Yet another Harwich Mayflower Project director resigns.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a company with a bigger turnover of directors!  The latest to “resign” (after less than 5 months) is Jeffrey Fidgett.

July Update. Yes, I know it’s June.

I usually try to do a half yearly update, but seeing as I wont be around for most of July and August, I’ve decided to do this a little early. Apologies for the hurried nature of the post and any errors, but I’m literally heading out the door!

The year started off as the last one ended, with no work of any sort taking place on a ship build. The HMP is a group of people with no shipbuilding experience based in a railway yard. Their staff consist of no shipwrights, and as such there continues to be no work of any sort on a build since 2014, and the current “build” consisting of a rapidly rotting part hull which has been deemed unusable (see below) still sits forlornly in the Railway Yard.

January: The chairman (Tom Daly*) “stands down” and Vice Chairperson (Lynda Chase-Gardner) “resigns” from the Project. Blanket reasons of “ill health” and “busy” are cited after they have gone but not attributed to either person. There was no further comment on why they left. But apparently they are still “advisers” to the Project.

February: The Harwich Mayflower Project loses it’s USA charity status, stating that they had “let it lapse”.

 February: The Harwich Mayflower has its Annual General Meeting. Apparently it was a very ‘lively” debate with the HMP of course standing their corner and apparently evading several probing questions and refusing to actually give direct answers to direct questions. Basically no one was any the wiser after the event than before it. As one attendee at the AGM said to me “A lot of those guys have great futures as politicians when they move on”

March: A Harwich resident sends the following to the Blog:

I’ve spent a lot of time around the project, looking over the walls nearly everyday; and I for one can’t understand these random side steps in progression with this project. If it’s failing, just admit it’s failing. Every article for the last 4 years covering this “community project” has shown it to be some god awful parody of what it perceives itself to be, some nautical historical Disney land. where the truth can only be described as “Carry on across the Atlantic”. Everything that goes slightly off target with it just gets the official response of “tis but a scratch” even though it’s had its arms chopped off and is standing on stumps, (don’t worry it’s official mayflower oak stumps, felled from the most holy of oak trees). The loss of charity status may not detriment it’s laughable income in donations from across the pond, but it does effect it’s status on the global stage as an “official” charity that wants to take place in these global 400 year anniversary celebrations that should be “bigger than all of the olympics and world cup games put together”, according to my last tour. I only want this project to seriously succeed so that when or if The Donald ever steps foot on it; I can at least watch them both sink together knowing that our backwater little town actually did something positive for the world.

But in all seriousness, I know my dreams of seeing this actually work out will never succeed because how can we take this seriously if it can’t get even the big business local to harwich itself on board? Where are those giant cheques from Hutchinsons or Trinity House, Where’s the list of businesses the HMP are on as official registered charities to lend it credence? Any small little idea can become a registered charity here in the UK. As far as i can see this has less substance, less impact on the local area, and less continual support from local business and credibility than a cat sanctuary that gets a few tins of cat food a week from Asda.

March: The local Harwich and Manningtree Standard  newspaper runs the following story.

Local council says “Harwich Mayflower Project no longer a major part of Harwich 2020 celebrations”

April: Still no sign of a ship build and the “temporary” closure of the Training school is still in place.

May: The HMP hold an “Open Session” for members of the public. A professional examiner of shipbuilding training was present at the meeting and stated the following:

“The build is not likely, especially as the structure as it stands would not pass scrutiny. Thus the build would have to start from scratch and I can’t see that happening”

The Project stated that they have set a cut off date of May 2018, which will see the Project unable to build a ship. It was said that if this is the case, the Project will revert to “Promotional activities” for the 2020 anniversary.

Questions were asked at the meeting,  such as “why is there such limited information” and “why are the opening hours so erratic” but apparently, all questions were met with a bland and well rehearsed “We will address your concerns”

Pretty routine stuff, but apparently things heated up when a member of the public was heard saying “Sean Day (staff) and Robert Day (Trustee) are well known local wide boys who should not be encouraged to continue with their plans”.

June: The Project’s opening hours are cut from 9-5 to 9-1. Maybe a lack of visitors? Their “New” website goes live.  They decide to use a framework I provided in 2015 and refuse to give me any credit. (see earlier post)

June: Another Director (Jeffrey Fidgett) resigns.

As of this post, and with the project stating they will “abandon all plans to build a ship if they do not have funding by March 2018″, I have to say that my optimism for a build has been practically extinguished. The Project’s current literature does seem to focus less on a build and more on a future consisting of a Harwich Heritage project. But as usual, I try to remain cautiously optimistic. As it has now been announced that the Project will be building an on shore replica, (which I forecasted in an earlier post) I am of the opinion that within a few months there will be an announcement of non committal to the original idea of a seagoing replica and the HMP will become little more than a Harwich museum.

*Tom Daly was one of the originators of the Harwich Mayflower Project back in 2006 or so (I may be a few years out either way). During my 18 months at the Project as a volunteer, I saw a great deal of Tom and spent a lot of time in his company. He is, in my opinion, one of the most personable and likeable men it has ever been my pleasure to meet. With his Irish lilt and obvious charm, he quickly became the front man for the Project. He made numerous TV and radio appearances and was often quoted in print talking about the Project. It is he who when asked by a TV reporter what would have happened if the ship hadn’t sailed, replied “Turkeys would be safe!” His devotion to the Project and the people of Harwich is unquestioned. Of course, I have no idea why he stepped down, but I’d still like to mention him here.

Several years ago I sat in on a meeting which Tom headed, discussing the future of the project. Without divulging any personal or HMP details, it is fair to say that by the end of the meeting, Tom’s love of the Project was obvious. He was close to tears when talking about the future of the Project and made an offer to pay any future shortfall in wages for Project workers from his own pocket, should the need arise. That is the measure of the man. His only thought was for the people working at the HMP and their immediate futures. In my opinion, Tom Daly was always only interested in what he could give to the HMP and how it would benefit the people of Harwich. He had no thought of making anything out of it for himself. I know from first hand experience the amount of time Mr Daly spent at the Project and I would assume (although I have no knowledge of it) that he also spent a lot of money on the Project as well.

Bearing this in mind, I find it amazing, and to be honest, a little sad, that the Project has so far made no public announcement thanking him for all his hard work after he stepped down. So with that in mind, I would like to publicly offer my own thanks.

Tom, thank you for all the hard work, time, and energy you put into the Project over the last ten or so years. Your presence as an honest and straightforward talking gentleman was a huge benefit to the HMP and I imagine it will be sorely missed. It was a pleasure to have known you and to have spent time in your company and the Mayflower Project is all the worse for your moving on. While I remain cautiously optimistic for a ship build, I think that without someone like you with your obvious love for the Project at the helm, someone who didn’t see what was in it for him, someone who wanted nothing more than to see the Ship floating alongside Harwich pier, and someone who put others before himself, I believe the build will be so much harder to achieve.

Again, from an ex volunteer. Thank you for everything you did for the HMP and for Harwich.

An update from a Harwich Mayflower Project Trustee.

This will be my last blog for a little while, although I’ll still be contactable via email and the “contact author” section, I will be unable to update any posts while I’m away. I’ve several things lined up before shortly heading off to the USA, travelling coast to coast over 12 weeks or so for research for a novel, as well as securing funds for MS and diabetes charities.

There was a comment on my last blog from a reader which stated “An opportunity to come clean now, surely. It would take just one Trustee, one honest person to take advantage of JK’s busy schedule and write the truth. By August?”

It seems someone was listening and a Mr Tony Elliston, a trustee and Vice Chairperson of the HMP has contacted me on behalf of the Project. We’ve been in conversation for a few days and he said that he’d like to put forward some HMP info for inclusion on the blog. So after a Trustee meeting today, I have been sent the following info and with the permission of Mr Elliston I am passing it on. I have placed my thoughts in brackets.

We intend to ask people in Harwich what they think and the way this process is starting is via the consultation meetings, the first of which was held last month. We are planning the next one and will announce the date shortly.

[Yes! Better late than never, this is so very badly needed. Not only do the people of Harwich need to know what is happening, they deserve a say in the future of their town. If these consultations are properly arranged and managed, they will be a great platform for the people of Harwich.]

Following today’s (Friday 16th June) Trustees meeting, we can tell you that, while we will continue to try to secure funds for the USA 2020 trip until we literally run out of time (March 2018) we have now committed to also build a shore based replica of the Mayflower which will remain in Harwich. This means that whether the USA trip happens or not, the Mayflower will be the centrepiece of Harwich celebrations in 2020.

[The original cut off date was announced as May 2018, it seems to have moved forward. I did state in an earlier post that I thought that the build would become a static visitor attraction, seems I was on the button with that one. I also stated that I saw the Project moving more in the direction of a heritage centre and moving away from a build. In my personal opinion I think that too is looking extremely probable. I feel that the HMP will become a central focus point for all things related to Harwich, but I can’t get rid of that nagging doubt that the dream of building a replica ship and sailing it to the US has died.]

We have drafted a volunteer policy for the organisation and we see this as the first step in enhancing the status of volunteers. In the next week or so, we will be seeking to re-establish the volunteers team and appoint a co-ordinator. We will be writing to those people who have volunteered in the past and undertaking a general advertising campaign.

An article in the Standard today talked about our new initiative. The station was not being used for training so, in collaboration with a local collector, we are establishing a transport heritage centre there. The station is being put back to the 1920s. One room is completed so far and volunteers are pressing ahead with four more. We should be able to announce an opening date soon. The Hazelton collection is also going to be properly curated and displayed, this includes a 1620’s showcase.

[Does this mean that the “temporarily closed” Training Centre is now permanently closed?]

The Trustees agreed today to re-establish the supporters group and (from the consultation meetings and wider) establish an advisory group so that Harwich people have a direct input into the project.

[Again, a very positive step in the right direction]

Looking ahead, we have invited the Military Wives Choir to perform at St Nicholas Church on 7th October. Tickets are available now at £15 and already in demand.  [OK, I’ll let you get a free plug in 😉 ]

We are widening the vision but I think that is the way to make a difference here in Harwich.

[in my opinion, build or no build, anything that improves Harwich for the residents and promotes tourism and the wonderful town of Harwich can only be a good thing]

I had sent a mail to Mr Elliston ending with this paragraph.. “..So, let me state one thing for the record and you can quote me on this. If the Harwich Mayflower Project builds a seagoing replica ready to set sail to the US on 6th September 2020, I will stand on that ship while it’s in Harwich pier, walk the plank naked, and jump into the sea!”

 Re the final paragraph of your last email, perhaps it would be kinder not to build the ship, is Harwich ready for you naked!

A vice chair with a sense of humour, things are definitely looking up at the Project!!

Well that’s it from me for now. Huge thanks to Tony Elliston at the HMP for reaching out and allowing me access to info from the Trustees meeting.

The “new” HMP Website

I don’t really have the time for this and wanted the six month update to be my last post before I head off for while, but…

I was recently asked by someone from the Project to explain why I was so vexed with what they are doing. I replied it was less being vexed and more a case of trying to balance the Project’s misinformation. But now, now I guess you could call me slightly vexed.

I try to stay impartial and objective with this blog and not let any personal feelings interfere with what I write here. So I’m apologising in advance for more of a personal blog than I usually write, and for what is basically a bit of a rant. But I feel that I need to speak out so as not to not allow myself to be taken advantage of.

The HMP have a “new” website which they are currently trumpeting, and is credited as the work of  “GSL”. I’ve tried to keep this post as short and concise as I can, so please bear with me. I have also had to include various messages here as proof of what transpired, in the knowledge that the HMP may try to say different, or say they “didn’t know”.

I feel a little back story is called for. I own a small IT company, and I have also coded, designed and currently run one of the biggest websites of its kind, regularly pulling in over 25million hits per month. So it’s safe to say I’m good at what I do and I know my job. During my time volunteering  at the HMP, I worked on their existing website to help update it as much as I could, even though I felt it was dated and hard to navigate. In mid 2015 I put a proposal to Sean Day of the HMP to upload a whole new website. One of the services my company provides is building bespoke websites for clients that can run into several months work. But for those who want a cheap, quick and easy option we offer a template service. Basically, we’ll obtain an existing template and simply copy and paste the clients info into it. This is what I proposed for the Project and presented them with a demo using a template called “SouthCentral”. The template is available here for $40 if you’re interested  https://wplift.com/theme/southcentral

I had put several of HMP’s images in the header and added paragraphs about the Project and what it was doing. I altered several of the areas and made them appropriate to the Project. I explained that it could be further enhanced by various plugins that could for example have tabbed browsing and even a shop. My idea was that this would be a more modern looking site and as it was all on one scrolling page, very straightforward and easy to navigate.

At this time there was a young man called Greg helping at the project. Greg is a friend of Mr Sean Day (staff) and still visits the Project today, he’s very IT savvy and keen to learn. I asked if he’d like to help me with the new website as he’d learn something about web design and how to use a WordPress template, things that might be handy to know. So I explained how it worked and he helped get the demo up and running. A little while later the full demo with HMP material added was shown to the HMP who liked it but eventually decided not to go with it. That wasn’t a problem, and a little while later I moved out of Harwich and back to London, leaving the Project behind. I then received a mail once I no longer helped out, mentioning the demo. This again acknowledges the Project is aware of the site I prepared….

Dear James,

Sean was with Gregory and I when I asked for the login [for the demo].  I would very much like to see the Mayflower Demo site – and that is why I asked Gregory for those login details – unless you have another way of showing it to me online?

Many thanks.

My reply (Oct 2015)  is below. I wasn’t going to just show this person what I’d done so they could copy it…

Over the last few months I have been working with [Greg] on a demo of a website which we believe would be a huge improvement on the current Harwich Mayflower site, in fact everyone who has seen it (including Mr. Day) has said that it is a fabulous achievement and a major improvement over what the Project currently has. In my professional opinion (as CEO of a server management and website design/hosting company with over 14 years experience) the current HMP site does nothing to promote the Project. The same must also be said for the Project’s social media output which to be honest, is lacklustre and amateurish at best.

I’m sure you will be aware of the positive impact a well designed website and managed social media can have on a company. You will also appreciate that a poorly managed media output will have a significantly negative impact on the same company.

From a recent conversation I had with [Greg] it would seem that you have asked for details of the new ‘Frame’. I’m assuming this refers to the ‘Mayflower Demo’ project which [Greg] and myself are working on. The demo which we have put together is an example of our work and is not in the public domain. It is to be used to show what we can do for the Project and to enlighten the Project as to how our work is a major improvement on what you have at the moment.

 

On previously seeing the demo, Mr Sean Day (staff) said via mail (again proof of the demo website)

…looking at the demo this is already much better than previous.

Now, fast forward 2 years and the Project unveils a “New” site by GSL. Imagine my surprise when I realised the website is using the SouthCentral template I originally submitted and is basically a photocopy of what I had worked on and shown as a demo in 2015. All that has been updated is the news and images, which I guess is to be expected after two years. I contacted Greg and asked about the site… [images can be clicked on to enlarge]  This is confirmation that I did indeed work on the demo site and it was the basis for the “new’ site.

Yep it IS only fair. “Don’t mention anything about James”? Wow, Really? well if nothing else, it’s proof that the Project admits it knew I worked on the site but wanted to keep my name out of it.

The following is confirmation that Greg is indeed the “GSL” that worked on this “New” site.

In a nutshell, I supplied the canvas, the brushes, a paint by numbers picture and explained how to do the painting, then someone came along, bought their own canvas,  copied my picture, put a splotch of colour on my work and called it their own while protesting “But I bought my own canvas!” I did ask for a credit, but in all honesty I think there’s more chance of the Harwich Mayflower Project building a ship. I’d rather just let people know how this “new” site came into being.  If nothing else, this has taught me two things. Greg is easily led and somewhat naive, and the Project’s ideals don’t seem to have changed since I moved on. I have contacted Greg and asked for some form of credit on the site, but after a week of asking, that request has been ignored. Of course, the basic template is freely available to purchase by anyone to do what they want with, including the Project, and it was purchased. But ownership of a template isn’t the issue here. The issue is that without using my knowledge, input, ideas and work on the demo, there would be no new site. They wouldn’t even know about this template, never mind how to set the thing up. They could have used a different template, or coded their own site from scratch, but they went down the easier route of using what I had previously given them. So a thank you and a small credit would’ve been appreciated. Too much to ask? I think not.

Again, apologies for what is more of a personal post than usual.

 

Mayflower Project “Open Session” report.

While I could not attend the recent Harwich Mayflower Project Open Session, there were people there who have contacted me with reports.

A professional examiner of shipbuilding training was present at the meeting and stated the following:

“The build is not likely, especially as the structure as it stands would not pass scrutiny. Thus the build would have to start from scratch and I can’t see that happening”

The representative of the Project denied this was the case, but it did emerge that they have set a cut off date of May 2018, which will see the Project unable to build a ship. It was said that if this is the case, the Project will revert to “Promotional activities” for the 2020 anniversary.

While I myself do not have a history of ships or shipbuilding, ( and neither it seems do the Harwich Mayflower Project as  public records show their Trustees vary from “retired” to “woodlands manager” ,  “Ex wing commander” and “Hotelier” the  youngest being 63 and the eldest 74 as of 2017. I believe the staff of 2 or 3 also consist of nobody with any history of shipbuilding or the business of building ships either) I am becoming more and more of the opinion that the Mayflower Project will probably end up as a Heritage Centre for Harwich and simply promote Harwich during the 2020 celebrations.

But as usual I remain cautiously optimistic.Several questions were asked at the meeting,  such as “why is there such limited information” and “why are the opening hours so erratic” but apparently, questions were met with a bland and well rehearsed “We will address your concerns”
Pretty routine stuff, but apparently things heated up when someone was heard saying “Sean Day (staff) and Robert Day (Trustee) are well known local *wide boys who should not be encouraged to continue with their plans”. Now while I have no knowledge of Robert Day (apart from once overhearing “The best thing about him is that he’s not his brother Sean” )  I did spend 18 months in the company of Sean while I was a volunteer.

It would seem that in the lack of any concrete information coming from this meeting, the one thing we can take from it is that as of this month, it seems the HMP have a year to get funding in place. Fingers crossed.

*For my American followers, Wikipedia states that Wide boy is a British term for a man who lives by his wits, wheeling and dealing.

Harwich and the Mayflower

OK, let’s get this straight right from the start…

The Mayflower DID NOT sail from Harwich to America.

Now a little about me before I give you the concrete information that disputes this.

I lived in Harwich for three years and was a volunteer at the Harwich Mayflower Project for 18 months. During that time and before it, I read as many books on the Mayflower as I could get my hands on. During my time at the Project, one of the many things I did was to give guided tours, and I was regularly praised on my knowledge and “bringing the voyage to life”.  In the time since I moved out of Harwich and back to London I have retained my interest and have visited Holland, Rotherhithe, Plymouth and Southampton over the last 8 months, gathering information and research for a novel to be published in late November 2019. At the end of this year I will be spending two months in the USA, which will culminate with my visiting Boston, Plimoth Plantation, and surrounding areas. Again for research.

The following appeared in the local Harwich newspaper on 12th May:

“In the 17th century the Pilgrim ship the Mayflower set sail from Harwich to America.”

I have no idea where the newspaper got this information, but at best they have been misinformed and at worst they have been lied to.

I also received an email a while ago stating that I should be “proud of a town such as Harwich that sent the Pilgrims to America”. First off, Harwich is a wonderful town, but it definitely played no part in sending the pilgrims to America, apart from the Mayflower Captain Christopher Jones being born there. The Ship itself cannot be traced to a shipyard where it was built. Records from 1609 show Jones as being the Captain of the Mayflower.  In port books of 1609 to 11 the Mayflower is said to be “Of Harwich”. While this means the Mayflower was definitely in Harwich, there is no proof to show she was built there, but then again, there is no proof to show she wasn’t.

In 1611 Jones (and the Mayflower) left Harwich and moved to Rotherhithe. This was to be his home until his death in 1622. Various records in the years after Jones arrived in Rotherhithe show his ship on the Thames. Rotherhithe was her home port and it was where she returned to in 1621 when returning from America.

In William Bradford’s Of Plimoth Plantation, he states “A small ship was bought and fitted in Holland..” (The Speedwell) and “Another was hired in London and things were made ready” (The Mayflower).  The Mayflower was hired at Rotherhithe and went on to meet the Speedwell in Southampton where they left for the new world before having to return due to issues with Speedwell. They then carried on their journey in the Mayflower as the speedwell was deemed unseaworthy.

The Pilgrims journey to America started from Rotherhithe, making their way to Southampton, but their final port of call in the UK was Plymouth.

If I drove my car from Harwich to London and lived in London driving to work every day and sometimes going further afield, then 9 years later I drove a family from London to the coast in that same car, would you say my journey to the coast started from Harwich?

 

UPDATE

I have received the following from  Mr. Paul Simmons:

I was the official Internet researcher for the Mayflower Project and found out lots of information that has never come to light before.

One of those snippets was that Christopher Jones, before the recognised sailing from Redruthe to Southampton, brought his wife, who was pregnant, and his children to Harwich, to stay with their relatives. At the same time the extra crew he required for the journey were hired and were mainly Harwich Peninsula men. Thus it can be argued that the Mayflower set sail to the New World from Harwich, via Southampton, Dartmouth and Plymouth.

The salient remark here is “argued”.  While we definitely know from parish records that Jones’ youngest was baptised in Harwich and that his wife was there during his voyage, even if it could be proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that the ship was in Harwich a day before being chartered in London, (which it cannot as far as I’m aware) it would not have had any passengers on it. The pilgrims boarded the two vessels in Holland and London. That is (unarguably) where their voyage started.  Where does one draw the line?  Before it was in London the Mayflower was trading in Europe, do we therefore say the journey to the US started in France? I’m afraid I cannot, nor I believe would anyone else, (apart from maybe from someone with a vested interest) say that the Pilgrims voyage started in Harwich.

Harwich Mayflower Project, Open Session.

The Harwich Mayflower Project has announced an Open Session to allow  “people with concerns about the Project to question a Trustee” (taken from Harwich and Manningtree Standard Fri 12th May). If you are local and have any concerns, please attend.

The time and date of the session is Thursday May 18th at 9.30am. A time when most people who have any concerns may be at work. But, the Project has of course set up a special email address where anyone with a concern can send in their questions… Oh wait, they haven’t.

So, please be prepared for the Project’s announcement of “We asked for people with concerns to turn up and only 2 arrived”.  Why was this not set for a time in the evening when the people of Harwich could actually be there.  Surely one of the Trustees, who are mostly retired individuals, can spare a few hours in the evening to meet members of the public? The same public that they are taking donations from.  As I’ve said before, it’s not rocket science is it?

I for one can’t be there, but if anyone who is reading this can be there, could you please ask a question for me?  “Dear Trustee, as there has been no ship build since 2014 and you have been, and are still taking donations from the public for a “Build” which is non-existent at the moment, can you please state (with records to back it up) what these donations from the public have been used for?”

Now that this question is in the public domain, the Project will no doubt have their usual “politician style” prepared answer ready.

There are of course lots of unanswered questions concerning this “Charity”, but they’re best left for members of the public to ask on Thursday.