June 2012

JUNE REPORT

Kirton and Falkenham W.I. has two treats coming up in the near future. On August 9th we are going to indulge in a strawberry tea along with a raffle and bring and buy stall in the garden of our President Iris Hitchen’s house, weather permitting. Then on September 11th we are hoping to get together for a fish and chip lunch at a local restaurant, an event that is always popular with the members. In October the local federation is organising a trip to Bletchley Park, the historic site of secret British code-breaking activities in World War II, and some of us are hoping to go along.

Our June speaker was Sister Marion Davy who works for the Apostleship of the Sea, otherwise known as Stella Maris. She acts as chaplain to ships that visit various ports around the coast of East Anglia, in particular the great container port at Felixstowe. Although a Roman Catholic she one of only three female maritime chaplains in the UK and holds this position despite her church’s disapproval of women priests.

She visits the biggest container ships in the world, vessels such as the Emma Maersk, the Estelle Maersk and the MSC Beatrice. Felixstowe is one of the few ports deep enough to accommodate them. She explained to us how the British merchant fleet has been drastically reduced in size since the 1950s and has been replaced by ships crewed by men from the third world. These individuals are very badly paid and can be away from home for up to 6 to 8 months. They sign on in order to earn money to keep their families but as a consequence see little of them. She told us the sad fact that no-one goes to sea in search of adventure anymore. Her job is to look after these men’s welfare both spiritual and physical, and this task ranges from organising top-ups for their mobile phones so they can keep in contact with their relations to helping them deal with grief when someone close to them dies, as happened recently in Felixstowe when a member of a Chilean crew was killed in a fall.

She told us that this seafaring life is one of the six most dangerous jobs in the world and yet the young men involved get no extra pay to compensate for the risk as she did when, as a psychiatric nurse, she dealt with patients from Broadmore and Rampton. She pointed out to us that the reasonable rates that we pay for commodities in this country has a direct relation to these men’s low pay and that if they were paid a living wage our prices would go sky-high, a pretty unpalatable fact to swallow.

She encouraged us to donate wooly hats to the Seamen’s Mission which she told us often end up on the heads of grandpas and grandmas in the chilly foothills of the Himalayas and she pointed out that her job is not all doom and gloom. There are some laughs along the way as when, on visiting a ship in Harwich Harbour, she was mistaken for the local madam and asked if she could give a discount on some of her girls!

V E Bines