By Paul Mullis, Chief Executive
I was recently on holiday in Scarborough and marvelled at the giant steel sculpture on the North Bay, which is called Freddie Gilroy and the Belson Stragglers.
The sculpture is based on a retired miner who was also one of the first soldiers to relieve the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the end of World War Two. The piece of art is not just about Freddie Gilroy, but represents all the normal people that were pulled out or an ordinary life and forced into a very extraordinary and dangerous one during the War.
The sculpture got me thinking about the Miners Gala DAMHA is so proud to attend each year and which after 128 years is a still very much a grassroots movement and a celebration of the affirmation of community that has survived world wars, strikes and dissolution of the coalfield. It seems as strong as ever because it is founded on simple, honest common desires and bonds.
The sculpture in Scarborough is very much the same as it is all about a simple, ordinary man, who just did his job and his duty for his King and country. But in doing that he provided an example, mirrored up and down the country, of the human bedrock of the nation. His hard work, selfless attitude, acknowledgement of his personal responsibility to his family and his quiet emotional response to the horrors of the war were all hidden from the casual observer.
In the year of the Olympics and Paralympics, when the athletes, organisers, volunteers and crowds, have all showed the massively positive things that can be achieved, it struck me that the hope for the future is so obviously not rooted in Westminster, or the Square Mile. And that while house prices may fluctuate, the economy (as measured in financial terms of economic output) may stutter, while there are massive obstacles out there, the quiet dignity, an innate sense of doing your best, doing the right thing and looking out for each other are what will keep our heads above water.
DAMHA has seen many ups and downs and has seen off many challenges to its very existence over the years, but we are still very much here and still steadily continuing to “do the right thing” for the older people of the area, who all those years ago we were set up to help.
We aren’t the biggest housing association in the country, nor the fastest growing, but we are one of the best loved, as evidenced by our customer satisfaction surveys, because we seek to help real people with real problems just like we’ve always done.