GRIMSBY’S fishing community and its supporters have welcomed the return of the town’s Fishermen’s Memorial Statue to St James’ Square as the transformation of this key public space reaches its final stages.
They have also highlighted the memorial’s importance and their plans to bring their annual Lost Fishermen’s service back to the Minster and the square later this year. An important part of the event is the laying of wreaths around the statue’s base.
The memorial had an early morning journey today, (Friday January 15), as it was brought back to the square and lifted carefully into position. Designers of the new-look public area have realigned its position slightly with the fisherman facing towards the Minster. This will allow crowds to gather away from the main footpath in front of St James’ Hotel during the annual service. Since it has been away, it has also received a spruce-up with preservation and cleaning work undertaken by its creator, Lincolnshire-based artist Trevor Harries.
Gill Ross, the Chair of the Friends of Grimsby Fishermen’s Mission, said: “To have the statue is an opportunity for us all to be reminded of those who risked their lives for our national dish and for us to say thank you for that. The square is the perfect location for it, and we all look forward to the service returning there.”
She added how the charity was currently aware of more than 800 people and families in North East Lincolnshire who had connections with the fishing industry and other nautical jobs, such as the Merchant Navy, who were assisted by the Mission.
Echoing her words Port Missioner Suesan Brown, said: “Fishing remains one of, if not, the most dangerous peace time work and this memorial reminds us all of the risks to life and limb that every fisherman faced and continues to face when they leave the safety of harbour. Fishermen have provided a lifeline of food to this country, including during the worst times when the dangers are even greater. The now mostly retired fishermen of Grimsby knew each time they went out that it could be their last.”
The closure of the square for its major make-over, along with coronavirus restrictions, meant the 2020 annual service was cancelled in its usual format. Instead, a virtual event was recorded at Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre for people to watch online.
Suesan added: “Sadly last year’s remembrance service could not go ahead as normal so I especially look forward to the service this year and I would like to add my thanks to all those involved in the Memorial, from the fundraisers to the artist.”
The centre’s Acting Operations Officer David Ornsby, himself a descendant of fishermen, is looking forward to supporting the service’s return to the Minster and square to remember those lost. In the 1950s alone, more than 30 vessels set sail from the port of Grimsby never to return
“The Great Grimsby Lost Fishermen’s Memorial is a special part of our local fishing heritage. Staff here attend the annual service and work closely with the Friends of Grimsby Fishermen’s Mission to organise the annual Fishermen’s Reunion,” said David.
“Wreaths are laid against the memorial, providing another key reminder in our town centre of the dangers that local people faced in the industry. It is wonderful that this striking and authentically detailed memorial will form a key feature of the renovated St James’ Square, giving a place for reflection and recognition of the sometimes, tragic true price of fish,” he added.
David’s colleague at the Heritage Centre, former Skipper Dennis Avery leads tours of the floating museum the Ross Tiger trawler, of which he was at the helm for eight years.
He said: “The statue has to be in the square and needs to be maintained and looked after for people to realise what went on in the fishing industry, and also how much our town owes the fishermen, especially those who did not come back.”
Work on the main redevelopment of the square continues, with the majority finished later this month, when just the creative paving and artwork will be outstanding. The £1.8m overhaul to create a family-friendly space with new furniture, planting, lighting and CCTV is being managed by North East Lincolnshire Council’s regeneration partner ENGIE, with the main funding secured by the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (Humber LEP) as part of the Government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse.
The artistic work is being developed as part of ‘Grimsby Creates’ – an umbrella brand for cultural activity over the next three years with support from the Cultural Development Fund, (CDF), which is funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and administered by Arts Council England.