Cockling tragedy beach vigil

The lives of the 23 Chinese cocklers who died in Morecambe Bay were celebrated and remembered in an evening of music and song.

Sigh of the Sea was a poignant and moving event on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the cockling disaster.

Sigh of the Sea event to mark the 10th anniversary of the cockling tragedy.

Sigh of the Sea event to mark the 10th anniversary of the cockling tragedy.

People from all sections of the community came together on the beach near the Clock Tower in Morecambe to remember the tragic loss of life.

Gina Tan, a member of the Chinese community who is in contact with the families of the victims in Fujian province, said: “What happened 10 years ago was a disaster.

“They came here thinking they were going to have a better life and send money home to help their children have a better education, but it didn’t happen.

“The families told me to tell you ‘thank you very much’. I rang them yesterday and told them. They were very, very happy and thanked everybody here for remembering them.

Sigh of the Sea event to mark the 10th anniversary of the cockling tragedy.

Sigh of the Sea event to mark the 10th anniversary of the cockling tragedy.

“What happened in Morecambe Bay should never happen again, we should not let anybody die in Morecambe Bay.

“That night they thought they had time, but they didn’t. That’s why they all died.”

Organiser Pete Moser from More Music in Morecambe said: “With this evening of music and poignant memories, we are hoping to give people a chance to reflect and to think about what happened 10 years ago.

“We wanted to honour the memories of those people who died here and think about their families and have a chance to reflect and think about why it should never happene again and what as individuals we can do to make that happen.”

Chairman of the Lancaster and Morecambe Bay Chinese Community Association, Kim Leong, said: “It seems a long time ago but its still fresh in people’s minds about the tragedy, that meaningless loss of life, so we really want to remember them. More Music provided this event so that people can actually remember the people who died 10 years ago.”

Eric Ng, from Hong Kong, who performed on the night and has done musical collaborations with More Music since 2008, said: “People here really pay tribute to the Chinese who died 10 years ago which is not yet happening in China. This is very ironic but its very heartwarming to have all these people here to remember all those who lost their lives.”

Jean Walsh of Morecambe was at the event. She said: “I came here as a mark of respect for the terrible tragedy. It’s something that never leaves you. It’s nice to respect these things. Everyone’s life is full of tragedy but it’s how you deal with it.”

Mayor of Lancaster, June Ashworth, said: “We came here to remember the tragic events which happened here 10 years ago on the shores of Morecambe Bay – to remember the Chinese cocklers who lost their lives working on the sands on a cold, wet, dark, February night far from home in a foreign land, exploited by the gangmasters, unaware and at the mercy of the incoming tide that came in far too quickly to claim their lives.

“Tonight is also another opportunity to thank all the rescue organisations and members of the community who came out that night to help, many of them putting their own lives at risk.

“It’s an event that should never be forgotten and what could be more fitting than the lives lost to be remembered through music and song.”

David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, said: “Sigh of the sea was a very poignant way to remember the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.

“It was touching to see so many people of all ages pay their respects.”

Sigh of the Sea was organised by More Music in Morecambe in conjunction with the Lancaster and Morecambe Bay Chinese Community Association and the Hua Xian Chinese Society.