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In Arthurian lore, the Welsh town of Carmarthen—whose name apparently means “Merlin’s fort”—is said to be the birthplace of Merlin Ambrosius, King Arthur’s wizardly sidekick. So it should not come as a surprise that the town has some associations with him.
Allegedly planted in 1659 or 1660 by a local schoolmaster to celebrate the Restoration of Charles II, Merlin’s Oak stood on the corner of Oak Lane and Priory Street. Local tradition has it that “when Merlin’s Oak shall tumble down, then so will fall Carmarthen Town.” It is also said that Merlin himself once prophesized that the tree’s downfall would cause the town to drown. Some even claimed that a pointed notch in the oak tree was a manifestation of the wizard’s face.
In the early 19th century, Merlin’s Oak was poisoned by a local man who objected to people holding meetings beneath it, and its trunk was shored up within iron railings and concrete. Later on, someone set fire to the tree and it was removed from Carmarthen in 1978, also due to its need for a roadway. Curiously, the town suffered its worst floods for many years afterward… but survived, somehow.
A piece of the tree can be seen in Carmarthenshire County Museum, and another, the last fragment taken in 1978 is now in Saint Peter’s Civic Hall in Nott Square, Carmarthen. At the original site of Merlin’s Oak, a replacement tree grows in a planter today.