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 !!
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Well I guess the Project is struggling for cash a little more than I suspected. Why else would they be selling their large industrial saw that’s used to chop through tree trunks? Surely it’ll be needed for when the funds come rolling in and they start building the ship? Or then again, maybe after the local council told them they are no longer a major part of the 2020 celebrations, they’ve decided to downsize? Who knows.
Anyways, in an effort to help them out, I’m going to give them a little free publicity in the hope they can sell it. It’s available on ebay if you’re interested and here’s the screen shot.