nice that people are saying that the tree is another landmark for Waterford,” he said.
John hopes that people can now see the potential of what can be created from fallen or damaged trees.
John wrote a poem to mark the completion of his project – proving that he is a man of many talents!
I sat on a wall and looked at a tree
I sat on a wall an idea maybe
We started to talk trying to figure it out
For 300 years some stories no doubt
So thank you old friend for letting me share in the story of hope and never despair
I sat on a wall to say goodbye there is hope in my heart there is no need to cry
The inscription near the base of the tree reads ‘HOPE’ – something which John believes is particularly apt.
“Everyone needs a bit of hope,” he said.
“And as a child I always heard the phrase ‘hopefully things will be ok’.”
He says he also drew inspiration from the role of hope in the story of Pandora’s Box.
Although the tree is now completed, John will not have any problem filling his time as he has many other projects in the pipeline.
He has received lots of requests to create different sculptures as gifts.
A visit to the Special Branch Carvings Facebook page reveals the impressive array of items which John has worked on including owls, hawks, foxes and fairies.
As an ambassador for chainsaw manufacturers Oleo-Mac , he has attended many exhibitions around the country where he has given demonstrations.
He will once again be in attendance at the Oleo-Mac stand at the National Ploughing Championships this week.
Earlier this year, John was a tutor on the FETAC Level 5 Chainsaw Course/Wood Sculptor Course delivered in conjunction with FRS Wexford.
He has thanked everyone for the help and encouragement he has received along the way, including those who sponsored and donated various products to assist him with his work.
He also paid tribute to all of the people in Fenor and the wider community who have supported him.
The ‘Holy Tree of Fenor’ has to be seen up close to be fully appreciated, so put a trip to Fenor in your diary and gaze in amazement at this awe inspiring creation.

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