|Mersea Island has lost another one of its "gentle"men with the sad passing of Richard Haward recently.
Richard was born in 1945 to an old Mersea family going back over two hundred years on the Island, a heritage of which he was proud. Like a lot of the Mersea lads he spent most of his time, either by the river or on the river messing around in boats. He attended Mersea school and managed to pass the eleven plus as did ten other children in that year which speaks well of the school.
Colchester Grammer School was his next port of call where he spent several happy years until he left and went on to Kingston College London. During his time there his father became ill which resulted in Richard coming home to help his mother. After his father's death his mother encouraged him to go back to college and re-sit his exams, which he did for a while but realized teaching wasn't for him as his heart and future was back on Mersea. When he returned he helped on the oyster layings but realized that he could start transporting fish to Lowestoft market. His first van was an ex Post Office van with no heater so he was pretty cold driving to Lowestoft during the winter months. Later on he bought a Bedford T K open back lorry with a tarpaulin cover that he parked in St Peters Road. The local council tried very hard to stop him parking there. One of the councillors at the time was quoted in the local press saying "that fish lorry leaks fish juice aft and amidships" - Did Richard bow to pressure? No.
In the early 1970's he also upset the local council again by putting a small container at the top of the causeway without
permission. This enabled the fisherman to store the fish they landed, whatever state of the tide. This argument mumbled on so much that when Richard married Heather in May 1971 he refused to go on honeymoon as the Council were threatening to get a crane and take the container away the following Wednesday. He wanted to be there to stop them! Fortunately they didn't turn up. Over the course of several years the business expanded with fish landed at Mersea
and being exported to Holland and France as well as fish still
being sent to Lowestoft and Billingsgate. Sadly in 1991 the business went into receivership which was a big blow for Richard personally. Eventually with help from his family he started to pick himself up again. He pursued the selling of oysters from his own layings and catches from the other local oystermen. After a long time of trying he managed to rent a stall at Borough Market which has become very busy and is still thriving. To think that William Haward senior sailed oysters from Mersea to London over two hundred years ago and that tradition is still going on today.
Richard helped and encouraged many people over the years in his own quiet way and has always been interested in how people were getting on. His passion for the Native oyster regeneration was very important to him. Allan Bird who passed away earlier this year shared that same passion and they have both been very helpful to E.N.O.R.I in getting part of the river Blackwater set aside for this purpose.
Richard leaves three sons and a daughter who hopefully will carry on in their different ways in the oyster business. For myself I was proud to be known as Mrs Haward.
P.S. Even though Richard was wheelchair bound these last few years he still took on the local Council about "the red lines" but that's a story for another day.
This biography was written by Heather Haward following the death of her husband Richard on 12th September 2023.
It was published in Mersea Life October 2023.
Richard's funeral took place in West Mersea Parish Church on 18th October 2023. The church and church hall were packed.
Order of Service - click on image to enlarge
Eulogy by Richard's wife Heather
Sermon by Richard's son Joe