Cocklers’ Memorial

"The water covered the wheel and the vehicle couldn't move. Everyone was panicking, they got out of the vehicle and tried to swim. But the water was flooding so quickly some were dragged right away under the water. It was pitch black and I was desperate. I thought I might just as well wait to die. I was just numb…..then, I don't know how, a wave maybe turned me round. I was on my own...”

These are the words of Li Hua, one of the Chinese cockle pickers to survive the treacherous waters of Morecambe Bay back in February 2003. 23 lost their lives as the tide rushed back in, stranding vehicles and people alike. The call to the emergency services, made by someone not fluent in English, went:

“Sinking water, many many, sinking water... sinking water, sinking water”.

Morecambe’s RNLI worked for nearly 24 hours, saving survivors and collecting the bodies. The cocklers had been illegally trafficked and were working a dangerous job in a very dangerous place. ‘Gangmaster’ Lin Liang Ren was convicted of 21 counts of manslaughter (2 bodies were still unaccounted for at the time of his trial), facilitating illegal immigration and perverting the course of justice. British cocklers, properly trained, had tried warning the leader of the Chinese crew that the tides were coming, but had only limited success.

Today a simple though moving memorial looks out onto the bay where these poor folk died. Called the Praying Shell, it combines the theme of cockles with hope in the midst of tragedy.   

Morecambe Bay is truly beautiful, its sunsets enchanting. But it’s also a place of death and danger. Many an unwary traveller has been lost in its quick sands, unpredictable currents and rushing tides. I guess it’s a microcosm of our world in general. Though beautiful, it’s deadly. Though containing river valleys, babbling brooks and delectable drumlins, it also has rattle snakes, diseases and earthquakes. Though evangelists and witnesses warn all people everywhere to repent, for the tide of judgement comes, how many ignore them, and are swept away in the floods of eternal justice?