Finally after four and a half years of fundraising, the dream has become a reality.
The sculpture of an anxious woman and child, staring out to sea hopefully, has been erected on the Mid Shore, Pittenweem. The unveiling of the bronze memorial, beautifully crafted by Alan Herriot DA MRBS, of Edinburgh, and cast by Powderhall Bronze Ltd, took place on Saturday, September 28th at 12 noon.
On a lovely sunny day, with a rising tide and a gentle breeze, people began to gather about 11 am. Seating was provided at the front for the elderly, and the others stood behind in a half circle, making a small arena, around the bright blue cloth printed with the PFMA logo, waiting with expectation for the unveiling. It was estimated between 300/400 people were in attendance, the largest proportion of whom were locals.
The introduction was performed By Ronnie Hughes, chairman of the PFMA. He thanked everyone for attending by addressing them as “Friends and Supporters”, and for those who had made donations and assisted in other ways, specifically those who had given their time and services free of charge. Support had come from Shetland to Portsmouth, from individuals, businesses, and trust funds, too many to mention, but he said it signified that the general public believed in the project, and the continued backing from the local community over that time was important.
A recent survey conducted by members of the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther, collected data from newspaper accounts etc from the area of Crail to Lower Largo, a distance of about 28 miles by sea, and the numbers they found were staggering. Over 400 lives lost, many of them only a mile from the shore. From a few small fishing villages, this was a terrible loss of menfolk to the community.
The women and children he said, still had to carry on with their lives after these tragic events, with little money, no pensions, and had to rely greatly on the support of the wider family and friends. There has been no public recognition of any of those tragedies…….until today.
Many of those lost were never recovered and have no resting place, so the primary objective of the PFMA was simple, to commission and erect a memorial as a tribute to the fishing industry, which would be placed on the foreshore in Pittenweem, where families and friends could come and remember, and reflect on the background behind it.
The man tasked with this project was Edinburgh sculptor Alan Herriot DA MRBS, and there was no doubt that with his research and meticulous attention to detail, he had surpassed their expectations with an outstanding piece of work.
He concluded his address with these words; ( There are no names on this memorial, just a bronze plaque with words of dedication for the men and women of “the fishing” ).
Ronnie then asked retired Pittenweem skipper, Ian Bowman, whose son had been lost in 2006, to address the crowd. Ian made a short but moving speech, with comments on women he had known all his life, who had suffered the loss of a family member, as he had done, and on the hardship of coping and keeping the household and family together in these tragic circumstances. Ian then stepped down from the podium, and with the assistance of Rory and Daisy, the Head boy and Head girl of Waid Academy, slowly pulled the blue cloth forward towards the sea, to unveil the beautiful piece of bronze sculpture.
A short but very meaningful dedication, was given by Rev. Dr. W. McNaughton: “We dedicate this memorial to the men and women who make their living from the sea – and to those who have lost their lives in so doing. May we and those who have cause to pass this way in the days to come, look upon this woman and child, and reflect on the cost of fish down the years, on those who have experienced the shocking breakability of life in pursuing their calling: a mother’s son, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a sweetheart. May we all appreciate anew Walter Scott’s assertion “it’s no fish we’re buying – it’s men’s lives.”
A tune composed by Richard Wemyss, Fishermen’s Lament to those Lost to the Sea, was then played by local Piper Sara Isaac, who comes from a long line of Cellardyke fishermen. As the pipes played, unknown to the crowd, from one of the fishermen’s traditional houses at the back, a young woman and child dressed in the period costume of the sculpture, began to walk silently and slowly through the crowd towards the railing at the waterside, pausing briefly to gaze past the breakwater out to sea, and then carry on through the other side of the crowd. Many a tear was wiped away at this point. Vicky and Grace performed their part to perfection.
Scupltor Alan Herriot was then introduced, and a presentation was made to Alan on behalf of the PFMA for his beautiful interpretation of the worrying family, waiting hopefully.
Ronnie then thanked all who attended on such a beautiful day, for an emotive and moving occasion, and announced there would be a meet and greet in the Church Hall, where catering was provided by David and Stewart Barnett.