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.
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.
As my little blog has today received it’s 300th email follower and sees an average of 1000 visitors a week from all over the world, but mostly the USA (waves to everyone across the pond). I think it’s time I got back in the swing of things and gave you guys an update.
Well it’s been almost a year since the last update to the build (the adding of a frame) and since then… Absolutely nothing has happened. The existing build still lays in the yard as it did ten months ago, the only difference is that it’s weathered and worn and starting to crack as it’s continually exposed to the elements. I’m not a shipwright, although I’m guessing that by now, some of the build will be unusable and will have to be replaced.
Talking of Shipwrights, I’d like to say a big thank you to Chris who contributed some excellent pictures and words to earlier posts. He was the one and only Shipwright at the Mayflower and has now moved on to other things. A great guy and very skilled at his chosen trade, I’d like to wish him well in whatever he’s doing now.
So, nearly a year and there’s been no work done on the build. As you know I have no access to the inner workings of the Project and I know no more than anyone outside the Project, which at the moment is absolutely nothing. There are no newsletters coming out, no announcements, no posts on the website as to why there hasn’t been any work on the build and the Facebook and Twitter feeds are less than useless for information. There has been no contact from anyone at the Project to say what is happening or why work has stopped, although it seems the local community is starting to feel a little uneasy. I’ve had several comments sent on to me to the effect that the Project is “a scam” and mentioning “friends and families” contacting “the Charities Commission”. While I have no idea as to the basis for these comments, nor in fact do I assume there to be any misappropriation of funds or any wrongdoing at the Project, this gives an example of feelings amongst the community that have risen due to (one would assume) a lack of any information.
I would hope that the New Year will bring news of a flurry of activity as the build progresses, but at the moment, who knows.
There you go, that’s all from me for now. Not much of an update, but then there’s nothing that’s been updated! If there is any change at the project I will of course let you know, but change or not, my next post will be my usual end of year update.
I am still hopeful that I will be able to stand on the Harwich Quay in 2020 and wave off the Mayflower as she sets sail to The New World. Unfortunately as we sail into 2016, there’s a small part of me that thinks I may be walking past a derelict railway yard full of rotting oak instead. James Kelly: theshipsblog.net