Book Review-‘The Headscarf Revolutionaries: Lillian Bilocca and the Hull triple-trawler disaster’ by Brian W. Lavery
Perhaps the first thing that needs to be made clear is that Brian W. Lavery is a former journalist who has made Hull his adopted city, and he should not be confused with the well-known maritime historian Brian Lavery.
The ‘Hull Triple-Trawler Tragedy’ was the loss of three Hull based deep-water trawlers, the Kingston Peridot, St Romanus and Ross Cleveland, within days of each other in the winter of 1968. This tragedy cost 58 lives, with only one survivor, so the dangers of winter trawling hit the news headlines. This was not before time, because in the late 1960s the fishing industry was almost proud of its abysmal safety record, and it made coal mining (the second most dangerous occupation) look almost safe by comparison. Somehow, the trawler owners had managed to gain exemption from almost all maritime safety and manning legislation passed in the twentieth century, and the accommodation and messing arrangements on-board were shameful. An illustration of the appalling standards is that those who worked on trawlers were still required to provide their own mattress and bedding. Of course, there was no pre-sea training provided, or medical screening. Worse still, although the ‘sidewinder’ beam trawlers had proved very vulnerable to capsize due to icing, and their decks a high-risk work place in heavy seas, British owners had been slow to invest in modern stern trawlers, which were both safer and more efficient…