It is a fact that commercial fishing is still the UK’s toughest and most dangerous peacetime occupation. There are currently around 12,000 fishermen in the UK, and while there is evidence that fatalities have declined over recent years, the number of serious injuries suffered by fishing crew still remains high. Over the years thousands of fishermen have lost their lives at sea, and amongst these there are many who have sailed through Tynemouth Piers never to return.
There are over 30 principal fishing ports in the UK, with North Shields being widely recognised as the biggest prawn landing port in England. Many of these ports have memorials to remember those fishermen who have died at sea, yet North Shields is without one. Henry Howard is a retired local fisherman who was born in Dublin and fished out of Eire for 25 years, principally in the notoriously dangerous waters off Iceland and the Russian coast. Henry moved to the North East in the 1960s, and for a number of years worked on trawlers sailing out of North Shields and it was he who first raised the idea of erecting a local memorial in 2015.
From there the ‘North Shields Fishermen’s Heritage Project’ was born. Although Henry is the emotional heart of the project, a number of dedicated community based volunteers have been recruited to help realise his dream of creating a permanent and fitting memorial to those fishermen who have sailed from the port of North Shields and have perished at sea just doing their job.
The project, which is based at the Old Low Light Heritage Centre in North Shields, already has the support and backing of much of the community as well as that of North Tyneside Council, the Fishermen’s Mission, the Association of Retired Fishermen and many local businesses.
A site has been identified close to North Shields Fish Quay and it is proposed that the memorial be erected there as a piece of ‘Destination Art’ – something people will travel to see. It will be a fitting tribute to all our fishermen who have been lost at sea.
Designs have been submitted by local sculptors and people can view and vote for their favourite on our website, www.nsfhp.org.uk/vote, until October 17th.
Project volunteers are working on various initiatives with local schools and community groups to help raise the estimated £75,000 needed to achieve our goal. If you would like to help us, and raise the profile of our rich fishing heritage, please visit our website www.nsfhp.org.uk or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To keep up to date with our progress, follow us on Twitter @nsfh_project or search on Facebook for North Shields Fishermens Heritage Project.
by Charlie Steel © 2016
Further reading for many of Charlie’s articles can be found in his books: ‘Monkseaton Village’ (Vol. 1 & 2), ‘North Shields Public Houses, Inns & Taverns’ (Part 1 & 2), ‘Tynemouth Remembered’ and ’Whitley Bay Remembered’ (Part 1 & 2) , all published by Summerhill Books.