Brixham united in tribute and love for 'one of their own'

Torbay Weekly

Brixham is celebrating the life of ‘one of its own’, after trawler owner and Skipper John Hartley Lovell sadly passed away surrounded by his precious family.

Not only was John a devoted family man to his wife Pat, children Caroline, Helen and Mark, and grandchildren Johnny and Budeaux, he was also a huge figure in the fishing family of Brixham.

Born in April 1950, John, and his sister Valerie, were born into the ‘Lovell’ family; a Brixham fishing family stretching back many generations. “Our family has been a part of Brixham fishing life for generations,” said daughter Helen, who is also the Fishermen’s Mission Area Officer for Devon. “Dad didn’t really like school, he just wanted to be out fishing”.

On finishing school in Brixham at the age of 15, John moved to Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth and began his own maritime career as an Engineer Officer in the Merchant Navy. He travelled the globe as a merchant seaman, including sailing to South America and New Zealand, before returning to his calling as a Brixham fisherman; a vocation and passion he pursued for over 40 years.

John married his childhood sweetheart Pat in 1973. He then embarked upon his fishing journey alongside well-loved, veteran fisherman Ticker Smith on the ‘Ability’. He continued his career, learning different fishing methods and eventually, on passing his Skipper’s exams bought the ‘Bogey One - TH94’.

Using his knowledge and experience, John had a vision for the future of fishing in Brixham, and in 1989 lead the way in realising this when he commissioned a Dutch built beam trawler, which he named ’Carhelmar’ after his three children.

Despite the relentless pattern of life Sunday was always kept special as a family day.

Helen added: “He was a proper good Brixham man. But he was also tough on both Caroline and I when we wanted to experience going deep sea fishing with him, telling us, as we passed Berry Head, that we wouldn’t be seeing it again for seven days as he had men’s livelihoods to think of.

“Dad was always a fun, kind and generous man who helped many young men on their journey into the fishing industry, and we have been touched by the many private messages we’ve received from those that dad mentored.”

Besides fishing, among his many other achievements, John was also a founder member of the Torbay Steam Rally and helped to raise crucial funds for the community through donations and voluntary work.

The All Saints’ Church Sea Week each July brought together John’s faith and immense pride in the maritime heritage of Brixham; lovingly decorating the Church with fishing nets and his extensive collection of sailing smack “Burgees”, (brightly coloured flags presented to owners by the builders of these fishing smacks).

During sea week he loved introducing fishing and sea safety to young people, his efforts were even featured in the Sky Atlantic TV programme ‘Fish Town’ which shows his incredible enthusiasm when teaching kids about life at sea, with Mark Criddle, Coxswain of the Torbay Lifeboat.

John was tragically diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2013 and the family would like to pay tribute to the love and care he received while living with such a cruel illness. “Mum cared for dad with love, patience and dedication,” added Helen.

“It was only in the last year that we had to get extra help from carers. His sister, Auntie Valerie, and all family members and friends have been amazing with dad. Carmel Care, Thornbury Villas in Plymouth and finally Ashercare in Newton Abbot have all been angels.”

The sun set on John’s wonderful life with his family by his side and a moment that encapsulated the things that mattered most to this special man: family, fishing life and his faith.  Helen said: “Caroline, Mark and I held hands, we played a recording of Abide with Me followed by Waterloo Sunset and whilst we recited the Lord’s Prayer, he took his last breath.”