There have been many changes with the maritime sector past and present. Change is all around us and that will continue but change must come with progress for the Watch Ashore. You here today and those at home have helped make a difference during my chairmanship over the past 4 years.
During 2015 we were saddened to hear that Rita Richards past National Executive treasurer had passed away. members from the Humber branch where she had been made an Honorary Branch president, attended her funeral and I also received a lovely letter from her family in response to the sympathy card we sent. I received news that Jean Jones, our former National Exec secretary's husband had passed away and then our dear friend Graham Warren. All will be sadly missed but on a brighter note I am delighted that both Pat and Jean have joined us for this weekend.
Agnes Macfarlane was booked, packed and ready to travel when she had a fall and was advised not to come, and poor June Geddes is making slow progress following surgery a few weeks ago. Some of our other members including Barbara and Ian decided to bite the bullet and stay at home this year – all will be missed and we wish them all a speedy recovery.
Since the last AGM we have been delighted that the Watch Ashore project has been stimulating interest – Ina will give an update later but suffice it to say that the project with MNWB came to an end last month and they are finalising their end of project report this month which they have assured us will be copied to us. Obviously this will be sent to branch secretaries for issue to all members, but Peter Tomlin has sent me a draft copy of an article he is hoping will appear in Nautilus International Telegraph and the MNA, this was handed out at the council meeting yesterday and there's a copy here. He says the project has been all about the MNWB helping the Watch Ashore to help itself. It has provided a small group of keen volunteers with the tools and skills they need to achieve their goals. Thanks to the enthusiastic approach of these volunteers it has successfully raised its profile and is adding new members.
We were especially delighted to have two names put forward to become Vice Chairman, considering in the past we hadn't had any volunteers, my thanks to Lynda de Boo and Christine Payne. Unfortunately before we got to the voting stage, Lynda had to pull out due to personal circumstances, but I'd like to express my thanks to her for putting her head above the parapet! It just shows that we all still want to continue!
We will need to vote on Christine taking up office just to ensure we have followed the correct procedures.
Our tree is flourishing at Mariners Park and we had a plaque put in place with wording suggested from Barbara and Ian – commemorating 80 years of the Watch Ashore supporting our Merchant Marine. Jennie has brought some photos for us to see too. We were also approached to be part of an event in the Hull Maritime Museum (February- June 2016) where Lady Headleys chain of office was displayed – Mary will update the meeting as I understand she visited the exhibition.
Earlier this year we were shocked to hear from members that Sailors Society had written in a mail drop letter asking for money to help develop an app to keep in touch with other seafaring wives world wide. In this letter they said that Sea wives was the only group supporting MN wives! I have written to them on your behalf to remind them that the Watch Ashore has existed since 1933 and that in the past we have fund raised for them also – no reply as yet! However, it does show us how important wives and families still are and maybe we will be able to work alongside them in the future – they are aiming for world wide families which has never been our remit.
Over my term in office last year I was invited to the Fishermans Mission conference as a guest speaker, and involved in International Day of the Seafarer, Seafarers Awareness Week. Representation at Sea Sunday, laying a wreath at Trinity Gardens London where I was delighted to count 7 red ensigns being flown in that small area where the names of 25,722 men and women for whom there is no grave but the sea , are recorded. Along with some members, the Executive were involved in writing to MPs in support of MN Days effort to Fly the red ensign and I hope we will stimulate even more interest this September. You may be interested in a recent publication produced by the Government called World Class Marine – http://maritimeuk.org/we-content/uploads/A-world class-maritime-centre.pdf which reads that Government and industry are committed to investing in the next generation of maritime professionals, capitalising on every opportunity the market provides by building capacity and taking an innovative approach to training for roles at sea and ashore. The Shipping Minister Robert Goodwell is aware of the challenges facing the UK Maritime sector and significant investment is required for Nautical colleges in England to match spending in both Ireland and Scotland and critically that being invested World Wide – please let's try to continue to raise awareness of these issues.
We have been in touch with the Nautical colleges in both Scotland and England and have reached agreement for them to include a flyer about the Watch Ashore in all new entry packs- many mums don't know what to expect when their son or daughter starts a career in the MN and this is something which we are all very aware of!
This year SfUK asked for feedback on the grant they gave us to help with our 80th birthday celebrations. They had agreed to help with the cost of hiring coaches and disabled taxis, room and equipment hire. We managed to keep the costs down, and the remaining money that had been offered was drawn down in August 2014 and then handed to MNWB in October to help defray expenses for the project. We gave donations to Shelter Box and also Mrs A. Sard who abseiled to raise money for SfUK.
There is much to recommend this year and still more untold and you will understand that the project progresses on a daily basis. It is still exciting to be part of this unique group and it continues to be an honour and privilege when I represent the Watch Ashore on every occasion.
In conclusion I must thank all the Executive committee for all their hard work – we must all remember they are volunteers! Both Suzanne and Sue have covered for me whilst I visited my family earlier this year. My special thanks to Helen for managing our finances over the years and she will now be able to come to our future meetings with no responsibilities. Special thanks also to Ina our project leader – we have come a long way with much more to do now that the project trial period has ended.
And finally I'd like to wish Sue and her new committee my best wishes for the future.
Chris Rankin MBE MNM