SS Explorer Preservation Society – Annual General Meeting
7 July 2018
Since my last update, given at last year’s AGM, many things of note have happened:
One of our most important tasks is building the organisation in order that we can be seen as credible in the eyes of potential funders and we have been busy on this side of the project. We’ve been developing relationships with other ‘heritage’ groups, especially in Leith, and the Society is now seen as an important part in the development of The Leith Trust’s and The Leith Civic Trust’s vision for the future of Leith.
We have recruited supporters in the political and civic community and we now have the patronage of The Lord Provost’s Office and John Dunn MBE (John was Chief Scientist on Explorer). We have invited and won the support of Ben Macpherson MSP, Deidre Brock MP, Cllr Gordon Munro and Adam McVey, Leader of Edinburgh Council. The support of these good folks is essential to the future of the Explorer.
We have been building a portfolio of evidence for our potential funders and the latest document we have commissioned is a ‘stabilisation plan’ from the highly regarded Wessex Archaeology. This ought to be ready shortly and will be viewed as a high quality document emanating from a respected group of professionals in the field of maritime archaeology.
Bill Macpherson has come on-board over the past 8 months and has made a huge difference to how we present ourselves. He has produced a new leaflet and a 10 page prospectus which puts our story out there in an exciting and imaginative way. Our intention is to use the prospectus to generate and invite interest in the Explorer for potential funders and supporters. Bill has designed a new badge that is available now. Bill also put us in touch with Circamedia who have made a video with John Dunn, Jimmy Yorkston and Alisdair Munro, all of whom sailed on the Explorer. Many thanks to them. We will be showing an excerpt from this video following our formal business today. Many thanks to Bill for his tireless enthusiasm.
The website is a super showcase and window for the Explorer. Colin keeps on updating this and our Facebook page. The importance of the website and our presence on the other social media platforms cannot be underestimated and one of our aims over the coming months is to develop our Society by exploiting the potential of this form of communication. Many thanks to Colin for the hours he has put into this essential set of tools.
On-board we have been concentrating on making the ship wind and watertight. We had a serious leak of rainwater from the boat deck into the crew mess for some time and patching over the years was really coming to naught. The reality is that new plating requires to be welded onto the boat deck and this is a major job! Solution for the moment – and this seems to have worked to a great extent – is cement boxes and scrounging sand and cement from a local supplier. Jim and I made up some shuttering and built it around the base of one of the ventilation intakes and over some badly corroded plating over the crew mess; we then filled the cement boxes with – guess what?– and hey-presto an almost dry crew mess. This was really important as Charlie had newly completed ripping out the rotten bench caused by water damage and rebuilding it.
Another major part of the work on-board has been decluttering and cleaning the ship. It would seem that over the years we had acquired all sorts of bits and pieces – old carpets, children’s models left over from the 2001 Science Festival, old tools, bits of scrap wood and just plain junk. It was felt that if we were to present the ship up to any standard at all we had to clear this stuff out. Over the past two or three months Jim, Jean and Maggie have taken this task to heart and have made a real difference: still work to be done but a super start made. Many thanks to this team.
We had for a long time wanted to bring the officers and scientists saloon up to a higher standard but were reluctant to invest in it due to water ingress through the deck lights on the port passage and fish deck. Over the second half of the year Charlie really took the bit between the teeth and along with Duncan replaced the rotting wooden framing with good wood and resealed them with pitch. This stopped the leaks which then allowed us to lay a new carpet – and what a difference! Jim replaced a wrecked wall board and replaced broken and missing mouldings and repaired the hearth. We now have a saloon area to be really proud of and which puts a wow factor on the faces of visitors. When Jim puts on one of his spreads the whole saloon looks fabulous. Well done all!
Another step on the way is that Phil-the-Phone, an ex BT engineer, has been overhauling the ship’s phone system. He’s been systematically removing each phone and taking it home and refurbishing it. We’ve now got to a situation where there is communication over the system: nearly there. Great stuff Phil – keep up the good work.
Phil Harley has been squirrelling away down in Leicester researching the ship’s radio and instrumentation, getting in touch with Marconi museums, looking for suitable donations for Explorer, writing letters and articles for the Grimsby newspapers and generally stirring up real interest in the ship way down south. Phil comes up to Edinburgh to visit his son regularly and is a great font of knowledge and information. Thanks for all this work Phil.
A number of us have seen a need to create a workshop on-board. We’ve identified one of the fish holds and we have cleaned and scaled rust and paint in preparation for the installation of a decent work bench and machine tools. It looks quite professional now.
Jim Duff has also taken on the task of organising polo-shirts with the Explorer logo embroidered on them. These are available now and we have some here today. We are happy to take orders in your preferred size.
Alongside working on-board we are planning trips to other maritime/heritage organisations in the same way as we visited the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine, The Glenlee, the Anstruther Fishing Museum and The Scotia in Aberdeen last year. If anyone has a suggestion of where we might visit in the future please let us know and we’ll do our best to organise it as a group.
While the current directors have lots of energy and enthusiasm, we are aware that there are significant gaps in our expertise. We need people who can help us organise ourselves as a charity to become an enterprise capable of managing a budget upwards of £3.5m to get the ship up to exhibition standard.
When I visited The Leith Rotary I met with John Teasdale who has considerable experience with charity work and asked him to address the Board of Directors regarding governance of the SSEPS. When John addressed the Board it was obvious to those present that we needed someone of his calibre working with us. John was invited to join the Board and graciously accepted. Since his appointment John has been invaluable through his guidance and deep understanding of how charities like ours require to manage themselves. John’s previous experience has been as a personnel manager with a large bank; he has been involved with the Scouting movement for years and is currently a director of The Gorgie City Farm.
The other significant change at Board level is that Brian Murdoch has had to resign his position for health reasons. Brian was one of the enthusiastic directors responsible for the reinvigoration of the Society over the past two years and we have gained greatly from his intellect and insights as to how we needed to take the Explorer project forward. Brian decided to resign his directorship at Easter, but he still has a deep interest in the project and when able has continued to visit the ship. Brian, we wish you well and very many thanks for your invaluable guidance.
The Board has been conducting monthly meetings regarding moving the project forward and can report that a relatively new member, Richard Morrison has been instrumental in producing a new Outline Business Plan that was ratified at the Board meeting earlier this week. We will now follow through with the important tasks of carrying out what we have agreed and we will be reporting progress in our quarterly newsletter. Many thanks Richard, your work has been invaluable.
Speaking of the quarterly newsletter, I’m sure you will have noticed that this has been re-launched and is now being produced by Maggie Rordan, who does a similar job for her allotment society, so watch out for some friendly gardening tips if we are ever short of material. Thanks to Maggie, and Ernie, for their hard work.
One of the main thrusts since the last newsletter has been to continue to build support and credibility for the Explorer project and to do this we have been engaging with the civic and political community.
During the spring we had a meeting with Sir Andrew Cubie to discuss how we might take forward our relationship with Forth Ports. We had a very informative meeting regarding that; but of more immediate value was that Sir Andrew has agreed to become a patron of the SS Explorer which means that he will promote the ship whenever an opportunity presents itself. Thank you Sir Andrew.
Over the past few months at various meetings and events we have attended we have taken the opportunity to discuss the Explorer with our Local councillors. This has led to us gaining support from Gordon Munro (Labour) and Chas Booth (Scottish Greens). This means that along with Adam McVey (SNP) we have managed to win the support of all of the Leith Councillors and in future flyers and publications their support will be recognised.
Once again we have made an appearance at the ‘Ship Ahoy’ exhibition. This year it was held onboard the tall ship the Glenlee, in Glasgow. We took our stand along to this show and made relationships with other maritime heritage groups and raised the profile of the Explorer. Interestingly, the initial Glenlee exhibition was created by Bill Macpherson’s company, MDW Design, so if the Glenlee is anything to go by then the Explorer has a bright future ahead of it. Bill has produced our ‘prospectus’ and designed our current handout leaflets and membership forms.
We have also taken our stand to Leith Custom House, Leith Market and Leith Gala – this is one of the most important ways in which we raise the profile of the Explorer, so many thanks to all who have given up their time to run the stall.
The SSEPS’s main aim is to preserve and promote the Explorer but the group is more than that. The ship is a place to meet people and to make friends and over the past few months some of us have been making visits to other heritage groups.
On a cold spring day a number of us visited the Myreton Motor Museum where we enjoyed their exhibition and gleaned valuable information from their curator. This is just a small museum but worth visiting and the group who made the trip really enjoyed the outing.
Thankfully the weather had improved by the day in early summer when a group visited the Maid of the Loch on Loch Lomond. We had a fascinating tour of the ship and a talk by one of the directors. We were told how they
had taken their project from an almost derelict steam ship to a position
where they are a successful tourist attraction and gaining funding to put the ship back into steam.
What I took from the visit was that SSEPS is going about things in the right way – it’s just that we are at an earlier stage in the process. We’re on the right track and we’ll catch up with them !
We have continued to be pro-active in attracting visitors to the ship.
We have had visits from the Sea Cadets, Newhaven Community Council, Leith’s Men’s Shed, various individuals, and recently a group of designers from London and Paris researching ‘real life’ in Leith. Without exception
they were delighted by their visit and by the welcome they have been shown. When Jim puts on one of his spreads in the saloon they know they have been given a rare treat!
The most recent visit was on Saturday 16 June when we welcomed a group of seafarers from St Combs near Fraserburgh. They were thoroughly enthusiastic about their visit; so much so, that they all took out membership. We hope to see them aboard again.
These visits are essential to the survival of the Explorer and our welcoming atmosphere ensures our visitors spread the word. Thanks to all who have given their time and enthusiasm.
New data regulations
You will have heard of the new regulations relating to the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and, no doubt, will be tired of being bombarded by organisations advising you to ‘re-sign’ to continue to receive information from them. We would advise that the SS Explorer Preservation Society fully complies with the updated regulations and you do not have to take any action regarding this unless you wish to unsubscribe from our database of members who have expressed an interest in receiving occasional updates on the progress of our project. You may unsubscribe at any time by either clicking on the ‘Unsubscribe’ button at the foot of this newsletter or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org at any time and your request will be actioned as soon as possible.
I’m delighted to report that our membership has increased over the last year and we now have 105 members on our books. All of our members’ old and new, provide the funds we need to keep the SS Explorer ticking over while we lobby for funding to realise our long-term goal. Those members who’s subscriptions are now due will be contacted shortly about renewals, which we very much hope you will wish to do. I’d also like to mention that we can claim Gift Aid on any donations we receive from UK Taxpayers, so if you wish to make a donation in addition to your annual subscription, please let us know if you wish us to claim gift aid, at no additional cost to you.
On the subject of donations, it isn’t unusual for people to remember their favourite charity in their Will, you may wish to consider this action at some time in the future.