Whitstable People: Frank Schofield

Frank Schofield in his customary spot in front of the Whitstable Town map near the Harbour.
Frank Schofield in his customary spot in front of the Whitstable Town map near the Harbour.
Frank offering guidance to some Japanese tourists.
Frank offering guidance to some Japanese tourists.

Contact Canterbury City Council

chris.west@canterbury.gov.uk

Fit as a fiddle

Frank Schofield is 69 years old. He will be 70 in November. He has osteoporosis, which means he walks with a stick, plus high blood pressure, otherwise, in his own words, he is “as fit as a fiddle”.

“I could take the world on up top,” he says, pointing to his head. “It’s just my leg that lets me down.”

For the last year and a half he has been greeting visitors to Whitstable as a volunteer guide, standing by the Whitstable Harbour sign, opposite the Lifeboat station, offering help and directions to anyone who asks.

As many as 6 coaches a day are arriving during the summer months. That's hundreds of people a day. People get dropped off at the Horsebridge, and make their way down the sea front to the Harbour. This is where they will catch sight of Frank, by the sign with its map of the harbour, ready to answer questions.

“Basic questions,” he says. “Where are the toilets? Where can we get fish and chips? Where’s the fish market? I’ve had all sorts come up to me: Japanese, Chinese, Australian, Canadian. They love to have someone to meet them. It’s like having a friend in the town. I do it because I like to give a friendly welcome and to boost the town’s image.”

He has lived in Whitstable for the last 53 years, and can talk extensively about the town and its history.

Until last month he also gave out Whitstable town leaflets, which are printed by the council, but he has since been told that he can no longer give these out.

He has been told that he is no longer an official town guide.

“If I stand here I ain’t got no permission to do it,” he says. “I was in the way of their plans.”

Frank believes he is being discriminated against because of his age.

He was invited into the council office and spoken to. “They said, ‘thanks for everything you’ve done in the past but you’re not suitable now because you’re in our way. You’re too old to do the job,’ they said. ‘I wouldn’t employ you because of your age.’”

He was told he could no longer give out the leaflets as he is not a council employee and would need to pay £600 for public liability insurance.

“I ain’t got £600,” he says. “I’m a pensioner.”

Welcome

According to Chris West, Canterbury City Council Coastal Town’s Manager (Whitstable and Herne Bay), this has nothing to do with Frank’s age, but is simply a question of resources. Frank is a volunteer. He does the work off his own back, but the council are limited by the number of leaflets that can be handed out.

“Unfortunately we don’t have enough leaflets to allow Frank to hand them out,” said Mr West.

Meanwhile Frank continues to welcome people to the town from his customary spot. “I’m still doing it,” he says, “but I’m not wearing the tee-shirt. I don’t want to upset people.”

And then he adds, wistfully, “if I have to stand down I’ll stand down, but all I ask is a bit of respect. Age don’t come into it.”

Should Frank Schofield be allowed to continue where he is as the Whitstable Town guide?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't know
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Comments 14 comments

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

Sounds as though some bright young spark at the town council has taken exception to Frank. I can't see what harm Frank could possibly have been doing. Surely if leaflets are printed then it makes sense to distribute them. What a crazy world we live in!


diogenes profile image

diogenes 7 years ago from UK and Mexico

Hi WV: I just sent this to Canterbury Council, hope you approve,

Leave that old chap alone in Whitstable to be a guide if he wants. What's the matter with you officious prats? Mr West,, why don't you pay for more leaflets from the bloody draconian council tax you collect each year? Or your inflated wages?You people are always asking for volunteers, now you have one who wants to do something for the town he loves and has lived in for more than fifty years. Don't be so bloody anal! You will be old one day and wonder where your life went as you desperately try to find something worthwhile to do.We need people like him in this vindictive, sad country.

Robert Challen de Mercer


Whitstable Views profile image

Whitstable Views 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Hiya Amanda, yes this is what I think too. They have their plans but Frank is in the way. He is certainly doing no harm, and the council appears to be back-peddling now, saying it's just down to resources. Hopefully this hub might make some difference.

Hi Diogenes, who did you send this to? I must say i admire your spirit. We'll have to see if they pay any attention however. Let me know when you're passing this way.


Dave Tong 7 years ago

Hi Chris. Greetings from the other side (of the wall, that is!). What a bunch of mealy-mouthed, disingenuous plonkers we have at CCC. During my army days it was always impressed upon me that 'one vulunteer was worth a thousand pressed men'. Translated into Latin it would make a great motto for them! I vote we should make him an 'Unofficial Whitstable Guide' T-shirt and give him your Whitstable Views leaflets to hand out. We could rule the world or, at least, the harbour area. What nonsense.


Whitstable Views profile image

Whitstable Views 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Hi Dave, that's a great idea to give him an "Unofficial Whitstable Guide" tee-shirt. That way they couldn't complain. Not sure my Whitstable Views leaflets would be of much use to tourists however, not unless they have a laptop on them, in which case they can post a comment here.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

This is sooooo wrong! The "public liability" is Chris West! If it wasn't a serious case of age discrimination, it'd be laughable. He doesn't want an old English gentleman greeting visitors who come expressly to see an *old* English town. Hello... Guys like that would tear down the Tower of London and replace it with a shopping mall if they could get away with it. No sense of history whatsoever!


Whitstable Views profile image

Whitstable Views 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

HI JG, yes it is wrong isn't it? But I think Frank is winning his case now, and I'd be surprised if he wasn't there at his post this time next year (and the year after). He may not be able to give out the leaflets, but there's nothing to stop him doing all the rest.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

I reckon Frank'll win this one - as he should. Idiot Jobsworths!


Whitstable Views profile image

Whitstable Views 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

I reckon you're right LG!


MindField profile image

MindField 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon

This burns me up no end, CJ. Send the address or email where I can write these idjits 'cause I'll deliver a broadside just as Diogenes did. And tell Frank there's a feisty lady in California pulling for him!


Whitstable Views profile image

Whitstable Views 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Mindfield, the address is included in the hub, under the picture of Frank.


MindField profile image

MindField 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon

Taking a page from Diogenes (above), I sent this letter to the Town Manager:

Mr. West,

I want to be as nice about this as I possibly can - but you are making it extremely difficult.

Why in God's green earth, with all the problems the world has to solve these days, must you find something good and pour bureaucratic nonsense (to use a polite word) in a smothering heap upon it?

You have a citizen of your town with the willingness and ability to give back, to show kindness, to provide both useful and interesting information and, instead of celebrating him, you tell him to take a hike. Your lack of common sense is only exceeded by your pronounced insufficiency of empathy.

I hope someone with a working heart and brain in Whitstable will reverse this downright stupid move, make Frank a welcome and honored fixture on the sea front, and teach you a lesson behind the Council Chambers if that's what it will take to wake you up.

Sincerely,

Meg Brookman


2patricias profile image

2patricias 7 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

Pat writes: I worked for various councils for a total of 33 years. Working for a council is (at least some of the time)soul destroying.

I am not saying that Whitstable Council was right.

All I am saying is that I do not know the full story.


Whitstable Views profile image

Whitstable Views 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Nice letter Mindfield. As to whether it will make a difference, we will have to wait and see.

Pat, my feeling is that Frank is something of an embarrassment to them and that he doesn't fit in with their overall view of how the town should develop.

I spoke to Frank yesterday (24th July). It seems we've hit the nationals with this one, the Daily Telegraph having taken up the story (see above). Frank wants to say thank you to everyone who has commented on this page and offered their support. He has no intention of leaving just yet.

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