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24 September 2014

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You are in: Humber > History > Local History > Triple Trawler Tragedy

Bridge of the Ross Cleveland

Old style trawler

Triple Trawler Tragedy

Forty-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 sough 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.

A memorial service takes place at the former lock gates at St Andrew's Quay, Hull on Sunday 27th January starting at midday.

There are plans to hold a minutes silence across the city at noon on February 5th.

Audio and video

If you have any memories of friends or relatives who were involved or affected by what happened, you can add them to the BBC's history archive project, 'Memoryshare'.

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last updated: 23/04/2008 at 09:03
created: 24/01/2008

You are in: Humber > History > Local History > Triple Trawler Tragedy



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