The Chinese Cockling Tragedy In Morecambe Bay
Beauty surrounds and health abounds
But Death lurks in those cockling grounds
Care is needed as your` eyes feast
For beauty can become the beast
On February fifth two thousand and four
A human tragedy came to our shore.
At twenty one twenty that winter`s night
a phone call told of the cockler`s plight.
Beginning a story of greed and shame,
that allowed the sea their lives to claim
and created a link thought never could be
`tween Morecambe and China far over the sea.
Morecambe`s cocklers take no chance
of being caught by the tides advance.
The cockling grounds where they make their pay,
they leave, to pick another day.
They know the channels, they know the tides,
they know the quicksands where danger hides.
But cockles were making a princely sum
tempting all manner of men to come.
Young people from China came to our shore,
their loved ones at home exceedingly poor.
They came to provide a better life
for parent, child, husband, wife.
Gangs could see the profits to make
If Morecambe`s cockles they were to take.
Harvest the crop every day,
using these people for trifling pay.
Morecambe`s cockles in demand
brought cocklers from across our land,
thinking they alone should be
the ones to take them from the sea,
and no intent to have a share
with the Chinese already there.
At the cockling beds they ran amuck
threats were made, blows were struck
In daylight hours with sea at rest
the local cocklers did their best,
to warn them of the dangers when
the ebbing tide comes back again.
A common language was not shared,
they could not understand a word.
If masters heard, they did not say
just sent them on their fateful way.
Gangmasters with orders to fill
sent their teams when all was still.
No matter if by day or night,
no matter if it wrong or right.
The only thing they cared about
was profit, and without a doubt
no thought at all for fellow men,
whom they may never see again.
The workers went without a care
giving no thought to the dangers there.
No one told them of the speeding tide
that soon would give no place to hide.
The darkness fell, the tide came near
they thought it safe they had no fear,
their trust placed in the people who
cared only for the easy sou.
The racing tide came to the fore
a sign for them to leave the shore
they turned around with time to spare
but found the sea already there.
It came around with silent tread
whilst they had watched the tide ahead.
Marooned they were in a raging sea
on a sandbank with nowhere to flee.
Some swam safely to the shore
others there would live no more,
most to meet a wasteful end
far from family and friend.
In the whirling surf, life getting shorter
a call was heard of ‘sinking water! ‘
The wind blew strong, the sea was high
many there were soon to die.
Teams arrived from far and wide
and tried to starve that hungry tide.
The lifeboat with its local crew
searched the waters through and through,
just one surviver found for sure
a young man, name of Li Hua.
Such sacrifice made to meet the need
of gangs whose lives are filled with greed.
From Leconfield, Valley and Kinloss
came members of the Royal Air Force.
The police and coastguards were as well
searching in that Dantes hell.
The sea had won, the tide was fed,
from now they only found the dead.
These brave mens duty now would be
to take with dignity from the sea.
Fire and ambulance scanned the shore
to help those who could swim no more.
They pulled them from the ice cold sea
and saved them for their family
in China many miles away
who`d never heard of Morecambe bay.
But since that night the bay will be
forever in their memory.
Gangmasters tried to flee the scene
telling police they had never been
the ones who used those poor lost souls
and left them to the sea and shoals.
The man in charge of bringing them
to justice, let the courts condemn!
Inspector Gradwell was his name,
of Lancashire policing fame.
There now will always be a tie
with families who still ask, why?
and Morecambe`s bay of sheer delight,
though not so on that fateful night!
Whilst looking `cross our peaceful shore
we shan`t forget those Chinese poor,
forever in our minds they`ll stay
a reminder of this deadly bay.
Though in this land illegaly
that was no reason they should be
robbed of their chance to live their life
with laughing children, loving wife,
of growing old with childhood friends
and walking where the river bends.
The green of grass, the blue of sky
that we take for granted you and I.
A plaque now lies on a Morecambe wall
to make sure we remember all
the young Chinese who died one night,
victims of that deadly blight!
The greed of men without a care
who sent them out and left them there.
Their names engraved for all to see
from now until eternity.
Stand and watch at end of day
the Westward sun set on the bay,
it`s rays refracted by the clouds
gathered round like waiting shrouds
as if to join its Eastward way
creating soon another day.
Taking home those poor lost souls
away from Morecambes sea and shoals
Mazu, Chinas godess of the sea,
please to hear our fervent plea!
These souls that in your` hands you hold
guide them to their homeland fold.
Taken by the setting sun,
the star from which all life begun
To rise up in the early morn
back in the land where they were born.
Beauty surrounded and health abounded
But Death lurked in those cockling grounds.
Copyright B Hough 2004
With kind permission of George Bernard Hough