Forestry Focus

Reference Literature

Listed on this page are the main papers, information notes and books published in recent years chronicling the history of Irish forestry  from post glacial times to the present day. References to older publications, which are generally not on-line, are to be found cited in this literature.


A Brief History of Irish Forestry by the Forest Service

This wide ranging paper covers the history of Irish forestry from ancient times to the present day. It describes the post glacial forests and chronicles the decline of native forests as a result of industrialisation, influx of settlers, population growth and the Land Act of 1881. It, however, also gives an account of the afforestation initiatives undertaken in the late 1700s and more recently in the 20th century and the present day. It describes state and private afforestation efforts to restore forest cover and the grant schemes currently available.

Tree Planting in Ireland during Four centuries by A. C.  Forbes

Irish Forestry Vol. 61 No. 2, 2004.

First published in 1933 in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol.  XLI,  p168199 this  paper gathers together records, from the seventeenth century onwards, of the various steps taken to restore forest cover in Ireland.  It has been reproduced with permission from the RIA in Irish Forestry.

The history of Irish forests since the Ice Age by  Valerie Hall

Irish Forestry Vol. 54 No.1, 1997.

Delivered as the 1996 Augustine Henry Memorial Lecture this paper covers the post glacial development of Ireland’s forests, their early woodland composition and dynamics and early and later human influences.

The Greening of Ireland – tenant tree-planting in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by William J. Smyth

Irish Forestry Vol. 54 No.1 , 1997.

This paper seeks to locate tenant tree-planting in the wider economic and cultural contexts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  It explores who the tenant tree- planters were, where they planted and what number and types of tree species they favoured. The results of their planting created an enduring rural landscape of hedgerows, avenues, shelter belts and woodland plantations.


A History of Woodland Management in Ireland: An Overview by Emmet Byrnes

Native Woodland Scheme Information Note No. 2.

This note gives an overview of the history of woodland management in Ireland, from the arrival of man until the early 20th century. It describes how and for what purpose woodlands were managed, and also how woodlands were mismanaged and exploited. It describes the historical decline of Ireland’s native woodland cover, and the reasons behind this. It also highlights clues still present in the Irish landscape, such as archaeological features and place names that can give us an insight into how woodlands were managed in centuries passed.

Avondale Initiative 1905 by Michael Carey

Coford Connects No. 19.

This information note charts the history of Avondale from the time it was purchased by the state in the early 1900s and it’s subsequent developed as an experimental forest, arboretum and forestry training school. It describes the experimental plots and comments on the performance of the species tested and the contribution that the trials and training school have had on Irish forestry.


A History of Irish Forestry by Eoin Neeson

This book covers a period of approximately 2,000 years, from Celtic Ireland to 1990. There is an introductory reference to the post-glacial period during which the ecological foundations were laid, but the book is primarily concerned with the history and development of forestry during the historical period.

Part One, The Historical Background, examines the primeval forest and early settlers, woodlands, land title and tenure under the Celts, codified with Brehon law; Norman forest law imposed in the early medieval period; the Tudor conquest and plantations; and the development of estate and ‘scientific’ forestry during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It also considers the political dimension of Irish forestry, and socio-economic factors such as land hunger and agrarian reform.

Part Two, Forestry in Modern Ireland, chronicles afforestation schemes laid foundations gradually built upon during the mid-century as the techniques and role of forestry were debated, policies defined and planting programmes instituted. With Coillte established in 1989 and EC-aided expansion plans for the 1990s, private and state interests converge in a major national enterprise.

Published in 1991 by the Lilliput Press.

Forestry in Ireland – A concise history by Niall OCarroll

This book contains information on the vegetation history of Ireland’s forest cover and how it adapted to successive glaciations. The impacts of policies and forestry practices on the improvement of forest cover are also discussed, as well as the innovation of new wood products.

Published in 2004 by COFORD.

Northern Ireland Forest Service – a history by C.S. Kilpatrick

Written by C S Kilpatrick, this book covers 75 years of State forestry operations in Northern Ireland. It is not only a history of forest development and progress but also a record of the people who contributed to the Northern Ireland Forest Service operations over the years. It is a unique record of staff, staff movements and policy making.

Published in 1987 by the Northern Ireland Forest Service.

The Irish Woods since Tudor Times – their distribution and exploitation by Eileen McCracken

This book deals with the final destruction of the remaining native woodlands, especially in the 17th Century, the revival of forestry after the Williamite settlement by the new landlords, whose confidence in their future lasted until the first Land Act in 1881, the subsequent collapse of private planting and finally the remarkable development of state forestry in the 20th Century.

Published in 1971 by David and Charles.

If Trees Could Talk – Wicklow’s trees and woodlands over four centuries by Michael Carey

The author explores the evidence of former woodland cover and the various tree planting initiatives carried out in CountyWicklow between the 17th and 20th Centuries. The uses made of timber and the profitability of the industry during the 18th and 19th centuries are also discussed and include a review of documentary material related to the Watson-Wentworth-Fitzwilliam estate based at Coolattin near Shillelagh in the south of the county. The progression of the industry over the period is referenced to the overall social and political evolution of the county and related issues.

Published in 2009 by COFORD.

Glimpses of Irish Forestry by John Mc Loughlin and Donal Magner

This booklet provides a snapshot of Irish forests and the forest products industry and traces our forest history from the Ice Age to the present day. It concisely charts the rise and decline of our woodlands and the efforts made by Irish foresters to restore our lost forest resources. The booklet also provides facts and figures on the forest industry and illustrates the social, economic and environmental benefits of this important renewable resource.

Published in 2007 by The Tree Council of Ireland.