NEWHAVEN – If you were to think of the places associated with the life of late President Ho Chi Minh, you probably would not consider the small British seaside town of Newhaven. However, the town does indeed have a significant link with the founder of modern Viet Nam, which it celebrated on Sunday along with representatives from the Vietnamese Embassy to the UK.
The ceremony on May 19 coincided with both the 100th anniversary of President Ho’s first arrival in the UK and his 123rd birthday.
And the connection? According to a Sussex professor and a local council chairman, Ho Chi Minh may once have worked as a pastry chef on the cross-channel ferry service between the French town of Dieppe and Newhaven following World War I.
The ceremony started with the handover of a bronze statue of President Ho, weighing about 120kg, to the Newhaven Museum. The gift was from the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Management Board and offered by the Vietnamese Ambassador to the UK, Vu Quang Minh.
Martin Evans, a professor at the University of Sussex, said that he was first made aware of the town’s link with Ho Chi Minh 25 years ago while on a visit to Dieppe in the late 1980s, where he was told by a local French communist that the future Vietnamese leader had worked on the Dieppe to Newhaven ferry.
Meanwhile, Gramham Amy, former Mayor of Newhaven, said when he was small he was told the ferry story by an older relative.
The town has been quick to celebrate its famous connection and one of the many banners displayed at Newhaven’s West Quay reads: “Did you know that Ho Chi Minh once worked as a pastry chef on the Newhaven – Dieppe Ferry?”
Evans, who was present at the ceremony, explained why it was important to commemorate the link. “The ceremony was a very important and emotional moment. Ho Chi Minh is an important figure not only in Vietnamese history but in world history as well. The connection shows that Newhaven was one of the places Ho Chi Minh visited while he was developing his revolutionary politics.”
Speaking later at the town’s Meeching Hall, Ambassador Vu Quang Minh said that the ceremony showed that the historical links between the life of the former President and the town of Newhaven had been revived and strengthened.
Mayor of Newhaven Julie Carr told the participants that it was an honour for the town to mark the event, particularly at a time when the two countries are celebrating the 40th anniversary of their diplomatic ties. She said that the story of President Ho Chi Minh once working in Newhaven was a significant part of the town’s history. – VNS