On Thursday March 9th 2000 Millennium Oakwood was planted on a site created over two fields, at Ballafletcher, Braddan, an area stretching to 19 acres. Two years in planning, this ambitious project was the brainchild of the Mann 2000 Committee, headed by the Speaker of the House of Keys, Noel Cringle. The Oakwood was to be a living monument to the 2000 Millennium and every primary school child on the island would be a part of it, a gift from our children to future generations.
The creation of this wood started in Worcestershire. Manxman, Cedric Quayle invited his two local schools, Wribbenhall First School & St Ann's School, to collect acorns from a nearby forest. The children travelled to the forest by coach and each child collected two plastic bags full of acorns, which Mr Quayle brought to the Island in his car. The acorns were distributed throughout the primary schools so that every child could grow his or her own sapling to be planted eighteen months later.
The build up to the day of planting saw every shop on the Island sell out of wellington boots as mothers prepared their children for the possibility of rain and mud. Building contractors, "Bovis", who were building the new hospital in the area, kindly built a special 100 yard roadway along the bottom of the site to provide access for the buses bringing the children. After the planting day this road was then removed. A song was specially written for the occasion by Marilyn Cannell to the tune of "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean". The makers of the children's television program, "Blue Peter", promised to send a film crew and one of their presenters, Konnie Huq, over to the island on the day of planting. Every child was presented with a specially designed Mann 2000 woolly hat in a colour designated for their school. To ensure that even children whose seedlings had failed to grow were not disappointed, further trees were cultivated to act as replacements.
The Millennium Monument
In the centre of the Oakwood is the Millennium Monument. This monument depicts the Manx Sword of State passing through an orrery (a globe representing the solar system). The sword sits on a replica of Tynwald Hill which in turn sits on the Three Legs of Man. The sword pins the Isle of Man in time and space at the start of the Third Millennium, while the hill represents the Island's political stability for more than a 1000 years. The orrery also acts as a sundial; it is orientated so that the shadow cast by the sword at midday on the first day of the year 2000 corresponded with 12 o'clock position on the dial.
(To the tune of "my bonnie lies over the ocean")
A this special point in time's history
We celebrate all that is past
We dream and we plan for the future
With goodwill we hope that will last
I planted an acorn;
I hoped it would grow, as it should, it should.
I'm planting an oak tree,
To make a Millennium Wood
We marvel at all of creation
And know as we're planting each tree
They're not only just for two thousand
But centuries still yet to be
An Oak tree is very slow growing
An Oak tree is steady and strong
Some day birds will nest in its branches
Its roots will be sturdy and long
We'll say that one day in the future
Our Grandchildren with us to see
In this Qakwood growing around us
I actually planted a tree
The Day of Planting
On Thursday 9th March, more than 6,500 children were collected from every part of the Island by 69 Isle of Man Transport buses. Regular bus services were cancelled for the day.
Three steam railway trains with ten coaches and five Manx Electric trams also transported children. The roads around the site were closed to allow for the smooth running of the operation.
Professional entertainers, jugglers and stilt walkers, some from the Millennium Dome in London, were present to welcome the children as they got off the buses. The children were impressed by the woodcarvings, which were produced by local artists Simon Buttimore, Jasper Inskip and Gavin Carter, using chainsaws.
Two RAF Hawk jets performed a fly-past to honour the day.
The singing of the Oakwood song was led by the BBC young chorister of the year, Michelle Grogan, accompanied by the Manx Youth Band and every child joined in with the chorus.
Betsy Home of Rushen Primary School who was also celebrating her fifth birthday planted the first tree.
The highlight of the day for the children was undoubtedly the official opening by Blue Peter's Konnie Huq, who had travelled on the bus with pupils from Andreas School. She was given an astounding welcome by the children at the site, which left the production team, and Konnie completely overawed. After a short speech, Konnie set off a spectacular daylight fireworks display which culminated in loud bangs of confetti canons followed by the singing of the Manx National Anthem.
The whole event was covered by Manx Radio and a video was made by Duke Marketing as a lasting reminder for the children, of their contribution to the new Millennium.
[Source: Manx Glens - A stroll through history]
[Acknowledgement: Suzanne Cubbon]