Book Review -‘The Luckiest Thirteen: The forgotten story of the men of St Finbarr – a trawler crew’s battle in the Arctic’ by Frank Scott
Brian W. Lavery has followed up The Headscarf Revolutionaries, his account of the ‘Hull Triple-Trawler Tragedy’ of 1968, with this story of an earlier Hull trawler tragedy. This time the vessel involved was one of the most modern in the fleet, a stern trawler that had revolutionized British fishing by allowing the entire catch to be frozen on board, thus enabling longer voyages and bigger catches. The St Finbarr was only two years old when she set off to harvest the Newfoundland Banks in mid-November 1966.
St Finbarr’s final trip had started badly, as the crew had to fight heavy weather all the way to the Grand Banks. However, once on station they made up for lost time until forced to halt on Christmas Eve, when the nets were damaged. Most of the crew were then stood down for a rare break before shooting nets again. Then, on Christmas morning came the dreaded cry, ‘Fire!’
This is a very readable account, particularly strong on the human element, both ashore and afloat, though due allowance has to be made for residual journalistic hyperbole on the part of the author. Apart from anything else, the Grand Banks, though very cold indeed in winter, are in the same latitude as the north-east of England, which is by no means Arctic …