So, I’m back in the UK for a bit before heading off on my travels to the states. Before I go, I thought I’d let those of you thinking of visiting the Mayflower Project during the school Summer Holidays know just what to expect. These photos were taken within the last week.
No signs, no information, just a weathered piece of paper stuck to the door. Run down, abandoned, neglected, totally uninspiring and of course, no ship build. I’ll ask the question yet again: Where did all those donations go?
Remember Mr Sean Day’s (HMP Executive) proud boast a month or so back? “We’re top of the pops on tripadvisor.” (They were actually languishing at Number 8)
As the old saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
The Harwich Mayflower and Heritage Project ( a new name) has recently released a Position Statement. I have taken the main points from it and posted them here. By the way, I did mention in a post a while back that they would probably be changing their name to something like “The Harwich Heritage Project” as they centered on Harwich history and not a ship build. I guess someone at the Project reads the blog. 🙂
Anyway, before highlighting the main points of the “Statement”. Let’s start with this little nugget which caught my eye:
The Trustees are aware that there are individuals who, for whatever reason, wish to undermine our Volunteers and the Charities work. This is expressed in letters to the press and in the content of the “Ships Blog”.
In the words of the immortal bard “methinks you doth protest too much”.
Looking for answers to questions (and not getting any) is not undermining anything. Local residents writing to newspapers and putting their point across is not a crime, nor is there anything wrong with it. Correcting misinformation supplied by The Project will not affect volunteers. In fact, Just because several local Harwich residents have the guts to actually make a stand and ask questions when something seems amiss, it does not mean that there is some kind of vendetta to undermine the Project. What it means is that there are people who may see something that seems not right and are willing to stand up and voice their opinion, even when shouted down. It is inherently wrong for a registered charity to denigrate the very people that they are looking to for support, the Harwich local community. Instead of being negative towards these local people, the Project should be welcoming them in and addressing their concerns and issues. They should be trying to show them that their perceptions are wrong and backing that up with concrete reasoning and facts and figures.
The very fact that the residents of Harwich are writing letters, trying to get answers, and submitting comments to this blog, would probably start alarm bells ringing for anyone wishing to undertake dealings with the Harwich Mayflower Heritage Project.
While the Project continues to be opaque, offers misinformation and refuses to answer the most basic of queries, there will always be members of the public wondering why that is so, whether it be in newspaper print, social media or via this blog. I can’t speak for the residents of Harwich, so I’ll speak for myself: As long as my backside faces the ground, I’ll keep exposing the misinformation and fake news that the Harwich Mayflower Heritage Project is so keen to promote.
The Trustees will respond respectfully to genuine complaints and criticism.
In other words “If you ask us something that we don’t want you to know, we wont tell you”
“Genuine complaints”? Please note, counterfeit complaints will not be entertained in any way shape or form!
Well then, here’s a genuine complaint and criticism for the Project. Why do you continually refuse to inform the local Harwich people (and others) as to what you have done with their generous donations? The donations have not gone on a ship build so where have they gone?
And another genuine (not made up) criticism. Why can you not make a plan and stick to it, why do you have to make things up as you go along and continually mislead the public that have so generously kept you afloat (pun intended) for so long? The ship was going to take 36months to build (source: local press), then it was going to take 2 years and then it was going to take 2 years but not including “port visits” that no one had previously bothered to mention. Your last cost estimate for a build a few months ago was 4 million, now all of a sudden it’s 10 million. What has changed in a few months that has cost an extra 6 million?
If it was “Always your intention to build a land based ship” can you please tell me where this was promoted and mentioned before now as I have scoured local press and online and can find no mention of it before this document.
I await your respectful response.
Here are the highlights of the Project Statement.
In recognition of his unstinting commitment and generosity to the project Tom Daly has been invited to become President of the Charity. The Trustees are delighted to welcome Tom into this role.
HURRAH!! I recently made a post thanking Tom Daly for all his hard work with the Project. I also said a few posts back that Tom Daly was a guiding light for the project and that Sean Day was not a suitable frontman. I asked for Mr Daly to be brought back. It would seem that someone at the Project reads the blog.
We recognise that construction of an ocean going vessel is a significant undertaking and requires an investment of some £10m at today’s prices.
As I stated above, why the sudden increase to 10 million? Is it because I mentioned in a post a while back that the people at Mystic Seaport estimated a new Mayflower build would cost approx 10 million pounds and not the 4 million the HMP stated? It would seem that someone at the Project reads the blog.
It was always the intention that once the seagoing vessel was built another would be constructed which would remain in Harwich. The Trustees have brought forward this commitment.
As I said, where was this intention made public? I mean, you haven’t just made it up on the spur of the moment to cover the fact that you wont be building a seagoing ship anytime soon… Have you? I did mention in a post a while back that I assumed the ship would probably end up being built in kit form or be a static build. It would seem that someone at the Project reads the blog.
The Station buildings are to be adapted to house two significant historic collections.
The Bob Clow collection of Rail Memorabilia.
The Hazelton Collection.
One would assume that these items are on loan and that Mr Clow and Mr Hazelton have obtained a signed contract from the Project stating that their items are on loan for a certain amount of time and that they remain their property. Also, regarding Mr Clow’s collection, an interesting point is that it was originally discussed way back in 2001 that Mr Clow was going to open a rail museum. Click for original story in the Essex County Standard
The Trustees are committed to listening to the local community, the regular community meetings will continue and steering groups will be established to support initiatives across the organization. Times for this will be varied to allow access by as many people as possible.
Listening is one thing, acting on what you hear is another thing entirely. The last meeting was so poorly advertised that I’d be surprised if even the project staff knew when it was! I have always said in this blog that the Project needs to be more transparent in its dealings, and pay attention to the local community. It would seem that someone at the Project reads the blog. (Again!) Look guys, let’s cut out the middle man, why don’t you just ask me what direction you need to take, because it seems I can see into the future!
UPDATE: This meeting has now been re scheduled to 4pm
Just heard from Mr Tony Elliston that the next HMP community meeting for everyone in Harwich and beyond to visit the Project and raise concerns, or just ask questions or queries, has been pencilled in for 11 July at 9.30am. My reply is below.
You’re having a community meeting at 9.30am on a weekday again? Can you please explain the reasoning behind that? Why have a community meeting when most of the community will be at work, and those who don’t work will be looking after families, or be at school, or college. Surely you want to see (and hear) as much of the local community as possible? Surely you want as many opinions and comments from the good people of Harwich as you can get. Come on, work with me on this, prove to me and the people of Harwich that you’re the man I think you are, and have your next (and every future) community meeting at 7.30pm in the evening.
NB. My original reply did say “..who don’t work will probably be in bed”. A very poor and sleepy assumption on my part at nearly 4am, so with apologies, I have corrected myself here. I’ve also added “every future meeting” as well for clarification.
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.
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.
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 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.