If you ever travel along the Garden Route, stop in at George to visit the George Tourism Bureau housed in the Old Library building in York Street and take a few minutes to look at the huge oak tree in front of the building.
This magnificent English oak (Quercus robur), is believed to be the largest specimen of it’s kind in the southern hemisphere.
Known as ‘The Old Oak Slave Tree’, this 200 year old specimen was among the first trees that were planted in 1811, when the magistrate at the time, van Kervel, compiled the original layout of the town.
On closer inspection one will observe a chain that is deeply embedded in the trunk of the tree along with a lock that dates back to 1890.
According to a book on the history of colonists and slaves, under a paragraph titled ‘Emancipation of slaves in 1834’ some slaves were held and sold in the George area around that time. Underneath a drawing of a person chained to a tree is the inscription ‘An old tree still exists today, where the slaves were once chained and sold’.
This story appears to be unsubstantiated however as there are others who believe that the chain around the tree was employed to secure a large roller that was used to maintain a tennis court which was apparently in close proximity to the tree at that time.
Nobody seems to be sure which story is true but despite this ‘The Old Slave Tree’, a declared National Monument, is worth a visit to reflect a while on it’s long history and to appreciate it’s massive dimensions, all of which have made this magnificent tree a worthy candidate for protection.