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The middle and later months of 2020 mark the 400th anniversary of the departure of the Mayflower and its sibling the Speedwell for the hopeful shores of the New World. And significant celebrations had been planned.

Not just in the Devon incarnation of Plymouth in which the main voyage commenced, and in the Massachusetts successor-version in which the “Pilgrims” on board would carve out their second lives – but in ports along the south coast of England that were also touched by the story, and in the Holland where some of the initial chapters of the narrative were written.

All this, of course, was to reckon without Covid-19 and another outing for the regularly-quoted and much-paraphrased Robert Burns line about how “the best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry”. Considerable work has gone into the anniversary preparations, on both sides of the Atlantic – but as the virus continues to linger and lockdowns remain in place, more and more dates in the diary are at real risk of tumbling into the never-never.

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