Look Back In Time: When hospitality was key to taming the Soviet bear in Falmouth

This is The West Country: Look Back In Time: When hospitality was key to taming the Soviet bear in Falmouth Look Back In Time: When hospitality was key to taming the Soviet bear in Falmouth

With east-west relations cooling once more, a former Falmouth mayor might reasonably argue that he is a past master at pacifying the “Russian Bear,” writes Mike Truscott.

An enlightening exercise in diplomacy is recalled in “The Custom-made Mayor,” the just-completed autobiography of 90-year-old Ron Hicks, who was mayor in 1986-87.

With the Cold War still going strong, Ron said: “I took the lead role in a gesture of goodwill that helped revive Anglo-Soviet relations in the port and boosted longer term prospects for the ship repair yard.

“I seized the diplomatic initiative (as one newspaper reported at the time) when I recognised that the sooner a damaging misunderstanding was buried and forgotten, the better for everyone.

“At the heart of the problem was a £1 million contract won in Moscow by Falmouth Shiprepair, which looked as if it could turn sour because of bureaucratic red tape.

“Two of the most important men on board the 2,100-ton Baltiyskiy, when she arrived at the Docks for repairs, were refused permission to land by immigration officials.

“Mr Innokenty Lee and Mr Viachestav Radrov, both surveyors, were carrying seamen’s papers instead of the necessary passports and visas.

“Thanks to special efforts by Cornish MPs David Mudd and Gerry Neale, they were able to secure temporary permits with Home Office support. Understandably, the Russians felt unwelcome – and said so.

“Falmouth Shiprepair, hoping for more Soviet contracts, were embarrassed by the whole thing.

“To round things off nicely, I organised a civic reception in the Mayor’s Parlour, with hospitality to leave the Russians in no doubt that they were most welcome in Falmouth.

Mr Lee even accepted my offer to try on my Mayoral robes – and any remaining tensions were well and truly dissolved.”

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