Fundraiser launched for Newhaven memorial to fishermen who lost their lives at sea

A bereaved family is raising funds for a permanent memorial in Newhaven to commemorate the fishermen who have lost their lives at sea.

Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 11:23 am
The names of Robert Morley, Adam Harper and Darren Brown will all be on the memorial

Jackie Woolford’s son Robert Morley, 38, tragically died when his fishing boat sank off the coast on Newhaven in November last year.

A fellow fisherman aboard the Joanna C, 26-year-old Adam Harper from Brixham, Devon, also lost his life.

Jackie and her family have been working with the MP Maria Caulfield to get permission for the memorial, which will name both men along with Darren Brown, a local man who died at sea in 2016, aged 37.

A fundraising page set up to raise the £20,000 required has already raised almost £1,800. Jackie said: “It’s been absolutely unbelievable.”

Robert and Adam were on the 45ft scalloping vessel when it sank at about 6am on November 21, three miles out to sea.

Only the skipper, Dave Bickerstaff, survived. He was pulled from the water by lifeboat crews after he was found clinging to a lifebuoy.

The tragedy sparked a major multi-agency search which continued throughout the Saturday and Sunday.

When the search was called off on November 22, hundreds of people, including emergency teams included in the search, attended a vigil in Newhaven.

Jackie said: “We went down and it was just mobbed. I was so overwhelmed, it was just amazing.”

Ever since that day, there has been a makeshift memorial to the two men down at the harbour past the lifeboat station.

It is at this spot where Jackie hopes the permanent memorial can be placed.

“Whoever comes into the harbour, that’s what they are going to look at as soon as they come in,” she said.

A local sculptor, Christian Funnell, has designed the memorial, which will be made from brass and depict an anchor on the floor with a net full of fish, bearing the names of the three men.

Jackie said the memorial would ‘mean a lot’ to her. “It would be somewhere to go.”

Newhaven is one of few fishing ports that does not have a memorial to fishermen, she said.

“It isn’t just for Rob, it is for all three boys – and it isn’t really just for them, it’s for everybody,” she said.

“My one dream is that no other names have to go on it. It would mean another tragedy for someone.”

Jackie had been hoping the memorial might be in place in time for the first anniversary of Rob’s death this November.

But she believes it could be completed by the spring, if enough funds are raised.

The family of Mr Brown, who was reported overboard from a 10m fishing vessel in The English Channel on Thursday, June 9, 2016, had previously attempted to get a memorial put in place at the harbour.

Jackie said: “It was important that Darren Brown’s name was on it as well, for his family and his children.”

She wanted to give ‘a big thank you’ to everyone who had donated so far.

“We’re humbled by how much generosity has been given,” Jackie said. “After the year we’ve had as well, it’s so amazing we have this amount of money.”

Mrs Caulfield said she had worked alongside Newhaven Town council and the Mayor of Newhaven, Lesley Boniface, to agree the location for the memorial.

She said of the fundraiser: “People are being incredibly generous.

“It is so important to the fishing community and the community as a whole that we have a permanent memorial to those who have lost their lives simply doing their job.

“Months after the terrible accident with the Joanna C people continue to leave flowers and candles and there is always someone at the temporary memorial just stopping to remember Rob and Adam.

“A permanent memorial would mean we will never forget as a town.”

Among the businesses getting behind the appeal is Old Bills Valeting in Seaford, a mobile car Valeting unit, which is donating 10 per cent of its takings over the month of June to the cause.

It is also running a raffle via its Facebook page to win a full valet worth £100 and a second prize of an in-and-out express clean worth £35, with entries priced at £3 each or two for £5.

A winner will be drawn on June 26 at the proposed site of the memorial by the mayor.

To donate to the appeal, visit the fundraising page here.