“I was in Wolfville on November 11th and I went down to the monument along with the rest of the guys from the (Wolfville) Legion branch,” Gordon Hansford said when we were talking recently. “While we were there, I pointed out an oak tree on the right-hand side of the (post office) driveway and asked a companion to look at the leaves.”
“He said, ‘gosh, it looks different from any oak tree I ever saw. Where did it come from’?”
“I replied that it’s a royal oak,” Hansford said, “and I told him how it got there.”
Gordon Hansford is a talented storyteller and he has many fascinating tales to tell of wars, warriors and his boyhood hometown of Wolfville. One of these stories is about the royal oak which he pointed out to his companion on Remembrance Day. The story begins, Gordon said, during the reign of the British monarch, King Charles II.
Most of us known the story of how King Charles, pursued by Cromwell’s army after the defeat of loyalists forces in the Battle of Worcester in 1651, hid for 40 days in a huge oak tree at Boscobol. When Charles regained his crown an oak was planted at Windsor Castle to commemorate his escape and the role the tree played in it.
During World War One, Wolfville resident Alfred Lake was stationed in Great Britain for a time with the 85th Battalion. During leave, Lake visited Windsor Castle, where he must have heard the tale of how King Charles hid in an oak to elude Cromwell. While at the Castle, Lake picked up an acorn from a royal oak, put it in his pack, and promptly forgot it.
Gordon tells me that Lake was momentarily puzzled when he discovered the acorn in his pack after he was shipped home. “He asked himself, ‘where did this come from’?” Gordon said. “When he recalled that he had picked up an acorn from a royal oak, he went out and planted it on the post office grounds.”
The acorn Lake planted thrived and a descendant of King Charles’ royal oak now stand tall on the post office grounds in Wolfville. “It stands out from the native oaks growing there since its leaves are different,” Hansford said.
Gordon tells me that Lake was the caretaker and gardener at the Wolfville post office for many years and the caretaker at the curling club, which was also used for a time as the Wolfville armouries. “Lake told me the whole story about the royal oak and the acorn one night at the armouries,” Gordon said.
Lake was a native of Great Britain who had emigrated to Wolfville with his family before the first world war. Hansford describes him a great gardener and handyman who could make anything. Lake is mentioned in the Wolfville history, Mud Creek, as playing an important role when in 1938 the garden club landscaped the post office grounds and planted memorial trees. Lake passed away a decade ago.