42 FOCUS - SEPTEMBER 2016 42 FOCUS - NOVEMBER 2017 In February 2016 Focus on Scugog featured an article on Greenbank flute maker Stephen Rensink. It referred to Stephen’s love of flutes and how he makes his flutes out of many kinds of wood under the name “Makwa.” This past April, surrounding the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge, Stephen’s name made news as the creator of the Vimy Flute. The story behind this flute began many years ago at Vimy Ridge. Leslie Miller was born on the family farm at Milliken in Scarborough, Ontario in 1889. When the war broke out Leslie was teaching school in Saskatchewan but in the fall of 1914 he made his way to Winnipeg to enlist in the Canadian army. After training he was sent to England and then to France. Leslie was an avid diarist and kept daily accounts of his activities. In his diary, he makes frequent references to the trees he encountered in France, often making sketches of them. As he made his way to Vimy in 1917 he wrote: “The roads are lined with poplars, continuous rows rising to near 60 feet in height and spreading their crowns to meet inward and form an arch.” Leslie was one of the lucky ones who survived the battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917. After the horrendous battle he wrote: “The whole surface of the ground is a shape- less mess of broken trees, shell holes and ruined trenches. It is by far the worst sight I have ever seen and the smells are sickening.” While walking across Vimy Ridge, he noted the stark, charred and blasted trunks of a group of shattered oaks. He looked over the site for something to take home as a memento of the place and found some acorns that had survived. He put them in his pocket and mailed them home. On receiving them, his father planted them on their Scarborough farm. When Leslie returned to Canada in February 1919 he made his way to Saskatchewan but the lure of the family homestead in Ontario was irresistible. He returned to work on his parents’ farm and in 1926 married Mary Isabel “Essie” Fraser. The couple took pos- session of a section of the farm and nurtured the oaks that had grown from his acorns. They named their farm “The Vimy Oaks.” Having no children of their own, the Millers sold the Vimy Oaks farm in 1965. In 2007 the Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church bought part of the original farm. A grove of ten oak trees still remains on the edge of that property as a reminder of the Miller farm and the Vimy oaks. When Leslie ran the farm, he hired students to help with the farm work during the summer and harvest time. One of those students was a lad named Monty McDonald. Leslie and Monty developed a special bond. In 2004 Monty McDonald made his way to France and made a special trip to Vimy to remind himself of the sto- ries that Leslie had told him about the epic battle. At the battlefield Monty noted that several groves of trees had become re-established; pines, maples and beeches, but no oaks had survived. When he returned home, Monty began a project that became known as the Vimy Oaks Repatriation Project. The objective was to eventually re-establish the oaks at Vimy. Monty had experts examine the oaks on the Milliken church grounds to check their origins. All agreed that these were not native Canadian trees but French oaks. The Vimy Foundation was created and the process of growing saplings began in January 2015. Acorns and scions from the Miller farm were nurtured and propa- gated. The aim of the foundation is to expand this proj- ect and repatriate the Vimy Oaks back to Vimy. (www. vimyoakslegacy.ca) In 2016 Calgarian Ryan Mullens heard about Green- bank resident Stephen Rensink and his flute-making talent. He met with Stephen and together they scoured Stephen Rensink and the Vimy Oak Flutes From a little acorn grew... 169 North Street, Port Perry 905-985-8416 • www.taylorforder.com Remembering Women’s Military Roles WE THANK YOU Canadian Women’s Army Corps members disembarking from a ship in Gourock, Scotland on 31 March, 1943. I N S U R A N C E Your protection is our policy