After our recent visit to Cloneagh Church in Co. Laois, I drove back up the road to a cemetery I had spotted in search of some cross slabs which were said to be nearby. When I pulled up I noticed this rather ugly looking tree on the side of the road. A notice board said that it was known as St. Fintan Tree? It also claimed that the tree was only planted about 200 years ago, So what is it connection to Fintan of Cloneagh whom died over 1400 years before? Well for one it was planted on the site of the early Christian monastery of Cloneagh. Then you have the tale of the nasty farmer. Apparently this local farmer got annoyed by the amount of people visiting the Holy Well which was once associated to Fintan. As the well was on his private land, he decided to fill it in. After this the water from the well was said to have sprung up across the road in between the roots of the tree. And so this young sycamore tree became a place of pilgrimage for many.
The tree came to be known as “The Money Tree” after it became customary for people to hammer coins into its bark as thanks for the Saints’ help for some intention. Like many other rag tree’s you may also find cloths attached to the tree as was customary at Holy well locations around the country. Now I have no issue with tying rags on a tree if that is your custom. But hammering coins into a tree really gets me annoyed. The fairy tree on the Hill of Tara in Co. Meath suffered a similar experience from ignorant people jamming coins into its bark. Thankfully a group of concerned individuals spent some time and a lot of hard work in removing the offending items from the tree. Fintan’s money tree was not so fortunate though. It was said to have been blown down in 1994, and the current tree is a re-growth from the remaining stump. Unfortunately there are still some idiots who insist on hammering coins into the bark of the tree. This can be clearly seen to damage the tree as there are signs of metal poisoning in not only the leaves but the trunk itself. The holy water spring can no longer be seen, but its clear that people still come here as was custom many years ago.