Whilst wandering around Plymouth city centre, I took the opportunity to admire St. Andrew’s Church. Located just off the Royal Parade, St. Andrew’s Church is one of the oldest in the city, with some estimates placing an earlier building on or near the location as far back as the 8th Century. The current building appears to have been erected in the 15th Century, and for centuries it played a key role in the development of Sutton and, then later, the city of Plymouth.
I headed down Catherine Street and took a walk on a pathway that leads behind the church. It was there in which I came across a tree, with a small plaque beneath. The plaque reads;
HANDS ACROSS THE SEA
COMMEMORATING THE VISIT OF THE PLYMOUTH,
MICHIGAN, DELEGATION TO MAYFLOWER 70
LET THIS TREE FOREVER BE A SYMBOL OF THE
FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN THE TWO CITIES
JULY 15, 1970
The tree has, of course, grown over the past five decades. I enjoyed marvelling at it on a cold, sunny January day, with the Treasury bar just behind it. I started to think of the town Plymouth in Michigan, USA, and so on returning home I started delving further into its history.
Plymouth, Michigan, was founded in 1825, and has for the past two centuries enjoyed a rather unremarkable history. The name Plymouth was agreed upon due to some of the original settlers originally coming from Plymouth, Massachusetts (the very first Plymouth established in the United States). However, it appears to have been a close run thing, with some preferring to name it Peking in honour of the Chinese city, and LeRoy was nearly the offical name, until it was realised that another settlement had already bagged that title.
The tree was placed as part of the Mayflower 70 celebrations in 1970, commemorating the 350th founding of America’s first Plymouth. A contemporary newspaper of the period – the Illustrated London News – described the significance of the event (billed as ‘the great festival Plymouth and the West Country has ever staged’):
‘If Mayflower 70 doesn’t put Plymouth on the map then nothing will. The city fathers, concerned with rising unemployment and a possible decline in the tourist industry, are throwing themselves wholeheartedly into a whirlwind of events lasting from May 2 until September 30. 1970 sees the 350th anniversary of the sailing of the Pilgrim Fathers, and presents a heaven-sent opportunity to a public-relations-minded community.’
There was a range of events, including a parade; amongst this it appears that this tree was planted. It is interesting to consider just how aware Plymouth, Michigan, is of the tree. I wonder what it will look like when the 450th anniversary celebrations are held in 2070.