Monday 2 December 2013

Women, sea shanties and singing fishwives

Last week (Nov 28 2013)the UK National Maritime Museum organised a Women and the Sea Evening, at Greenwich. Women's sea shanties and sea songs were the order of the day.

The Cecil Sharp House Choir and the Fishwives Choir sang. Rum was served - as it never was to women on battleships. People had a really good time.

And it was great that a maritime museum put so much effort into putting gender on the agenda.

Pic: The Fishwives Choir.

The Fishwives Choir members are all connected to fishing families. The choir was founded after the death of a Jane Dolby's fisherman husband. They fundraise for The Fishermen's Mission to enable them to continue supporting other fishing families facing hardship or bereavement.

The website says Colin 'Dolby's body was lost at sea for almost a year and during this time, his widow Jane was unable to prove her husband was dead as without a body, a death certificate cannot be issued. This meant she was unable to plan his funeral, claim bereavement benefit, stop her husband’s banking direct debits or even cancel his mobile phone contract as the authorities and financial organisations would only discuss Colin's accounts, with Colin.

Colin died when his youngest child was just 3 years old. It was one week before his daughters 8th birthday and 6 weeks before Christmas. With no money coming in and 4 children to support but no way to claim benefits, the whole family were helped by not only family and the local community but by a remarkable charity called The Fishermen's Mission and in particular, a wonderfully kind, wise and compassionate man called Tim Jenkins who worked for the charity.

For the weeks, months and even years following Colin’s death, The Fishermen’s Mission has supported Colin's family practically and emotionally just as they do hundreds of other fishing families suffering hardship, despair and tragedy.

Jane always promised Tim Jenkins that when she was back on her feet, she would do something to repay their kindness.' She certainly has. And the Fishermen’s Mission continue to need support.

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