In 1982, the flagship of Henry VIII’s navy, the Mary Rose, was raised from the seabed for the first time in 437 years. After being at the bottom of the Solent since 1545, the warship was salvaged and is now preserved at the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth. We spoke with Martin, one of our clients who was involved in the raising of the Mary Rose, about his homelessness journey thereafter and how SPEAR supports him on his route to independence.
Martin’s involvement with the Mary Rose
In the 80s Martin worked for a company called Howard Doris, an offshore construction engineering company that was commissioned to build a floating crane to carry out some work on the West Coast of Scotland. It was around this time that the Mary Rose was discovered. The Prince’s Trust, in charge of spearheading the discovery, decided it was to be recovered. While other companies were involved and entrusted with the frame, Martin’s company was commissioned to carry out the lifting process using the famous Tog Mor crane (gaelic for ‘big lift’), built by Howard Doris.
Martin’s personal involvement was as a buyer, sourcing materials for the crane as well as supplies and equipment for workers, “Everything on the lifting side, I was responsible for buying”. In the early hours of the 11th of October 1982, the lifting began. “We wanted to lift in a slack tide, so there was very little chance of the tide getting hold of the structure and moving around too much”, recalls Martin. He and his team watched the entire lifting, which was carried out very slowly live on TV at their head office.
Martin recalls his vivid memories of the day. “I remember when the frame broke the water, and after only about half an hour, there was a loud crack! Everything stopped, and everyone at the office panicked. We immediately thought the crane had failed,” To their relief, Martin and the rest of the company were pleased to find out that it was the frame, rather than the crane, that had caused this hiccup! Despite this, they were able to very gently move the fragile vessel out of the water and onto a waiting barge. In fact, Martin tells us it remains on this very same barge today.
Image courtesy of the Mary Rose Trust
Even though the extraction was led by The Prince’s Trust, by law, Martin’s company still had to issue an invoice. “It was the only job that Howard Doris had ever done that made one hundred percent profit. That’s because we sent the trust an invoice for one pound, we got a cheque back, signed by Prince Charles himself for two pounds! Along with a thank you letter and a lifetime pass to the Mary Rose Museum.”
Martin’s homelessness journey
Martin travelled with Tog Mor on numerous jobs in Africa and South East Asia. After Martin left Howard Doris, he stayed within the offshore construction industry. While working, Martin’s marriage sadly broke down. These personal issues transpired even further, and Martin experienced a mental breakdown. “I couldn’t cope,” shares Martin.
Within six months of his marriage breakdown, Martin became homeless. The beginning of his homelessness consisted of park benches and little corners tucked away somewhere, until one day he ended up sleeping on a bench in Richmond. It was here that Martin was approached by another man who said, “I’ve seen that you’re sleeping on that bench. We actually have a tent, behind those bushes there. A spare tent, do you want it?” Martin accepted the opportunity and moved into what he, along with the man who approached him, eventually named ‘Glastonbury on the Thames’.
Martin stayed here for a while, until one Sunday morning, there was a woman’s voice outside Martin’s tent. “Hello, anybody in there?” the woman asked. Thinking it was the police, Martin cautiously got out of his tent to find two individuals. “Hello, my name is Bea and this is Dan. We’re from an organisation called SPEAR, which is a homelessness to independence charity.” It was here that Martin was first introduced to SPEAR and he was eager to speak with Bea and Dan about his situation.
About a week later, Martin received a phone call with instructions to meet Bea at the SPEAR hub. When he arrived, the SPEAR workers initially helped Martin receive universal credit and offered him the opportunity to use their showering facilities. This was greatly welcomed by Martin, who was previously limited to the facilities at a local church, as little as once a week.
Not long after this first encounter, Martin was informed that SPEAR had a room for him in Richmond. This is where he was first introduced to his support worker, Jack, who showed Martin his accommodation where he stayed for around 6 months. It was after this period that the opportunity arose to move into a shared house with three other individuals on a similar journey.
“Don’t get too settled, we’ll be moving you on to your own front door,” Martin recalls Jack warning him. However, the COVID pandemic struck, which unfortunately delayed this entire process. Despite this, by the time January 2021 came around, the situation turned brighter, and Martin was able to move into a new home by the end of the month. “That’s where I am now, and that’s where I’ll be until they carry me out in a box!” chuckled Martin.
Jack, Martin’s Support Worker
Although Martin is now settled, he recalls it took a lot of adjusting in his initial months. It was the first time he had lived on his own since 1985 due to his marriage, sharing with others while lodging and so on. “I found it very strange to wake up in the morning and I’m the only one there!”
Now, Martin is looking forward to the future, especially with the restrictions easing so he can explore parts of London he has never been able to see before, such as the Millennium Bridge. He thanks SPEAR, and most importantly, his support worker Jack for the guidance he has received.
He’s been a great help. Not only practically, but morally too. In fact, I don’t see him as a keyworker, but as a friend.
Support from SPEAR
We also spoke with Martin’s Support Worker, Jack. “When I moved him in, I noticed him putting up a photograph on the wall. I love my history and I realised it was the Mary Rose,” he shares, about his first encounter with Martin which led to them reminiscing about Martin’s previous experience as a buyer in the oil industry.
Martin with his photograph of Tog Mor lifting the Mary Rose out of the water
From this point, Martin’s progress was reviewed after 6 months with the intention of moving him on to full independence. For many SPEAR clients, due to various reasons, full independence takes adjusting to, so Support Workers like Jack are on hand to support individuals on this path.
Although the consequences of the pandemic initially delayed the process, Jack helped Martin move into his previous and current home. Since then, Jack has helped Martin in various other ways. For example, putting him forward for an awareness course and a forklift driving course, in which Martin passed both with flying colours. Not only that, but as a rugby fan, Jack was able to organise a trip for Martin and another volunteer to visit Twickenham to see the England Rugby team train.
Of course, the support doesn’t stop once Martin has reached independence. Support Workers are always on hand and Martin tells us that even today, Jack “is always there when I phone him. Even if he can’t answer my question there and then, he’ll always get back to me.” Today, Jack continues to help individuals like Martin on their journey towards independence.
Please help SPEAR to continue providing services for people experiencing homelessness. Sadly our work has significantly increased since the start of the pandemic, we anticipate a new wave of homelessness this year as furlough and the eviction ban will end. We have launched a crowdfunding appeal to garner much needed support, please donate whatever you can to: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/spear-appeal-2021