Plymouth and the Mayflower

I reside in a city suffering, in my opinion, from an identity crisis. Please allow me to try and explain why I say this.

The Lord Mayor, and I am guessing the local government have celebrated Thanksgiving. They have invited US military representatives and US Ambassadors to Plymouth,  and presented them with turkeys. They have hoisted the ‘Stars and Stripes’ on one of the three flagpoles located on Royal Parade. They celebrate the Mayflower by erecting a monument on the Barbican, calling it Mayflower Steps. But the actual ‘steps’ lay some distance away, under a pub’s toilets. The local professional football (soccer) team is called The Pilgrims. I honestly cannot fathom why.

The saga began with a group of religious dissidents who believed it was necessary to separate from the Church of England. Persecuted in England, these “Separatists” moved to Holland in 1607/1608.

Pilgrim was a word not generally associated with those who sailed from Delftshaven, Holland on July 22, 1620 until the early 1800’s. The Leiden Separatists purchased the Speedwell and sailed to Southampton to join the Mayflower which had been chartered by their English investors. There, other Separatists and additional colonists joined them.

On August 15, the Mayflower and Speedwell set sail for America. The Speedwell leaked so badly that the ships turned around and entered the harbour at Dartmouth and later, Plymouth. Finally, on September 16, 1620, the Mayflower alone,  set sail. It is worth mentioning that only because bad weather and misfortune had prevented the settlers from making the crossing on their two earlier attempts (Southampton and  Dartmouth) that they ended up sailing from the port of Plymouth.

On board the Mayflower were three distinct groups of passengers.  Roughly half were Separatists, whom we now know as the Pilgrims. Approximately a quarter, while sympathetic to the Separatist cause,  were not part of that group of dissidents. The remainder were just hired hands; labourers, soldiers and artisans whose skills were required for both the transatlantic crossing and once they arrived.

So, Plymouth … but for bad weather and/or leaking ship, you would not be able to lay claim to an American holiday and as someone who is not only an American, but part Native American … I feel you are wrong in celebrating Thanksgiving and the Mayflower. You have enough local things to honour and celebrate.

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