I received an email this morning from a gentleman and his family from the USA. It turns out that I had given them a guided tour back in the day and they wanted to thank me for keeping them updated on progress (or lack of it) via the blog. This of course put me in a quandary. When I lived in Harwich, I was caught up in the romanticism of building a working replica of the Mayflower and became a volunteer and guide. Anyway, I gave dozens of tours and spouted the Project line, while in the process of garnering lots of donations (as I was told to do).
Basically this guy was under the impression that there was a “goal” for funding and assumed his donation would help the build. Now he is aware that the funding for any build seems to be sourced separately, and he jokingly asked me to refund his 20 bucks because he has no idea where it ended up. After a good natured back and forth of emails, I offered to make a donation to a charity in a kind of reparation (more for myself I suppose) but he was adamant that it was fine and he would “refuse such a thing.”
Now, I have been to the US several times and have had cause to be aware of St Jude hospital for children and the amazing work they do. Long story short, we agreed that I would make a donation to this wonderful charity as an “apology.” 😉 So in the interests of openness and total transparency, and to you Mr W and family, here’s that donation!
As you can see there is a list of comments from readers of the blog over there on the right, and they are well worth a little read if you have time. The latest is as follows from “A resident” and refers to the recent community meeting.
Does anyone have any feedback on what happened at this meeting?
Being a totally transparent and responsible charity, one would assume that there would be something on their website, or social media, even a little “thank you to those who attended”. But as of this post, I can’t find anything at all.
There are thousands of people following this blog both here in the UK, and in the US as well (even in Brazil!). Every now and then, one of these lovely people will pass me on something Mayflower related. I have just been sent a link to a facebook video today and thought as I had a few minutes I’d watch it. After seeing it, I paused in disbelief and had to put a post up here.
Apparently there’s no such thing as bad publicity. But after seeing this promotional video, (link at bottom of page) I’m not so sure.
OK, let’s debunk the “fake news” that Sean Day (HMP Executive) thrives on and address the points he makes.
1: “The Mayflower was built in Harwich”
While the Mayflower is stated “Of Harwich” in port records, (this denotes where she was berthed at the time records were made) there is no verifiable proof that it was actually built in Harwich. But truthfully saying “We’re assuming she was built in Harwich” wont help the cause will it?
2: “We’re going to re-enact the journey in 2020”
The Project have been trying to get funding to build the ship since 2010. They have no funding and have set a cut off date of 8 months from today (March 2018) before they run out of time. There is no ship being built at this moment, and in my opinion they are aware there wont be a ship build. They’re just killing time until they announce they wont be building it, instead I think they’ll be looking to build a model on land as a tourist trap.
3: “We took over an old training school which is also on our estate”
The training school was closed “temporarily” in mid 2016 and remains closed. The building that housed it is now being used for a different purpose and it looks like the training school will remain closed. Hmm, “Our estate”. Nice choice of words, I’ll keep that in mind for the future.
4: “We’re about to open a national railway museum”
No you’re not. A national museum is one owned and operated by the state. Examples of National museums are The British Museum, The Imperial War Museum and The National Gallery in London. The Mayflower Project is about to open a small local “museum” run by themselves in a few rooms in a railway station.
5: “We will finish the ship on time”
The project has admitted it cannot even start the build because it has no (and cannot find) funding. How can you finish something if you haven’t even started it! But again, truthfully saying “If we manage to get funding and can build the ship, we hope to deliver it on time” wont help the cause.
6: “If you think you can help in any way, contact us”
Well dear reader, it’s your money. But ask yourself this. Is there a reason why these guys have been struggling to get funding for the last 7 years and have been turned down for lottery funding?
7: “When I read your email [about a swimming gala] I thought you were pulling my leg”
Sean mate, you’d go to the opening of an envelope.
8: “We have had confirmation that Branson will be on the maiden voyage”
I have contacted Mr Branson’s representatives, asking for confirmation of this and have also given them the link to this video asking them to confirm Sean Day’s statements and to verify Branson’s involvement with the Project.
9: “We’re top of the pops on trip advisor”
You’re actually number 8 of things to do, behind such places as The Electric Palace, The Redoubt Fort, Halfpenny Pier and the beach. The latest TripAdvisor comment on your page from 30th April was “Anything happening here?”
10 “1000 visitors a week”
That’s over 100 a day, really? You do of course have verifiable proof of that?
11. “Reinstating USA charity status”
If the HMP do reinstate their US charity status, I’d like to offer a little advice to all the Americans out there. If you want to help a ship build, please give your hard earned cash to the guys at Mystic Seaport who are doing an amazing job renovating Mayflower II.
Regarding the video, it’s painfully obvious how much the Harwich Mayflower Project misses Tom Daly (Ex Chairman) as a front man. Sean Day’s falseness and pathetic attempts at “humour” just go to emphasise the genuine warmth and charm of Tom Daly.
Mr Day. If you want to promote the Project and come across as a professional, please don’t try so hard to appear like nothing more than a bumbling Sunday market wide boy. And try not to tuck your shirt into your pants on camera. Seriously man, if you want to put across a professional persona, get some media training. Tom Daly oozed charm. You just seem to ooze false and untrustworthy.
[I have been flooded with an email saying I was negative towards Mr Day. On reflection, my comment about his dropping his “H’s” has nothing to do with his ability, or lack of it, to run the Project. As such I have removed the sentence that mentioned this]
If you look closely at the first few minutes of the video you can practically see Sean Day working the DM like a puppet. Mr DM You missed a golden opportunity right at the start of the vid to push Harwich and everything about it. Watch Sean Day as the Deputy Mayor speaks, you can practically see him thinking “Come on, come on, we rehearsed this so many times for God’s sake!”
Isn’t it about time the HMP came up with something new and fresh, apart from the same old rubbish they’ve been trotting out for the last 7 years or so. The same tired old jokes and facts were given to me to push when I was a volunteer guide. “Lady Gaga..hahaha. Swimming with a waterproof letter.” Oh my aching ribs ZZzzzzz. Sean, your routine is getting dated, you need some new material my friend. But at least you got a plug in for that hotel starting with an “M”.
This video is a prime example of all that is wrong with the Project. Unfortunately guys, you’ve shot yourselves in the foot and you come across as rank amateurs. Anyone watching this that has any sense at all would run a mile and take their money with them!
BRING BACK TOM DALY!!!!!
On the subject of Tom Daly. I’ve just heard that he is recovering after a spell in hospital and an operation. On behalf of this blog and its readers, I’d like to send him my best wishes for a speedy recovery.
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.
28th JUNE. UPDATE:
It has been pointed out to me that Mr Fidgett did in fact resign due to a serious health issue. I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of myself and the thousands of readers and subscribers of this blog to wish him well and send him best wishes for a speedy recovery.
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.
While I could not attend the recent Harwich Mayflower Project Open Session, there were people there who have contacted me with reports.
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.
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?
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.