I became Executive Director of John Parsons Shipping Ltd in 1982 and Port Captain of the Company's privately owned port at Fosdyke Bridge in Lincolnshire. The Parent Company, John Parsons Marketing Ltd, was a fertiliser and animal feed business that has built an enviable reputation over ten years but was always working in a highly competitive market. After nearly ten years the parent company was sold and the shipping company ceased trading. The new company already had arrangements with agents who chartered vessels as and when required.
Since that time when the shipping company was sold, nearly twenty years, I have been occupied in developing several businesses. Have also just recently sold my hotel but am continuing to develop and expand my two Private Children's Day Nurseries as well as a number of other interests.
I was re-introduced to some seafaring connections when they arrived for a meeting at my hotel. This wonderful group encouraged me to get involved and I joined the Merchant Navy Association nearly five years ago. I was invited to be the Boston and South Lincolnshire Branch Chairman after about six months when Captain Bryan retired. This later involved my going to national meetings, which in turn led me to be invited to put my name forward for National Chairman of the MNA. Am now in my second term of office having been re-elected at last years AGM in Birmingham.
The Merchant Navy Association came off the slipway in 1989. The forming of the Association was inspired by the initiative and untiring efforts of two ex-wartime Merchant Seaman, Fred Harrell and Barry Osborne. The response to their advert in the local press, in Birmingham, enabled the Midlands Branch to be established that year. The Exeter Branch was second off the stocks in 1990 and other branches have subsequently been established throughout the UK and abroad, growing to over thirty branches at the moment. It has developed into a responsible and respected organisation for seafarers to represent the interest of retired, serving and prospective seafarers.
One of the main objectives of the Association is to gain the recognition for the part played by the Merchant Navy in the defence, development and nourishment of our nation. This, in part, will be achieved by perpetuating the memory of those seafarers that have died in the service of their country. There is also positive need to foster the pride in our national maritime heritage and encourage present and future generations to 'heed' the call of the sea. It brings together people with a love of the sea and ships, provides contacts for welfare arrangements and research and helps to keep shipmates in touch with one another all over the world. National and Branch events have further raised the profile of our Association as being properly representative of wide variety of seafarers in general.
The Merchant Navy has served the nation in time of peace and war. The Red Ensign has flown in every corner of the globe on exploration, trade and development including support of all the Armed Forces of this nation.
The Merchant Navy Memorial at Tower Hill records the names of 32,000 seafarers of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who died in both World Wars and have no known grave but the sea. In the Second World War the Merchant Navy had a higher ratio of casualties that any of the Armed Services. The total sacrifice during the 20th century is known to be over 46,000 men and women. The MNA are the lead organisers and sponsors of a Service held at Tower Hill on the nearest Sunday to Merchant Navy Day every year. In 2004 we are hoping to dedicate a completely new memorial for those merchant navy seafarers who lost their lives in the Falklands Conflict in 1982. This again as the result of a strong national lobby from us and friends from other associations and trusts. The Merchant Navies devoted and unstinting service to the nation will not come as any surprise to many but our seafarers have always felt somewhat overlooked. They were insensitively forgotten when the laurels and accolades were being bestowed. People are fully area of the much deserved patronage and support given to the armed services over many years. Many people, not just seafarers, wished the Merchant Navy to be similarly acknowledged and were just waiting for a lead and the opportunity. It seemed there was consensus of opinion that appropriate recognition for the 'Merchant Service' was now long overdue.
In 1999, for the first time, members of the Merchant Navy were 'allowed' to take part in the national Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph. They were not officially invited previously because they had not been, what is termed as, 'under command'. However, in that very significant year members of the MNA marched at the event and were proudly led by the MNA's National Chairman at that time. Perhaps it should be noted that had the armed services waited, as long for the Merchant Navy has done, for a signal to join them in their military gatherings in the North Atlantic, Western Approaches, Korea and the Falklands, there may very well have been no national service of remembrance to attend.
Respect, regard and recognition have been at the core of the MNA's activities. This was certainly evident when our national lobbying for the official recognition was realised by this government introducing a National Merchant Navy Day. This was decided, again after our constant lobbying for the date, to be on the 3rd of September every year. This date marked the first day of the Second World War and commemorates the first maritime casualty when the SS 'Athenia', an unmarked merchant ship, was sunk by a U-boat with the loss of 19 crew and 93 passengers both men and women. This date has a resonance in the hearts of all seafarers and a very special significance for all those who suffered loss and disability as a result of their commitment to the Merchant Navy.
However, we are not solely an organisation for veterans and their families but welcome all seafarers. The MNA particularly wishes to encourage young people who show an interest in the sea and we support several initiatives, such as The Chamber of Shipping's Sea Vision', that encourages seagoing careers. We have set up a national initiative for all our branches to 'Adopt a School' in their local community and develop a line of communication across the generations so that they may see and hear the voice of history as experienced by our members.
The MNA's members are, in the main, the 'community of the sea' ashore and much of our efforts are guided by their call for a change in the national perspective of how the Merchant Navy has been perceived throughout the years. In particular what its men and women have contributed to the development of this nation and the protection of our freedoms. The freedom of thought, the freedom of speech and perhaps most of all, the comfort of the freedom never to use either.
National Chairman Merchant Navy Association
Following his injuries, Simon's road to physical, spiritual and mental
recovery saw him active in a number of highly successful ventures
including 'The Weston Spirit', a Liverpool-based young people's charity.
He remains a tireless worker for the Royal British Legion and the Royal
Star and Garter Home. His charitable work earned him an OBE in the 1992
Queen's Birthday Honours. He was also awarded Freedom of the City of
Liverpool in 2002 in recognition of his bravery and his charity work in
the region. He has appeared in the Top 100 Merseysiders list in 2003 and
honoured as one of the top 100 Welsh Heroes in 2004.