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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Heroine of the sea

From the BBC

Triple Trawler Tragedy

Forty-three years-ago the whole country was shocked as three Hull trawlers were lost within three weeks of each other.

The trawlers sank with the loss of 58 lives. Only one person survived the disasters.
The first vessel to be lost was the St Romanus which went down in the north sea 110 miles off Spurn Point on the 11th January. All 20 crew members died.

On the 26th January the Kingston Peridot sank off Skagagrunn on the Icelandic coast, again with the loss of all 20 men.

The final loss was the Ross Cleveland on the 4th February. The boat had sought refuge from a storm in the natural inlet of Isafjord in northern Iceland.

Isafjord, Iceland Isafjord: Resting place of the Ross Cleveland

Dozens of other trawlers were also in the fjord, so the Ross Cleveland had to stay further out. The trawler was swamped by mountainous waves and sank. The last message from the skipper Phil Gay was "I am going over. We are laying over. Help me. I’m going over. Give my love and the crew`s love to the wives and families".
Eighteen lives were lost.

Three crewmen made it to a life raft, but only one, Harry Eddom, survived the bitter cold. After 12-hours in the raft he was washed ashore and found help at a remote farmhouse.
After the initial shock of the losses the mood in Hull turned to anger. Many of the wives of fishermen began to campaign for better safety conditions on trawlers.

Lilian Bilocca Lillian Bilocca in a dockside protest

One of the leaders of this campaign was Lillian Bilocca who lived in the heart of the Hessle Road fishing community. Big Lil, as she was known, organised a 10,000 signature petition calling for reform. She led a delegation to Parliament and eventually met with the Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

She and her supporters carried out direct action, trying to stop boats leaving St Andrew’s Dock and even threatening to picket the PM’s house if there weren’t reforms. Speaking to a BBC reporter she said “If I don’t get satisfaction I’ll be at that Wilson’s house, private house, until I do get satisfaction in some shape or form.”

The campaign was successful with many new safety measures introduced, including making it compulsory for every trawler to have a full-time radio operator.

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