Jim Parker: Lights will shine across Torbay as communities unite in times of sadness

Lights will shine bright in Brixham

Lights will shine bright in Brixham - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I have had problems writing the column this week. There are loads of things to get stuck into but they all pale into insignificance when it comes to something which has struck at the very heart of Brixham and for that matter Torbay as a whole. The loss of two fishermen.

It all started early Saturday morning when the 45ft Joanna C scalloper got into trouble off the coast of Sussex.

What actually happened is not yet clear but the boat sank. Skipper Dave Bickerstaff, 34, was found clinging to a lifebuoy. He was rescued from the water by the Newhaven lifeboat and taken to hospital.

A massive search was launched throughout Saturday and most of Sunday for missing crewmen Adam Harper, 26, and Robert Morley,38. Tragically nothing was found and the two fishermen are presumed drowned. Adam’s body was later recovered.

Brixham is a close-knit community at the best of times but in such sad circumstances as these that community becomes tighter, more protective and caring in a way only fishing communities can sometimes care, sticking together, supporting, helping and loving one another like one, big family.

Meanwhile Torbay stretched out its arms to embrace a town and its people in mourning.

One fisherman told me: “Everybody is so shocked and saddened. It always seems to happen at this time of the year.”

Most Read

Our thoughts and condolences are with the devastated family and friends of the missing men.

Candles were lit on the quayside, prayers said in the local church and thousands of messages flashed across social media.

Brixham’s ‘Fish Town’ community is asking people to support a special moment to remember the two men.

They want us to shine a light for them on December 5 at 18.14 - the exact time as the boat’s distress signal on that tragic Saturday morning.

I am sure lights will shine bright all around the Bay as we unite to support the family and friends at this very sad time.


Talking of grief and sadness – yet total inspiration – I just have to mention Joyce Marsden as well this week.

Joyce lost Bert, her husband of 58 years, to Covid recently.

It was only a few months ago that the Torbay couple were pictured enjoying themselves on holiday in India. And it was less than that when we saw 82-year-old Bert, who loved music, playing the trumpet.

Sadly, Bert ended up in Torbay Hospital with the dreadful virus and never recovered. Before he died, he made friends with Sean Caunter who was in a bed opposite. Sean survived and recounted his story in the Torbay Weekly for us to use as a warning to other people to abide by the safety rules.

Joyce was made aware of the article and, with the backing of her family, wanted to reiterate the same message at the same time as praising the hospital staff and frontline workers for their marvellous and heroic work.

It took a lot courage for Joyce to speak out so soon after she lost somebody she spent virtually her entire with.

At the other end of the generation game, I would also like to heap praise on and say thanks to a group of students at South Devon College. It was inspiring to hear their thoughts on Covid and how they would get that safety message across to people, especially their peers.

Remember, this was from age group of 14 to 16-year-olds who reportedly didn’t worry that much about the virus or spreading it.

In fact, their first message came across loud and clear – they did care. Not only were they aware of the risks to themselves and their friends, they were also acutely aware of the dangers to their family, some of whom were elderly or worked in the NHS.

Their messages are now appearing in the Torbay Weekly and other places like bus shelters as part of a partnership with Torbay Council, public health and other stakeholders.

Joyce and the students – naturally inspiring!