THEY came from inland and coastal communities from across Ireland, the UK and 10 other nations, united in grief over their loved ones whose lives were claimed by the sea over the past 250 years.
The husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, parents and descendants of sailors, fisherman, anglers, swimmers, rescue crews and victims of war who died in the Irish Sea were among 1,000 people who gathered yesterday at the harbour in Skerries, north Co Dublin, where President Michael D Higgins unveiled a memorial.
English, Scottish, Welsh, French and German flags fluttered along with the Tricolour as an Air Corps patrol aircraft flew overhead before Mr Higgins unveiled a plaque at the site of the town's former bandstand.
There, local volunteers had erected a restored "totem pole" lookout that had been traditionally used by the coast guard until it was taken down a decade ago for safety reasons.
The plinth bears the names of 271 people and ships lost at sea.
Poignantly, it was 11-year-old Conor Gilsenan from Rush who was the first person to climb the revamped pole, designed by Shane Holland.
His father, lobster fisherman David Gilsenan (41), and Ronan Browne (26), from Skerries, were lost at sea in April 2011.
Conor's mother, Suzanne (39), said the restored pole serves as a comforting marker to the families of those lost at sea as somewhere they can come and pay their respects.
Also there was Edel Quinn (43), from nearby Julianstown, Co Meath, who lost her brother, Air Corps Sgt Patrick Mooney (34), during an ill-fated rescue operation off Tramore, Co Waterford, in July 1999.
Sgt Mooney and three other crew members died when their helicopter crashed in heavy fog.
Mr Higgins said the memorial was an example of "unity and communal support" and a place where people can mourn as well as "a place of happy memories".
Following a minute's silence, he laid a wreath at the memorial as a flotilla of RNLI rescue boats from Skerries, Howth and Clogherhead circled in the bay and local schoolchildren recited the names of the dead.