What's in a name?

When the year 999 turned to the next, there was no sense, for the common man, of the passing of 1,000 years of human history. At the dawn of that second millennium and with no clocks or calendars regulating his life, he foraged for food and took shelter under nature’s green canopies or in rough hewn huts and expected little other than a precarious earthly existence for a few decades. If some learned scholar did, somewhere, celebrate that momentous event, they did not deem it worthy of jotting down.

It was the early 18th century before man recorded any sense of the passing of 1,000 years as being noteworthy let alone an event worth celebrating at all. The countdown to the third Millennium began in 1970 when the word was attested as meaning the year 2000. Thirty years later, on January 1st, 2000, as the sun’s first rays travelled east to west over the earth’s surface, communities large and small, from the south Pacific to the North Atlantic, erupted in celebration unprecedented in scale and intensity.

From the Latin ‘mille’ meaning thousand and ‘ennium’ meaning year, the word had sprung into everyday usage and gracefully entitled many a civic project in cities and towns across the world. Now, man required not only to measure his stay on earth in hours, days, years and millennia but to commemorate it for posterity. Dubliners, infused with the millennium spirit like earthly dwellers the world over adopted the name and a new bridge simultaneously.

With a working title of ‘Millennium Project’, the bridge was not actually given its official title until just before its opening in December 1999. In November of that year, at a meeting of Dublin Corporation, two motions addressing the name of the bridge were put forward. One was to dedicate the bridge to the late Frank Cluskey, a Dublin butcher turned politician and one time Lord Mayor of Dublin. Following discussion in the council chamber, this motion was withdrawn and the bridge was officially sanctioned as the ‘Millennium Bridge’.