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The Heart of Headingley

Shire Oak pub, site of the Saxon Shire Oak

Shire Oak pub, site of the Saxon Shire Oak

Some things are quite inexplicable and serendipitous, but this is what happened when I visited the local Starbucks in Headingley at Christmas, the historical suburb where I grew up and where my mother still lives. It’s across the street from a plaque that marks the spot where the old Shire Oak used to be, an ancient tree that dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, under whose limbs the “thing” or governing assembly would meet. The plaque was in such a state of disrepair that the words could no longer be made out. Disappointed and somewhat surprised that this historic spot was going unrecognized, I emailed the local council on my return to the States, not really expecting to hear back. To my delight, a gentleman responded, and gave me the appropriate contact information. In the process, he told me about a new enterprise in Headingley, called the HEART project. The school where my mother had taught music some 20 years ago had closed down and was now to be reopened as the “Headingley enterprise and arts centre.” What’s more, they had scheduled an event to launch a book about the school, in which the school song appeared with both lyrics and music. This piqued my interest as the composer of this song was my mother. I was able to tell her about the event, and she walked down there on the Friday evening in the cold February air, to be reunited with former teachers and pupils. They urged her to play the song for everyone to sing along to as they closed out the evening, and “quite a few people were in tears,” said  the man who had connected the dots and made all this possible. Thank you, Mike, and thank you to the old Shire Oak plaque which I hope will be restored some day to its former glory.

Shire Oak plaque in better days

Shire Oak plaque in better days

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