Mayflower and the Pilgrims

This evening I drove down to a place near Spa to pick up N° 2 sprog from his camp. The trip gave me the chance to ‘read’ the first part of Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower. It’s an extraordinary story and very well told (the CD version I ‘read’ was well narrated by George Guidal). Philbrick starts with the separatists in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire who would become the Pilgrims. Rightly fearing persecution, they went into exile in the Netherlands, ending up at Leiden. Once there installed, and enjoying religious freedom, the community began to fight among itself. The vision, of the whole community travelling to a new land, was intended to encourage collegiality, though in the end only a part of the community left. The Pilgrims’ initial journey began in Delfshaven, in the Netherlands, and not with the Mayflower, but another boat, the Speedwell. Unbeknown to them, though, the Dutch were afraid that they would manage to colonise Manhattan first and skullduggery was afoot. The Speedwell was supposed to accompany the later-acquired Mayflower. The two ships first set out from Southampton, but the Speedwell developed a leak and so they had to dock at Dartmouth for repairs. They set out from there a second time and, when the Speedwell once more sprang a leak, they turned back, this time to Plymouth. For a third time they set off, this time all aboard the now crowded Mayflower, with their provisions depleted, and with winter setting in. It was subsequently discovered that there was nothing wrong with the Speedwell. Its crew had deliberately over-sailed it so that the mast would act as a lever and force the planks in the hull apart. I look forward to ‘reading’ the rest, but what a story already!

1 Comment

  1. Hugo Kijne

    One of the 100 or so standard questions that one can be asked during the interview that is part of the process to become a US citizen is: why did the Pilgrims come to America? The official answer is: ‘because they wanted freedom of religion.’ The correct answer is: ‘because they wanted freedom of religion only for themselves.’ In the Netherlands there was way too much freedom of religion for the Pilgrims, that’s why they left. Of course I got asked that question during my interview. I first gave the official answer and then added: “although there is some debate as to how much freedom of religion they wanted.” Big mistake. Officer Gonzalez of the US ImmigrationService was not amused, and I almost failed the test. Philbrick by the way also wrote a recently published book about George Armstrong Custer, Sitting Bull, and the battle of the Little Bighorn. Highly recommended.

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