click here to return to the Millennium Link Resource Home PageThe Millennium Link Royal Opening
 24th May 2002

I was fortunate enough that my family and I were part of the nearly 3000 invited guests of British Waterways for the Royal opening of the Millennium Link, at the Falkirk Wheel on the afternoon of Friday 24th May 2002.

Our instructions saw us leave our car at the Falkirk Golf Club at 12:30, to be bussed to the Wheel site.
On arrival at the Wheel site British Waterways had a hospitality tent, but the anoraks in us quickly headed down to the wheel, home made sandwiches in hand!

The rain was never far away, providing the threatening atmosphere for this picture of the wheel, basin and Visitor Centre. You can see the stands all round the New Port Downie Basin.

We were not allowed access to the Visitor Centre, this was for A-list guests only! 

In this view you can see the covered walkway erected for the Royal Party, should the weather get really nasty!
All over the site there were the signs that everything was just finished in time. 

The showers kept on coming.

However a small band of (wet) entertainers tried hard to keep up our spirits.

During the early afternoon the wheel kept turning, quite a spectacle to see for the first time close up.

"The Caledonian" would carry the Queen, she waits in Union Canal Lock 1, ready to ceremonially enter New Port Downie Basin.

Quite a sight inside, the first canal boat I've ever seen with wall to wall carpet!

For the occasion the jetty in the basin had a podium (right) and pretend opening button (left) to officially start the wheel.

The media took up position at Lock 1, where they would get good views of the ceremony about to unfold.

Security was also a feature, these chaps looked a wee bit out of place on the Forth & Clyde Canal, whilst...

... this pair hid discretely in New Port Downie Basin underneath the Aqueduct.

As 2:15 approached everyone took their seat as these panoramas show. At least for a while the rain went off and the sun made a brief appearance. Click the images for full resolution (6570x1000 and 5880x1050).

For nearly an hour we were entertained by a Music and Dance festival by local school children as well as music from the band of HM Royal Marines.

This was punctuated with short heavy showers, and hail stones.

Just after 3:20 the Royal Party arrived outside the Visitor Centre, the sun trying hard to shine.

The Royal party ceremonially sail into New Port Downie.

Past the stands to the Jetty.

First Minister Jack McConnell waves frantically to the crowds in the stands. 

Whilst the Queen talked to the guests in the south stands, The Duke of Edinburgh talked to children in the northern stands.

Just before 4:00, after a short speech by Dr George Greener, Chairman of British Waterways, Her Majesty the Queen officially opened The Millennium Link and The Falkirk Wheel as part of her Golden Jubilee tour of Scotland.

Balloons fly north as the wheel starts to move...

In this shot the first boats to descend can be seen in the caisson in the foreground. At this point the Royal Party were back in their boat, making their way to the Visitor Centre.

With the Royal Party in the Visitor Centre the first boat through the Wheel, The Govan Seagull, enters New Port Downie Basin.

The Govan Seagull approaches the jetty in front of the Royal Marines.

The second boat through (travelled in the same caisson as the Govan Seagull) The Victoria, can be seen in the background, right.

4:15-4:30, the Royal Party leaves after the Queen had been presented with flowers, and the Duke with an Aberdeen Granite Stonemason's Hammer. The Royal standard flutters in the background.

The Queen speeds off to "dinner" at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh...

3000 of us all wait for the bus - in the rain.


Photographs: James Gentles