SINKING FEELING: The boat builder statue
30 January 2009
By Richard Bean
A second statue has been stolen from Wigan Pier.
Leisure chiefs have been left devastated by the disappearance of the boat builder, days after the pit brow lassie statue vanished from the same site.
The evocative figure of a boat builder, positioned on the towpath opposite the former canal dry dock, was torn from its plinth on Thursday evening.
At the weekend, a similar moulding of a pit brow lass, one of four striking figures, was stolen.
Because the glassfibre and concrete works of art have little scrap value, police are baffled by the motive for the attacks, particularly as the figures were so securely fixed into the canalside.
All were due to be unveiled by councillors in the presence of the artist on Thursday.
The four statues and information “interpretation” boards telling the story of Wigan Pier and its historical significance have cost a total of more than £36,000.
However, most of the cost has come from external grants such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Development Fund.
Only two figures, a bargee and a cotton worker, now remain, and security is being beefed up to protect them.
Police have started door to door inquiries to find anybody who may have
seen or heard anything.
It is believed that because of the weight of the sculpture, a vehicle would have been needed to carry it away.
This time the figure had been brutally smashed off the plinth and its foot left behind.
It looks like the thieves originally tried to dig him out, but then, finding the depth of the footings – they go a metre into the canalbank – gave up.
Tourism manager for Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust Keith Bergman said: “We are devastated and disappointed.
“This scheme was developed for the people of Wigan to celebrate our rich industrial heritage.
“This is an orchestrated and a deliberate attack. This goes beyond petty vandalism.
“These sculptures had the potential to be viewed and enjoyed by many people – more than half a million people and visitors walk this section of towpath every year – and we had already received positive feedback from those who had seen the sculptures.
“These sculptures have no scrap value but sadly a few people seem determined to wreck it for everyone.”
Tyldesley Lib Dem Metro councillor Robert Bleakley said although he was “sorry” about the theft, he had already warned the Trust that the statues “wouldn’t last five minutes.”
He added ruefully: “I feel story for the hard work put in by council officers and I’m all for promoting the borough’s heritage but I personally think that erecting statues was asking for trouble.”
Anyone with information can contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.