Donington residents urged to do their bit to help make Matthew Flinders homecoming memorable
Residents are being urged to rally around and do their bit to ensure the final homecoming of one of South Holland’s most famous sons is a memorable occasion the village can be proud of.
People from across the globe are expected to descend on Donington in July next year when famous explorer Matthew Flinders will make one last journey and return to the village of his birth to be laid to rest in St Mary and the Holy Rood Church – close to his family.
The eight members of the Flinders Return Project have put out an appeal for volunteers to support the organisation and weekend of celebrations along with a grass field for a potential park and ride scheme.
Scores of people went along to the church at a recent meeting to hear more about the plans to inter Flinders in the church – the first person in 200 years – and the festivities planned for July 13, 14 and 15.
Committee member Jane Pearson, who led last week’s meeting, said: “We want to make sure it is a memorable experience and gives a legacy for the village to enjoy
“My appeal is to get involved. We want to make Donington proud and for everyone to have a memorable occasion.”
Community members were told that three church services, which will be led by bishops from Lincoln, will be held over the three days.
The first on Friday, July 12, will focus on children and committee members who are now in talks with a number of schools which have a connection to the Flinders story. A service for the community will be held on Sunday, July 14.
However, the reburial will be taking place on Saturday, July 13, and the committee is discussing the arrangements with the police.
Mrs Pearson told the meeting: “The hearse will drive slowly through the village into Market Place and at the end of Church Street and will be accompanied by the Royal Navy.
“This day is going to be very busy. We know people from Australia will be flying in with no guarantee to get into the church.”
One problem is that the church has limited space with a capacity of 300 people. The meeting was told that priority will be given to members of the Flinders family - with more than 100 descendants interested - to attend but there are also hopes for a live screening over the internet and a big screen in the village.
However a ballot will be held for the villagers who would like to witness this event.
Mrs Pearson said: “The only fair way is to have a ballot for everyone else that wants to attend. Names in a hat and we draw them out.
“We are hoping to get as many people as possible involved.”
The village could be holding a virtual link with Australia next year to celebrate Flinders’ 250th birthday and the ballot could be drawn then. People are encouraged to sign up via the website or using one of the fliers which is out there.
Mrs Pearson also told the meeting that the church has seen an increase in the number of Australian visitors,
She said: “If you look at the visitors’ book, the number of Australian visitors is significant for such a little village.”
The committee has created a list of 400 hotel rooms along with Airbnb within a 10 mile radius of Donington to help visitors.
But with a vast number of visitors expected over the weekend, concerns were raised during the meeting about the availability of car parking.
Mrs Pearson said she had spoken to the church, secondary schools and local businesses but one suggestion was made during the meeting about a park and ride scheme.
She went onto say: “That’s a thought if anyone has a suitable grass field. Car parking is a bit of a concern to us.”
One visitor said it is reminiscent of the burial of the remains of Richard III in Leicester after his body was found under a car park.
The committee is appealing for people to also help in the run-up and the weekend itself with an appeal for marshals and helping the town look good.
Donington in Bloom is looking to reform to help.
Mrs Pearson said: “We are a small group of eight or nine. We need a lot of involvement from the people of Donington.We are a small group taking this forward and we need your help to do it.”
If you would like to volunteer visit the committee’s website.