Billericay remembers the Mayflower, 400 years on
“To be moved by Councillor Schrader –The Council notes that this year marks 400 years since one of the most significant sea journeys in human history – the voyage of the Mayflower from England to America in 1620, carrying over 100 pilgrims seeking religious freedom in the New World.
The Council treasures the Borough’s links to this historic event and celebrates their bravery, particularly Billericay resident, Christopher Martin, who was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact, considered one of the three documents underpinning the Constitution of the United States.
The Council regrets that the Covid-19 pandemic has stymied the quatercentenary celebrations that had been planned and commends those community organisations that had arranged events and activities and requests the Policy and Resources Committee to give consideration as to how the Council might help mark this historic event when, belatedly, it may become possible to do so.”
Four hundred years ago, a group of families embarked upon a harrowing ten-week sea voyage, leaving England in 1620 in search of a new life in the New World.
The Pilgrims, as they became known, were seeking religious freedom, in pursuit of which, they were prepared to risk a treacherous journey, crossing the Atlantic Ocean, to start again in a strange land on the either side of the world.
It is hard to imagine the kind of enormous courage that it would have taken to even contemplate such an undertaking – but they did, and the Mayflower dropped anchor near the tip of ‘Cape Cod’, off the coast of Massachusetts, known today as Plymouth Harbor.
That was not their intended destination. They were aiming for Virginia but were blown off course by storms and forced to make the best of it.
Before they disembarked from the ship, the founders of the Colony of New Plymouth signed the Mayflower Compact. The significance of this document can hardly be understated.
In it, the colonists agreed that they would establish legal order, with their own representative government, in which each member would contribute to the safety and welfare of the settlement. It was, in essence, a social contract.
As hopeful as all that sounds, the reality was rather more grim. The Plymouth Colony endured a brutal winter and, ravaged by starvation, disease, and lack of shelter, more than half the colonists died. Yet the colony survived, and the Mayflower Compact has gone on to be recognised as one of the founding documents of the Constitution of the United States of America.
One hundred years ago – during the tricentenary of the Mayflower landing – the then Governor of Massachusetts, stated: “They drew up a form of government which has been designated as the first real constitution of modern times.
It was democratic, an acknowledgment of liberty under law and order and the giving to each person the right to participate in the government, while they promised to be obedient to the laws.
But the really wonderful thing was that they had the power and strength of character to abide by it and live by it from that day to this.”
The governor in question, by the way, was Calvin Coolidge, who later became the 30th President of the United States.
Billericay has always been justly proud of our close association with the Pilgrims and the Mayflower. Indeed, Christopher Martin and some of his companions met at the Olde Chantry House in Billericay High Street in my ward (which is today a rather good Indian restaurant) and we have many businesses and organisations in the town that are named after the Mayflower, not least Mayflower High School, also in Billericay East. Indeed, Billericay Town Council itself uses an image of the Mayflower as the town emblem.
I was to have been seconded by my ward colleague, Cllr David Dadds (Con, Billericay East), but unfortunately we ran out of time and did not reach the motions. I moved the motion anyway, without debate, and was gratified that it was passed almost* unanimously.
It is, of course, deeply regrettable that so many of the commemorative events that had been planned this year across the town, by various organisations, have not been able to go ahead due to the current circumstances. I am extremely hopeful that some, if not all, of these will be able to go ahead next year and that Billericay is able to commemorate this historic event appropriately, once it is safe to do so.
*Our resident arch-Billericaphobe, Cllr Kerry Smith (Ind, Nethermayne), and his gaggle of faceless ciphers in the laughably-named ‘Independent Group’, churlishly voted against the motion. Try not to take it too personally though, Billericay. I suspect it was retribution against me because I chided him for brazenly appearing on camera alongside another councillor not observing social distancing. He took umbrage.