John Paul Jones and Filey Bay

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Local Historical Advisor   Legal Consultant    Cultural Resource Management
  Michael Fearon M.Sc.    James Hodgson Donald G Shomette
     

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A brief history of the Filey Bay  Bonhomme Richard Project

In 1975, a historic wooden wreck was discovered in Filey Bay.  From the features of the wreck and its location in the Bay, it quickly became a candidate for the famed Bonhomme Richard of Commodore John Paul Jones.  The Bonhomme Richard was lost in 1779 in the Battle of Flamborough Head during the American War for Independence.

Tony Green is the architect of the Bonhomme Richard Project in Filey.   Working as a volunteer, he was the Head of Project for fifteen years up to 2009 after building it up from scratch with minimal resources.  It is true to say that the position enjoyed by the Filey Underwater Research Unit (FURU) up to this date was entirely due to his foresight and intuition regarding the complicated dynamics and politics involved in running a scheme involving international bodies.

With an additional background of studies into marine steam propulsion installations, he started out in the late 60's and early 70's providing advice to local sport divers turned profitable salvage divers, who were recovering rich pickings from the many wrecks in and around Filey Bay.  His researches proved useful in the world of underwater recovery and in one unusual request he was even asked to provide a theoretical risk assessment relating to live torpedoes located on a sunken U Boat.

In the early days, the investigation carried out on a ‘hand to mouth' and 'make do and mend’ existence due to the paucity of funding.  Tony was part of the driving force to obtain grant funding for FURU to enable continuation of the work in the Bay, though not exclusively in later years as this work was also undertaken by other colleagues in the Filey Bay Initiative.  

As such, one of the primary objectives was to make FURU a financially viable organisation to further the work.  To help with this; some small but equally important grants were obtained along the way.  This work was not easy and on one occasion, he presented with Donald G Shomette at the Offices of the National Geographic Magazine, Washington DC, in a visit that was funded from his own resources to pursue a successful grant application.   In addition he was the primary signatory to the last major Heritage Lottery Fund grant award in the town for the purpose of furthering the work of underwater archaeology that finally saw FURU financially independent. 

In 2002, the designation of the wrecksite by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in 2002 provided protection against unwelcome activity on the site. Up to 2009 there had been three major investigations of the wreck site with these prestigious organisations, with other investigations of a smaller scale running in tandem.  During this time the project was helped by the production of a BBC documentary on the work in the Bay.  

The Bonhomme Richard Project was a model of international cooperation with such bodies as The National Geographic Magazine, The US National Park Service Submerged Cultural Resource Unit and Donald G Shomette of Cultural Resource Management, Dunkirk, Maryland participating in the investigations.  In addition to this, the Bonhomme Richard project worked with Pritchard Diving Consultancy, English Heritage, Wessex Archaeology and a host of other organisations and private individuals, who in effect formed a ‘partnership’ for the work.  A full account of the project and those involved in it is already in the public domain and over this period a tremendous amount of cooperation and goodwill was built up between the partners on the site. 

Although work continues today to establish provenance of the wreck, by 2009 the Bonhomme Richard Project had achieved its main objective and to deliver the results at that particular stage to the people of Filey. This places the community of Filey firmly on the heritage and tourist map.

Tony is also the owner and author of the website www.fileybay.com which forms one part of his Curriculum vitae, and the site is kindly sponsored by Elite Truck Bodies Ukraine.  The website reaches far and wide and is maintained on a voluntary basis for the continuing benefit of Filey and its environs.   In the website, he proposed the idea for an extension to the existing Heritage Coast to encompass Filey and the Bay communities and is hopeful that the recognition of the Filey community will be taken into account if this proceeds.

Also forming  part of his Curriculum Vitae is his successful management and promotion of the Filey Bonhomme Richard Project  and today he remains a fervent supporter of the Filey Bay Initiative and the recently formed Kirkbean Parish Heritage Society.  In addition to this, he works to further the objectives of English Heritage.  As an independent historian in his own right with The Filey Bay Research Group, he now pursues his own research on the Bonhomme Richard and related local subjects. In a working relationship with Archaeologist Peter Pritchard of Pritchard Diving Consultancy, he also imparts his experience and knowledge to groups who wish to setting up and undertaking locally based archaeological projects.  He delivers presentations and consults widely with those who have an interest on the archaeological work being undertaken in the Bay. He also supports archaeological work providing it is carried out in a of professional and competent manner, and by individuals who are suitably qualified. When Tony left the project, Pritchard Diving Consultancy also provided their illuminating  final report encompassing the standards and ethics that are required to undertake work on the wreck site, that is now published by permission of the Author.

As an international yachtsman in the North Sea, Baltic Sea, North Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, he draws on his maritime experience for his written work. As such he is the author of several short articles and a fictional book The Cullean Legacy.  There is also an unpublished major work concerning maritime salvage and future works are planned.

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