Mayflower is part of our history, but we need to be accurate

(07 September, 2017)

The council appears to have gone Mayflower mad, as many local people question the historical accuracy of naming a new Rotherhithe park after this ship. In 2020 Southwark will be the leading London borough to join in an international celebration of 400 years since the Mayflower set off from England to the New World and ...

The council appears to have gone Mayflower mad, as many local people question the historical accuracy of naming a new Rotherhithe park after this ship.

In 2020 Southwark will be the leading London borough to join in an international celebration of 400 years since the Mayflower set off from England to the New World and founded modern-day America.

But to name a park much further along the Rotherhithe peninsula to where this famous ship would have set sail will not really contribute to the area’s historical connections with the Mayflower.

The park was once home to Fisher Athletic Football Ground, before it moved a year or so ago across the road. When the council consulted on the park name, the name of the club’s former president and local legend, Barry Albin-Dyer, was suggested by many people.

The funeral director, who built a memorial garden in Southwark Park for people to remember their loved ones in Bermondsey and also brought back fallen soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan, had only recently passed away, aged just 64.

His family were obviously touched by the gesture, as the football club was such a huge part of both Barry and his family’s lives and that of local youngsters who played at the ground. His sons are clear that they have no right to insist on the park being named after their father, and they wouldn’t presume to do so. Yet they question the consultation and final decision to name it Mayflower.

Nearly every inch of our borough has a legitimate claim to some historic person, event or place – be that real or from our literary past – blurring the boundaries only makes us look less educated.

In our letters’ pages some local people have drawn on the direct connection with the park off Lagado Mews with that of Jonathan Swift’s classic novel Gulliver’s Travels with the opening lines:

“The author of these Travels, Mr. Lemuel Gulliver, is my ancient and intimate friend. About three years ago, Mr. Gulliver growing weary of the concourse of curious people coming to him at his house in Redriff”

Surely if the council felt so recent a connection with the area and the park was not a goer, then this would have been an excellent historical connection, given the little that is known about it.

And if they want it to enhance the tourist trade to the area that the Mayflower celebrations will hopefully bring, then to show off our connection with a piece of literature that symbolises the adventure and travel of our ancestors would have been perfect.

Instead they are in danger of upsetting those who want to commemorate a man who did a lot for local families in the very recent past, ignoring a connection with a literary great that most areas would love to have, and misrepresenting the story of the Mayflower.

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