US Cultural Attaché visits Dartmouth to view preparations for the Mayflower 400 event

By Sam Acourt in Local People

Three members of US Embassy staff, led by the US Cultural Attaché, Vince Murphy, arrived in Dartmouth on Monday to view preparations for the Mayflower 400.

Mr Murphy, along with colleagues Dwayne Cline and Laura Saarinen, aimed to introduce new members of the embassy’s Devon team and to prepare for a visit by the Chargé d’Affaires – acting ambassador – Lew Lukens in March.

The US Embassy is keen to liaise with both Dartmouth and Plymouth over their commemorations in 2020 of the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Pilgrim Fathers to the ‘New World’.

Vince said: ‘We are very interested in learning about your Mayflower 400 plans, as well as anything else of note that you would like us to know about Dartmouth. We would also be interested in visiting the Naval Academy.’

Over a buffet lunch at the Royal Castle Hotel with the Dartmouth Mayflower 400 Project Team and its vice-patron, Sir Geoffrey Newman, the American visitors were given details of Dartmouth’s extensive commemoration plans, before walking around the town on a cold, showery afternoon.

They were first taken on a tour of Britannia Royal Naval College, personally conducted by Admiral Robin Shiffner, a former Captain of the College, and a member of the project team.

They saw the famous parade ground and main corridor, the Gun Room mess and the chapel, and admired the many paintings: portraits and sea battles that adorn the walls. Admiral Robin commented: ‘We are looking forward to liaising with our American colleagues over the events in 2020.’

On return from BRNC, they were taken on a walk around the historic sites of Dartmouth, by Spencer Wigley, a Trustee of the Dartmouth Museum. They saw, among other things, Bayard’s Cove and Fort, the historic buildings around the Boat Float, Lower Street and Fairfax Place, Foss Street and the TIC, and heard about the history of the town.

The Dartmouth Mayflower 400 project team is made up entirely of volunteers. They are preparing an ambitious series of cultural events leading up to the 400th anniversary on 2020, which include concerts, plays and art-works.

There will be a permanent trail through the town with a series of ‘stops’ where information about interesting events in Dartmouth’s history will be displayed, with special focus on the story of the Separatists, and the Mayflower and Speedwell, in 1620.

This will include special River trips taking in the historic seafaring locations including the quay at Bayard’s Cove; the original quay where Mayflower docked. There will be a Grand River Pageant in September 2020 making a spectacular finale. Numerous other activities are being planned and more news about these will be published as soon as it becomes available.

Anne Bailey, Mayflower 400, said: ‘Our US Visitors were very impressed with the plans to date, and look forward to enhancing the relationship between ourselves and our sister city, Dartmouth, Massachusetts, as a result of these celebrations, which will bring an increased number of tourists, from both UK and overseas, to Dartmouth.’

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