GRIMSBY’S Fishermen’s Memorial statue will stand proudly in its permanent St James’ Square home when it returns to the re-modelled public area in the coming weeks.
The 15-year-old bronze monument, dedicated to the hundreds of men who lost their lives at sea, will take pride of place as one of the Square’s most important features.
Removed temporarily as the major works are being carried out, the much-loved 15ft structure is being stored safely and has been visited by the artist responsible for its creation. There to carry out some essential restoration work, the visit by Trevor Harries evoked fond memories of the monument’s inception.
Two decades ago, Trevor – then working at the Grimsby Telegraph – was commissioned to design this permanent memory to the town’s lost fishermen, following a huge fund-raising campaign. Grant funding was matched by donations – from the largest business cheques to single £5-notes.
For the Grimsby-born artist what followed was a project in which he became totally immersed, feeling the burden of responsibility that such an important statue brought with it. He remembers being determined to create a fitting tribute, which would meet the expectations of the many hundreds of people who had supported the cause.
Working on the statue again after all these years, Trevor recalled: “It was a true privilege to be asked and to have the support of the people around me. They had the belief in me that I could create such a fitting tribute and I knew I had it in me.”
Working from a barn in Irby Upon Humber, a location offered to the artist, Trevor painstakingly brought his creation to life following months of preparation, studying anatomy and master sculptors of the eighteenth century.
He sketched ‘faces’ that made up a familiar face of Grimsby and examined the way in which fishermen would interact with the trawlers they worked on. Assistant Mick Parr patiently modelled for Trevor and as the statue took shape and two trawler decks, one built for Mick to pose on, showed the force needed to haul a net.
“Getting the opposing forces between man and raw sea power and the critical balance of the two was crucial at every stage,” explained Trevor, who went to sea on the Jubilee Quest as part of his research.
The result of that dedication was unveiled to the public to high acclaim in 2005 and has since been visited many thousands of times by the relatives of loved ones lost – it remains the only statue of its kind in the Humber region.
Whilst a focal point for remembrance, the statue is also a symbol of Grimsby’s growth to become the busiest fishing port in the world, before the industry’s demise led to a less than prosperous period for the town and many of its people.
In contrast, the return of the Fishermen’s Memorial Statue to St James’ Square is equally symbolic of how the business and community leaders of today are hopeful that a new and more positive era is emerging.
The burgeoning renewables energy sector has brought fresh optimism whilst millions of pounds in grant funding is seeing important urban areas, such as the Square, re-modelled within a new town Heritage Action Zone, (HAZ).
As he looks forward to seeing his statue back in its rightful place, Trevor is also optimistic for the future and how art can help effect change. Taking advice from one of the country’s leading bronze restoration experts Lucy Branch, he has used good old elbow grease mixed with white spirits and soapy water to ensure the Memorial shines. It has also been waxed and polished to show off its already ageing patina.
“Like the statue I think this will be Grimsby’s chance to shine again. When your see the developments taking place, particularly along the River Freshney and the creation of the Heritage Action Zone, you feel that now could be the time. The stars have aligned,” he said.
“Artists get busy because culture, together with the new green technologies being pioneered from the very same docks, will be Grimsby’s salvation and lead to permanent local cultural enterprise for years into the future,” added Trevor.
As reported, the Square’s transformation, which is being managed by ENGIE on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council, is being supported by funding secured by the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (Humber LEP) as part of the Government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse. Further support has come from The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that funds the Cultural Development Fund, which is administered by Arts Council England.