ABOUT 100 people gathered at the end of Newhaven Harbour for the unveiling of a memorial to remember fishermen lost at sea.

The sculpture, a copper-clad shoal of fish, was dedicated to six men who have lost their lives off the coast of Newhaven.

Two of them, Adam Harper and Robert Morley, died after their boat Joanna C got into difficulty on November 21, 2020. 

Captain Dave Bickerstaff survived and was pulled from the water by lifeboat crews, while the body of 26-year-old Adam Harper was found by divers five days later.

The Argus: The memorial at the bottom of Fort Road in NewhavenThe memorial at the bottom of Fort Road in Newhaven

Robert, who was from Newhaven, was discovered washed up in Bexhill the following month.

Lewis Arnold, coxswain for Newhaven RNLI, spoke to the crowd yesterday afternoon and described how much the tragedy affected search and rescue teams after their tireless efforts to find the lost men.

Robert’s mother, Jackie Woolford, unveiled the memorial watched by the family of some of the lost fishermen, RNLI crews who responded to the incident, coastguard crews, Maria Caulfield MP for Lewes, Mayor of Newhaven Lesley Boniface and many more.

Mrs Woolford told The Argus: “We wanted it for the first anniversary just so it was a specific day but we couldn’t get it done by November 21 last year.

“Then we thought spring time. Robert always wanted something special for his 40th, for his 18th and 21st he got gold.

The Argus: From left, Christian Funnell, Steve Bell, Jackie Woolford, Barry Woolford, Nick Gentry, Lewis Arnold, Maria Caulfield, Lesley Boniface and Trevor CutlerFrom left, Christian Funnell, Steve Bell, Jackie Woolford, Barry Woolford, Nick Gentry, Lewis Arnold, Maria Caulfield, Lesley Boniface and Trevor Cutler

“Robert said ‘I don’t want gold for my 40th, I want something special’. You can’t really get any more special than this memorial.

“It sounds silly but it’s bittersweet. We have had this to deal with, there has always been something to do. Now it’s coming to an end and you feel not sure what you’re supposed to do after that.”

Christian Funnell, from South Heighton near Newhaven, designed the sculpture  and took four months to build it.

The Argus: Robert Morley and Adam Harper's names on the memorialRobert Morley and Adam Harper's names on the memorial

The 58-year-old said: “It’s meant to be a dynamic ball of fish, like a bait ball which fish form when being chased by dolphins.

“It’s a celebration of the sea and that is contrasted against a heavy anchor stuck in the mud which is in the concrete. It’s a celebration of energy contrasting to the static nature of death.”

The memorial was placed near a popular fishing spot where Robert used to go angling. His mother thought it would be a suitable spot to have the memorial.

The Argus: Tributes to lost fishermenTributes to lost fishermen

Flowers and carved wooden tributes to the fishermen were also laid around the memorial as people paid their respects.

MP Maria Caulfield said: “It’s a fishing town, so it’s very important to everyone. We should have had a memorial years ago, sadly it has taken these tragic events for this to happen.

“The beauty of this memorial, it’s a fisherman’s memorial. It’s not just for this one incident. I hope it brings people together and reminds them that people go out to sea to make a living and tragic events can happen.

“It’s a dangerous place and our fishermen put their lives on the line to bring food back for the town.”

The Argus: Tributes to Robert and AdamTributes to Robert and Adam

Lesley Boniface said: “Having a permanent memorial down here is just great for the families to come and reflect on their loved ones.”

The memorial is at the bottom of Fort Road in Newhaven. It is also a tribute to fishermen John Ship, Joe Bowen and Andrew Penfold, of the vessel Sylvia Marita, who died in 1979, and Darren Brown, a deckhand on the Our Sarah Jane, who died in 2016.