PAUL JAMES BLESSINGTON 18 February 1958 14 November 2012 A celebration of Paul’s life will be held at St John’s Anglican Church, Constitution Avenue Reid tomorrow Saturday 17 November 2012, commencing at 11 am. A private cremation will have taken place. In lieu of flowers a donation may be made to Outward Bound Australia or the Australian Railway Historical Society. All welcome.
(Note, the time in Canberra is 11 hours ahead of that in Jamestown and London, meaning the service takes place at midnight Friday/Saturday GMT)
Paul Blessington, who had to leave his post as St Helena’s Financial Secretary to seek urgent medical help, has died in Australia. He had cancer.
Paul’s contribution to life on St Helena went far beyond the requirements of his job. He was an energetic leader of Jamestown scouts, and supplied regular reports on the golf club.
The following statement was issued from The Castle on 14 November 2012:
St Helena Government has this morning learned the deeply sad news that our former colleague and Financial Secretary, Paul Blessington, passed away today in Australia.
HE Governor Capes has sent a message of condolence to Margaret Blessington and Paul’s family on behalf of the public service.
Governor Capes said: “Tamara and I were deeply saddened to learn of Paul’s death. I have also received messages from colleagues in the FCO and DfID who were also sorry to hear this news.
“Paul fought a tremendous fight against his illness, supported with much love and care from Margaret and his family and friends. His memory will live on in the hearts and minds of so many people here in St Helena.”
Paul was born in the UK but his career took him to Australia, where he became national president of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. He also taught public sector management at the Australian National University.
He arrived on St Helena in January 2009 to work as government economist, and he and his family quickly began to make an impact in other areas of island life, including the scouts and guides.
A year later he was promoted to become Financial Secretary, giving him a seat on the island’s executive council.
He was a very fit man, and would regularly run from The Castle in Jamestown to his home at Piccolo Hill, Longwood in under an hour – involving an ascent of 2,000 feet. In the past he had taken part in mountain running events.
But his name did not feature in the results lists for the 2012 St Helena Festival of Running.
On 12 July 2012, only a few weeks before his three-year contract was to end, it was announced that he would be leaving the island that day on the NP Glory 4 cargo ship, having been advised to seek urgent medical attention.
Storms meant his voyage was uncomfortable and prolonged by several days, but he reached Namibia in time to catch a flight to Cape Town, where he underwent tests. He eventually flew home to Australia.
The news of his death came only a day after Governor Bates paid tribute to former councillor Michael “Newpence” Benjamin, who died on 9 November 2012. Read more.
Dax Richards has been thanked for stepping into the role of St Helena’s Financial Secretary after the sudden departure of Paul Blessington.
Paul had to leave the island aboard the airport supply ship, the NP Glory 4, after being advised to seek urgent medical advice in mid-July 2012. The RMS St Helena was in dry dock at the time.
Paul was only weeks from the end of his term of office. Colin Owen, who has been the island’s chief auditor for two years, has now taken over as Financial Secretary.
Governor Mark Capes said: “I am grateful to Dax Richards for so ably carrying the extra load since the departure of Paul Blessington who, with Dax and the finance team, delivered on many significant improvements to the management of our public finances.”
It is not the first time Dax has stepped up to the crease on St Helena’s behalf in 2012. He was also one of the stars of the island’s cricket team during its first-ever overseas tournament, in South Africa.
St Helena’s Financial Secretary, Paul Blessington, has been advised to seek urgent medical attention. He was due to leave St Helena for South Africa on Thursday, 12 July 2012.
A statement from The Castle says: “The St Helena Government sends its best wishes to Paul and looks forward to his early return to the Island. The Finance Directorate will cover Paul’s responsibilities while he is off-Island.”
The RMS St Helena is in dry dock in Cape Town, but Paul was able to secure a trip to South Africa on board the airport supply ship.
Paul is well known on St Helena not only as a senior official but also as the energetic leader of the Jamestown Scouts. He recently accompanied them on a trip to Ascension.
He is also a keen runner and holder of the record for the run from Jamestown to the summit of Diana’s Peak. He took part in the St Helena Day race up Jacob’s Ladder in May, but did not defend his title in the Festival of Running last month.
Disquiet over the funding of St Helena’s new enterprise agency has prompted the island government to release the text of a statement by Financial Secretary Paul Blessington.
Enterprise St Helena (ESH) was set up at a cost of nearly three million pounds – but most of that was coming from the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
That investment was vital to giving Saints a brighter future when the island has an airport, said Paul.
The statement was delivered at a meeting of the island’s legislative council after Councillor Cyril Gunnell asked for the finances to be explained.
Paul said: “Public debate has shown a lack of understanding about how and why Enterprise St Helena is being funded. I therefore welcome this opportunity to set the record straight.”
He said the agency was set up “to help private enterprise flourish on the island” as work began on its first airport.
The St Helena Development Agency merged with the Tourism Development Project to create the ESH.
Total funding for ESH in 2012-13 is £2,763,863. DFID is providing 76% and the remaining £460,000 is being put in by St Helena Government. That’s about 1.6% of SHG’s budget.
“Just under half (49%) of the £2.76m is existing funding from the old SHDA and tourism projects, whilst just over half represents new funding for additional activities.”
New funding includes:
£112k for seeking new investors
£140k to develop commercial sites
£89k to provide extra help to businesses
£105k for skills training
£14k for support to the fishing industry.
Paul said economic development wasthe top priority in the island’s new Sustainable Development Plan.
“Unless St Helena successfully grows its private sector economy, on the back of the opportunity provided by the airport, there can be no long-term improvement in living standards for current and future generations of Saints.
“There are many competing demands out there for scarce public funds, but this government has wisely agreed that some of those funds must go towards economic development, if progress is to be achieved.
“An extra commitment of 1.6% of the budget is a relatively small price to pay in relation to the potential long-term return to the island. This is about investing now to ensure a brighter future – a future with more money to invest in essential services such as education, health and social welfare.”
Falklands Radio reports that the Falkland Islands’ governor, Nigel Haywood, has crossed the finishing line in the the world’s most southerly marathon “with the governor’s flag in his hand”.
Which begs the question: will his counterpart on St Helena, Mark Capes, be tackling the world’s most remote marathon in June 2012?
Or maybe he’ll pass the flag to the island’s financial secretary, Paul Blessington, who has a history of running home after work on a Tuesday – six miles, 2,000 feet of ascent, partly off-road, in under an hour.
There is some pressure on His Excellency here: his predecessor, Governor Gurr, was known to go running, and also completed 100 ascents of Jacob’s Ladder, the brutal flight of 699 steps rising up from Jamestown.
A picture on the Sartma.com news website on the Falklands shows a sizeable field setting off for this year’s event – including relay teams.
So how do the Falklands manage to attract so many runners, when the result of the last St Helena marathon was a foregone conclusion, just so long as the only entrant managed to finish? (She did).
The first male and female finishers in the Stanley Marathon (Robert Harden and Argentinian Claudia Camargo) each won £1,100. The first relay team shared £900.
That might have something to do with it.
Sergeant Harden, a gym instructor based on the islands at Hillside, had already won the Cape Pembroke half-marathon, running in aid of the Royal British Legion.
He’d set himself a challenge of completing both events in a combined time of 4 hours and 45 minutes – meaning he had to finish the full 26-miler in 3 hours 28 minutes. For every minute he went over that time, he’d promised to donate an extra pound to the legion.
Frank Jaffray was the only Falklands-born runner to go the full distance.
The official times haven’t yet been published (as at 1800hrs UK time on 19 March 2012).
Congratulations to all the runners. And good luck to Governor Capes…
Note, this post has been being written by someone who managed a time of 5 mins and 45 seconds when a race up the Jacob’s Ladder was staged to mark the first Governor’s Cup yacht race, and who was recently irked to discover that because the St Helena media didn’t work over the Christmas holidays back then, the result went unrecorded. The winner, from New Caledonia, was 12 seconds faster, which would put him high up the current top ten – but the records make no mention of it. Unless anyone kept a copy?