Tuesday, 25 August 2015

A Mission to serve.

On the eve of the 26th Newlyn fish Festival it would seem fitting to remind ourselves why the Mission in Newlyn is its sole benefactor.

2015 marked a huge change in the life of the Mission in Newlyn - or did it? For the fishermen of Newlyn the Mission was where you went for a proper breakfast, mugs of mission tea and a yarn - but in May this year, after 104 years the mission canteen served no more.  But serving comfort and providing hands-on and financial support to over 40 fishing communities in ports and harbours around the coastline of Cornwall is the real work of the Mission - and that hugely important direct community work carried out by the Mission team of Keith, Julian and Ian is where the RNMDSF has made and will continue to make a real difference.  Last year's appalling winter weather caused huge financial hardship in every fishing community in the UK with Cornwall being particularly hard hit - in all, over £350,000 was given out in direct support.

Here are a few words from Mission skipper Keith Dixon
"Poverty, debt, loneliness are some facts of life in our fishing communities. At best, fishing can be a precarious business. Success depends on a host of factors from the weather to fluctuating fish prices to restrictive quotas. Worst hit have been the men of the inshore fleet with many barely scrape a living or experiencing spiralling debts. The Fishermen’s Mission is committed to the welfare of fishermen around the shores of the UK. Here in Cornwall, we have a network covering every fishing port and cove to ensure that we reach active and retired fishermen and provide hope in difficult times. This work has increased over the last twelve months with the number of applications for grant assistance up by twenty five percent on the same time last year. This increase demand is likely due to the ongoing effects of the severe storms of 2013/14 and an ever more restrictive and burdensome national and international fisheries management system.
I still find it incomprehensible that a recent survey revealed that the average gross annual income for many of the small punts working around Cornwall is less than thirteen thousand pounds, which when broken down against the hours worked equates to less than half the hourly minimum wage. Yet the same survey shows that for each fisherman working in the Cornish water they support eight people’s jobs ashore. Cornwall was founded of Fishing, Farming and Mining and with the disappearance of mining only fishing and farming maintains that link with the Cornish heritage and culture. What would Cornwall be without its fishing fleet and fishing communities, certainly poorer both financially and culturally? If the fishing fleet ever left Cornwall it would take Cornwall’s heart and soul with it.  
Mark Twain once commented “reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” after a newspaper reported that he was on his death bed. The same could be said about the Fishermen’s Mission in Newlyn after the sale of the building in June. The fact is the Fishermen’s Mission continues to serve the fishing communities of Cornwall as it has since its arrival in 1911. The commitment to be there and provide support for those struggling with the storms of life continues and indeed grows as time and resources previously spent on maintaining a building which was underutilized is directed towards supporting those most in need. The fact is the Fishermen’s Mission will still have offices and the Memorial Room in the Ship Institute. The fact is there are more uniformed staff working in Cornwall now than there has been for years. The fact is all the money from the sale of the building will be ring fenced for use solely in Cornwall. 
In the words of David Dickens the CEO of the Fishermen’s Mission, “the Mission will continue to serve the fishing communities of Cornwall as long as there fishing communities to serve.”
I would also like to thank all those involved for all their hard work and support in making the Fish Festival such a fantastic success as well as their generous contribution of £10,000.00 from last year’s successful show."
Keith Dickson (Superintendent Cornwall)

Right now the interior of the Mission building is being transformed...

with superintendent Keith happy oversee the work...

and looking forward to moving into the new office...

while next door another coat of paint is being rollered on expertly in what will be the chapel...

the window space in the middle having been made to accommodate the historic stained glass window from the old chapel upstairs.

So, just to remind all, the Mission is alive and well in Newlyn and is there to serve and be on call where and whenever it is needed for every Cornish fisherman and their families - and who knows, if the rumoured Bistro opens up in the old canteen space maybe fishermen will still be able to get a decent mug of tea and a cooked breakfast!