Hull memorial for men lost at sea is unveiled at last

It has been a long time in the making but the families and friends of 6,000 men from Hull whose only known grave is the sea now have a fitting memorial at which to gather and think of their loved ones.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, blesses the Lost Trawlermen Memorial at St Andrew's Quay, Hull. Picture by Simon Hulme
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, blesses the Lost Trawlermen Memorial at St Andrew's Quay, Hull. Picture by Simon Hulme

Hundreds of people joined local dignitaries for the Lost Trawlermen’s Day event on St Andrew’s Quay in the city today for the blessing of the memorial - which was 15 years in the planning - by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

The service commemorates the estimated 6,000 fishermen who have died sailing out of the Hull since the mid 19th century, and the unveiling of the memorial added to the poignancy.

Rev Tony Cotson, chaplain to fishing heritage charity Stand, which commissioned the memorial, said: “The memorial is a culmination of many years of hard work by Stand and the various members of the committee which has changed over the years.

“But today was about all those who were lost and we were reminded by the many people who contributed that that was the focus of everything today.”

He said the memorial had been well worth waiting for.

“The public reaction was overwhelming. People were very moved by it. They will identify their loved ones in the faces of some of those depicted.

“Even the weather played it’s part. It was blowing a gale, it was raining and there was even a bit of hail which was fitting for the men who lost their lives out at sea in those conditions.

“The service is a sharing of loss for many people but this has given those who grieve a focal point to lay flowers and say their prayers.”

Created by Hull-born artist Peter Naylor, the sculpture consists of 14 figures - depicting 13 ill-fated crew members and a young boy. Dressed in suits, most are carrying kitbags full of clothes. Mr Naylor, 66, said he was touched by people’s reactions to the memorial which he described as his “dream job”.

The former Hull Grammar School pupil won the commission by way of a public vote after shortlisted designs were showcased at Hull Maritime Museum.

The artist said: “It’s quite a weight off my shoulders. It’s been a feeling of great responsibility on behalf of a lot of people for whom this is tremendously emotional for.”

His handiwork was uncovered before the hundreds gathered at the quayside by the Archbishop.

Dr Sentamu said: “At one time, many people left Hull to go out into the deep sea for fishing. Some never came back. And those who came back have been campaigning for a very long time that a memorial should be in place so that families and friends left to grieve may honour those lost at sea.”