Latest From The Watch Ashore

Communication

~~A very important part of life for a seafaring family is communication, whether it is talking to each other, through email or phone calls.  When my husband was at sea, we didn’t have access to email and phone calls were via satellite and only used on special occasions.   We did use mobiles but that became so expensive (some months our bill was hundreds of pounds, and when you hear their voice you don’t think of how much it is costing) Now that wasn’t in the dark ages but communications have came a long way with nearly everyone having a Smartphone, I pad etc so people are more or less used to instant contact.  Reverting back to pre – instant communication, I loved my letters and there was something magical about getting a bunch of letters at the one time.  My husband numbered the back of the envelopes so I would know in what order to read them, and I kept all his letters until he arrived home on leave.  When our children came along they too got their postcards and letters.  Depending on where the ship was going sometimes you could have four to six weeks between letters.  That’s when you re read the previous ones time and time again.  We did have a lovely collection of stamps and our geography did improve!   My husbands’ trips were usually for six months and if the ship was on a set run I had the proposed dates and agents addresses of where to send his mail.  This is when the numbered letters were practical – sometimes the mail would miss him and poor soul had to hope that the agent would forward it to the next port.  Not all countries had an efficient postal service!   My husband changed shipping companies and although his trips weren’t much shorter – this time his mail went via the office in Southampton and they forwarded it with the company’s mail.   When we were able to email (via the ship) I felt as if we had lost some of the intimacy that you get in letters.  Oh you could still say how much you loved and missed them and give them all the family news but the very personal stuff you didn’t express.   Now with younger seafaring families they (not all) can have access to Skype, email and phone calls and does it make life any easier?  Sometimes you can get frustrated with poor connections, or feel as if they have sounded uninterested in your conversation, get annoyed if they seem to be enjoying themselves too much!   A very positive side I have seen is that when my son in law was working in India for a month, my grandchildren spoke to him via Skype every evening, and although they missed him greatly, they coped very well and he still felt involved in their everyday life.  So you see no matter which method is available to you, keep communicating and remember to say how much you love and miss them.  

Fundraiser

Well done Chris on hosting a very successful fundraiser for Seafarers UK . Thank you all who supported the fashion Drop In by Studio Two and thank you Brenda for all your hard work to make the event such a success. The weather was great too, especially eating our pasties from Dashers outside in the garden.

Friendship Circles

afternoon tea
We all have friends who fit into different groups/circles.  Neighbours, school pals, work colleagues, family etc. Apart from family the one group that I am very close to is my Watch Ashore friends. I am lucky that I have family living nearby and always enjoyed plenty of support.  No one in the family or any of my friends was married to anyone in the Merchant Navy. After being married a few years and moving to a new house one of the neighbours invited me to come along to the Watch Ashore.  To be honest I was coping fine and didn’t want to mix with anyone who felt sorry for themselves etc.  Eventually I ran out of excuses not to go and when I did what I found was a great group of women various ages and backgrounds who had a very similar life to my own.     Very much their own person, half full glass and not half empty glass type of people.   Like everything in life they are some you can relate to better than others but everyone was open and friendly.  I think the need for that type of group is still very relevant today.  With our hectic fast paced lifestyles, it is good to stop and take time for yourself, socialising with someone who knows the ups and downs of life married to a seafarer.  Social media is very relevant in today’s world but it can’t replace the good old coffee and chat, friendly hug or just the sympathetic ear of someone who just “gets it” When my children were small and all their friends were going to “daddy’s work Christmas party” they didn’t feel left out because our local watch ashore always organised a children’s Christmas party and it became a highlight of their year.  Santa always made an appearance and everyone was delighted with their gift. Another thing that I enjoy is our AGM weekends.  We have had some great weekends with plenty of laughter, shopping, sightseeing and generally enjoying each others’ company.   As they say “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” same can be said for our weekends!   

Watch Ashore raises its profile

social media training group
The Watch Ashore, an organisation established in 1933 to provide support for wives and partners of Merchant Navy officers, has turned to social media to raise its membership and campaign more effectively. With branches in six UK ports and membership around the country, providing mutual support for those whose loved ones are away at sea, Watch Ashore is launching a new website, a forum for its members and is reaching out to a younger generation with cheap and effective social media. Working with the Merchant Navy Welfare Board and with financial support from the Merchant Navy Fund, short training courses in the use of social media are being provided in a project that aims to help the organisation raise its profile, improve its outreach and increase its membership. Watch Ashore was founded 82 years ago when the Merchant Navy was suffering from the worst of the Great Depression. Providing support and friendship for “wives, widows, mothers, sisters and daughters of all Merchant Navy officers and anyone with an interest in the Merchant Navy”, it grew to sixteen branches around British ports. It also lobbied effectively over the years for reforms that would improve conditions for Merchant Navy personnel. Six branches are active today, in Plymouth, Southampton, Glasgow, London, Edinburgh and the Humber. Country members who do not live close to the branches are welcomed and there is a programme of meetings. The branches also help the maritime charity sector with fund-raising and other support. “The Watch Ashore is a valuable support network for all those whose loved ones are serving at sea, but we would greatly welcome more members who might benefit from belonging to our organisation”, comments Watch Ashore Chair Mrs Chris Rankin.  A busy social programme, soon backed up with the new website and forum will hopefully attract new members. Mrs Rankin added that there remain important reforms needed to make life better for serving seafarers and their families. Families for instance, were experiencing difficulty with the “hard line” being currently taken by head teachers over children being taken out of school when seafaring fathers were on leave in term time.  

Social Media Training

October 21st & 22nd 6 members of the National Watch Ashore will attend a seminar on Welfare Guidance & Signposting. This project is organized by the Merchant Navy Welfare Board.

Wreath Laying

Laying wreath
The National Chairman Mrs. Chris Ranking laid a wreath during the ceramony at Trinity Gardens on the 7th September 2014.

AGM Birmingham

The National AGM of the Watch Ashore was held in Birmingham early in May and 41 members representing five of the existing 6 branches from around the country enjoyed a weekend of fun and frolics.  Country members and a number of very brave husbands accompanied their wives and as always were warmly welcomed.  A coach trip was organised to the National Arboretum where members inspected the Watch Ashore bench that has been placed in the midst of the Memorial Merchant Navy wood. The bench was paid for by members to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Watch Ashore.  The Watch Ashore have been approached by the MN Welfare board to assist in a project to develop a system of support for current wives and partners uing social media and a proposal to go forward with this was discussed and carried at the AGM.  As the Vice Chairman stood down from office the Committee will continue without filling this post for the next year but will request nominations for this seat at the 2015 AGM.  The retiring Secretary was presented with gifts and flowers by the Chairman. The new encumbent was welcomed and given her badge of office.

The Annual National Service for Seafarers

Several members visited St Paul's Cathedral on the 12th October where Chris Rankin was invited, as National Chairman, to read the Watch Ashore prayer in recognition of the 80th anniversary of the founding of The Watch Ashore.  Chris is also to be congratulated on being awarded the Merchant navy Medal [Honorary] for her services to MN charities and welfare work.  This will be presented to her at Trinity House on Monday 25th November.

WA Memorial Bench

On retiring from the office of National Chairman, Mrs Margaret Gray chose as her charity the donating of a bench to the National Arboretum in Staffordshire. The bench was gifted in June 2013, and in September Mrs Gray visited the Arboretum to see the site of the bench which is situated in a clearing in the Merchant Navy Wood, planted with rows of little oak trees [over 2,500] representing all merchant ships sunk from the two world wars. Margaret worked hard to achieve the amount of £900 by her own efforts and with the help of donations from the branches.  

London AGM

The National AGM in London took place last weekend 12th to 14th April.  We celebrated our 80th birthday by beginning with a substantial Buffet/Carvery in the Strand Hotel on Friday evening where we were joined by our husbands and friends. This was a fun experience during which we were entertained by the Pearly Kings & Queens Society who work to raise money for many different charities. Some of their members leading us all in the 'Old time' songs.  The AGM itself was on Saturday morning and 59 members of the Watch ashore from across the UK listened to reports from each of the Branches.  We also discussed the possibility of continued mutual support for wives and partners of  working Merchant Navy personnel by reaching 'the younger generation' using IT technology, with the use of our Web site and with the help of the Merchant Navy Welfare Board and Seafarers UK.  We were pleased to present last years Chairman, Margaret Gray, with a cheque for £900 for the Bench and Tree at the National Arbouratum.  A Black Tie Dinner that evening was held at Trinity House.  We were honoured to receive a communication from Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal wishing us a happy birthday and an enjoyable meal.  The Revd. Canon Ken Peters from Mission to Seafarers said grace.  As Captain David Parsons of the Merchant Navy Welfare Board was unable to attend through illness, Captain John Rankin ably proposed the toast to the Merchant Navy. To which Mr Mark Longford FCH replied.  The toast to the Watch Ashore was given by Captain Chris Spencer, standing in for Mr Peter McEwen MBE who was also unwell and not able to attend. Amoung our guests were Katie Longford, and Alexander & Husband Robin Sard from Seafarers UK. We all had a superb meal in beautiful surroundings in spite of various hiccups. On the Sunday we rounded off the weekend with Afternoon Tea on HQS Wellington at Temple Stairs, where Captain John Freestone  and our Chairman Mrs Chris Rankin MBE cut the birthday cake with a long sword.  Our thanks are given to Nautilus International, Seafarers Uk, Navigators and General, and Trinity House for their generous support in easing our personal expenditure and making this AGM weekend possible.

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