As you’ve no doubt noticed, I have not had the time recently to update this blog, only popping in once every few months to do a bit of ‘housekeeping’.
Although The Harwich Mayflower Heritage Centre/Project is no longer building a sea going ship, it does seem to be promoting a land based build and a railway museum. Hopefully both these endeavours will fare better than the “Ship build” which sadly came to nothing.
It’s a crying shame that such a wonderful idea of building a sea going Mayflower replica in Harwich and sailing it to the USA never really got off the ground. What a wonderful and absolutely magical thing that would have been, standing on Ha’penny Pier and watching the ship sail away. But that’s all in the past now. Maybe it was bad management, maybe it was a lack of foresight, or maybe it was something else that prevented the build, but (after being at the place for 18 months) I can certainly say it wasn’t due to a lack of enthusiastic staff. The shipwright and carpenters were amazing people and highly skilled, as were the staff at the Training centre (now sadly closed). As for the people at the helm, well most have moved on now, but a few still remain and I hope to God they do a better job with the museum than they did with the “build” and learn from their mistakes.
Some of my fondest memories of the Mayflower Project were of the people on the “shop floor” and how hard they worked to make it a success. But the one memory that I will take away from my time there is of one man in particular. Tom Daley. I sat in on a meeting one Monday morning, there was a long table with all the staff seated around it and Tom was seated at the top. The meeting was to discuss finances and how the Project was on the verge of being unable to stay afloat financially. It looked like there wasn’t enough funding to pay wages. Tom gave a stirring speech for several minutes about what the Mayflower meant to him, and how he knew what it meant to the people around the table. As the tears welled up in his eyes, he promised there and then that any shortfall in wages for the foreseeable future would be made from his own pocket. I’ve never seen such passion and honesty from someone. I was pretty close to tears myself. I walked out of that meeting wanting to find and hammer and some nails and start building the ship myself!! I’m pretty sure if the Project consisted of three Tom Daleys at the helm, it would have been built and been the success we all wanted it to be.
Harwich is a wonderful town, with an amazing maritime history. It (and it’s residents) deserve nothing but the best, I hope the HMHC can deliver on their promises this time.
As for me, well I’m signing off. I no longer have the time to update this page. I’ve become involved with an MS charity and spend my time raising funds to fight MS. That is what is taking my time now. In the last few years I’ve cycled over 3000 miles coast to coast across the US. I’ve cycled along the coast of Ireland, and taken my bike from Lands end to John o’ Groats and back again. Tens of thousands of pounds have been raised and I’ve been able to meet patients and see the good my money is doing. So as I plan a bicycle ride around Europe, I want to say thank you to the thousands of people that have read this blog over the years and those who have taken the time to comment.
This blog will remain online, but will no longer be updated. I am closing my email and will not come back here with any further updates.
UPDATE: I’ve added a comment received after this was first posted.
Sorry for the lack of updates here, but I started this blog to follow a ship build, which unfortunately came to nothing. I didn’t create it to follow a rail “museum”, which is currently what the Harwich mayflower Heritage Centre/Project are promoting.
So as the ship build is dead in the water and there is no progress at all with any kind of a build, I’ve had nothing to update. The only thing I can pass on (apart from the usual directors coming and going) is that there has been a name change. The Harwich Mayflower Project has become Harwich Mayflower Heritage Projects LTD.
As far as the Charity goes, it seems from the pic below (of a charity name check) that the Mayflower Project which was registered as the Charity arm of the project is now renamed asThe Harwich Mayflower Heritage centre. Pic from. Charitycommission.gov.uk
So it would seem the debacle that was the Mayflower Project has finally been laid to rest. R.I.P Harwich Mayflower Project.
Therefore, as this is now a limited company and not a charity – all donations, including those given by visiting North American tourists MUST be returned to them, as it was taken on the premise that a ship was to be built. This does not look good for the town and all the hard work that will be done regarding the 400th anniversary in 2020. My book “The Mayflower of Harwich” which is on sale with Amazon, praises the hard work that was being done when I wrote it, regarding Harwich rising from the ashes to celebrate the 400th anniversary by building a replica of the most famous ship that ever sailed. I am now very much embarassed about writing it !!
I usually do an ‘end of year’ update here, but due to an extended period of travelling, and wanting to wait until the Project’s cut off date (*”If funds are not in place by the cut off point of March 2018, then trustees have to look expand their vision to encourage visitors to Harwich”) I decided to wait for any news, and to update the blog a little later than usual.
The main point of interest last year regarding the build and the Project was its rebranding and museum:
* “The charity is also rebranding itself as the Harwich Mayflower Heritage Centre as it looks to create the biggest tourist attraction in Tendring”. Still no shipbuild.
One would assume a rebranding would be just that. A changing of the brand, removing the old name and replacing with the new. But this is not the case. On September 22nd 2017 a company called “The Harwich Mayflower Heritage Centre” was set up with a secretary (Graham Richardson) and four directors (Robert Clow, Robert Day, Tony Elliston and Fred Nichols). “The Harwich Mayflower Project” still exists and in Jan 2018 a new and 17th Director ( Andrew Winmill) was added to the existing ones (John Acton, Robert Day, Tony Elliston and Fred Nicholls). It is also worth noting that there is no registered charity in the name of “The Harwich Mayflower Heritage Centre”, although the “Harwich Mayflower Project” is registered as a charity. It seems that the “Project” is incorporated under the “Heritage” umbrella.
As there is no “Heritage Centre” charity registered, one would assume they are no longer soliciting for public donations in the “Heritage” name? Hopefully all will be made clear when the official website is back online. Maybe the “Heritage” is museum related and NOT charitable, while the “Project” is to do with shipping and IS charity funded? But if it’s one entity, “The Heritage Project”, how does it stand regarding charity status and taking donations from the public?
As we reach March, with the Project/Heritage centre website down yet again and with no Mayflower build taking place since 2014 and no announcement of funding, one would assume that the build will not go ahead and they will build the promised land-based project instead. If I hear different I will of course update the blog.
The Project/Heritage centre has made some progress in the last year with the opening of a Railway/shipping museum, which I hope will be of benefit to Harwich and visitors alike. The picture below is from theHeritage centre/Project facebook page. As Harwich has a long, varied and extremely interesting maritime history, hopefully it wont be long before the museum reflects this.
That’s it for now, not much to say as there seems to be not much happening regarding the shipbuild, and there seems to be a lack of updates at the moment.
EDIT: The following was sent as a comment to this post, but I feel it needs to be placed here as an update.
“Just to say that in the last ‘Tendring News’ magazine the HMP stated that the new planned ‘ocean sailing’ Mayflower replica was dead, however a team of workers and shipwrights will start on a Harwich based replica this year. Tom Daly has been made president of the HMP.”
*quotes taken from The Harwich and Manningtree Standard newspaper.
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!
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.