A former Chairman of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group has strongly criticised its mainland management, accusing them of failing to understand the islands’ needs.
Barnslie Ward from St Mary's was a Director of the company for 33 years and its Chairman for 16. He was also the Founder Chairman of Skybus and joint Managing Director at the building of Scillonian III.
In an open letter printed in The Cornishman, he took particular aim at the purchase of the new freight ship Mali Rose and advent of the Island Helicopters service.
Read the letter in full below:
An open letter to the chairman, directors and mainland management of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company:
It pains me to write this letter but I feel have no option. Four generations of my family have loved and been proud to have worked and, indeed, been involved in starting the company nearly 100 years ago. The company was born out of dire necessity and formed to provide a much-needed lifeline between Scilly and Cornwall.
Until very recently, this ideal was maintained. Unfortunately, this no longer pertains. Majority control is in the hands of a mainland board of directors who do not understand the islands’ needs. Nothing emphasises this more than the disastrous purchase of the vessel Mali Rose, which has already lost the company millions of pounds and is not fit for purpose. Add to this the vengeful, loss-making advent of the current helicopter service. What nonsense.
It takes a gold medal in mismanagement to fall out with government in London, Cornwall Council, Penzance Town Council, the Isles of Scilly Council and to lose the respect of islanders generally. It embarrasses and hurts me to see the company held in such disdain.
The final straw for me was the resignation of my grandson Raphael Ward, who was so proud to have been employed by the company. He loves and understands the islands and I think is liked and respected within them.
Although put in charge of islands affairs, he was not supported by the mainland senior management, his common sense suggestions ignored. He was placed in an impossible situation.
The original island shareholders of the company bought their five-shilling shares to start it. Shares, while more extensive now, pay in my opinion an excessive dividend which has prompted wealthy mainland investors to purchase as many as possible, hence the loss of control.
To the new Scillonian directors, Sam Hicks of St Agnes and Stephen Hicks of St Mary’s, I give my support and hope they can influence the board of directors along the lines of Daphne Chudleigh’s story Bridge Over Lyonesse, a history of over 70 years’ service to the islands. I support but do not envy them.
The Mali Rose is scheduled to begin a three-month familiarisation period this month. The Steamship Group also recently announced that it has made some changes to its marine and freight team.