Perspective: Floundering over our fishy history

IN this island nation of ours, none of us live more than 70 miles from the sea.

But some people, it seems, are all at sea when it comes to maritime knowledge.

A fifth of landlubbers quizzed in a survey reckoned they lived 76 miles or more away from the sea.

A similar number believed that the role of the Royal Navy was ferrying The Queen or the prime minister on overseas visits.

An even bigger number, a third, did not know that the Merchant Navy carries cargo and passengers to and from the UK. They thought it was a fighting force.

There were echoes of the Caribbean when a quarter of children said Captain Jack Sparrow was Britain’s most famous seaman. Just less than half failed to identify Lord Nelson and Capt James Cook as the best known.

Almost one in eight children did not know what a port is, and another third of them had never visited one.

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Almost one in five youngsters thought quail was a fish while more than two in five did not know that halibut was a fish.

The adults did not fare any better – one in five of those asked thought Calais was a port on this side of the English Channel.

Only eight per cent of people correctly identified a fisherman as having the most dangerous civilian job.

All in all, it means that Seafarers UK, the leading charity for Britain’s maritime community, is almost up a creek without a paddle when it comes to educating people.

The study was conducted on its behalf to coincide with Seafarers Awareness Week which began on Monday and aims to highlight just how important Britain’s ships and sea-going folk are to the nation.

It’s not that people in this country do not like the sea – at least as long as it is quite a few thousand feet below them as they jet off on holiday.

When they take that holiday is becoming more and more of a problem for educationalists, I learn from another study just revealed.

Holiday prices increase by up to 42 per cent during school holidays and that is prompting a significant number of parents to take their kids out of school when they should be swatting in the classroom.

Nearly half the parents quizzed confessed to doing that. One in ten unauthorised school absences during the last autumn term was due to family holidays with an average of 6,500 children nationally absent on any given day. The number of parents being fined has rocketed.

The only solution I can see to the problem is for schools to start dishing out detentions for mums and dads.

Trying to get a local newspaper to publicise the debut single of a “TV star and Hollywood actress” I have never heard of is a difficult job, but a press officer who attempted to do it this week did not help his case with his opening gambit.

He said he was writing to us because he had a new song/artist who was “perfect for the Stevenage Cornet”.

The only response he got was a quick click on the delete button.