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Families gather to remember loved ones lost at sea

Relatives throw flowers into the Humber at the annual Service to commemorate all lost trawler men. Picture Tony Johnson.
Relatives throw flowers into the Humber at the annual Service to commemorate all lost trawler men. Picture Tony Johnson.
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They came to remember their loved ones - to say a silent prayer and cast flowers into the Humber. Although many years have passed, the memories never die.

As the snow fell, a poignant riverside service in Hull paid tribute to the 6,000 men lost at sea - and their widows and families left behind.

Victor Wheeldon with niece Beverley Prest, daughter of Jimmy Wheeldon,  skipper of the St Romanus which sank in 1968, lay wreaths at the annual service to commemorate lost trawlermen. Picture Tony Johnson.

Victor Wheeldon with niece Beverley Prest, daughter of Jimmy Wheeldon, skipper of the St Romanus which sank in 1968, lay wreaths at the annual service to commemorate lost trawlermen. Picture Tony Johnson.

This year thoughts turned back to a catastrophic episode in Hull’s fishing history, the Triple Trawler Disaster 50 years ago, when three trawlers, St Romanus, Kingston Peridot and Ross Cleveland, were lost in the space of just a few weeks, with the loss of 58 lives.

Jackie Taylor was 20 and out with her mother Elsie when they saw on the placards that a second ship - the Kingston Peridot - had been lost. Her Dad Henry Fowler, who was known as Harry, was the chief engineer on board.

For the past 29 years Mrs Taylor and her brother Gary - who was 14 at the time - have been coming to the annual Lost Trawlermen’s Day service.

She says she felt the loss of her father on all the important occasions - not having someone to give her away and when she had her first child.

The Lost Trawlermen's Day service.  Picture Tony Johnson.

The Lost Trawlermen's Day service. Picture Tony Johnson.

For her mother it was a crushing blow: “Mam was never the same again - she lost the love of her life.”

Ron Wilkinson, the chairman of fishing heritage Stand, which organises the service, told the 300 people gathered in the marquee, that this year they were honouring the women who when the men were away “shouldered the burden of responsibility, including bringing up the children...a difficult enough role, made unbearable by the loss of a husband.”

Then there was limited financial support, not like the Internet crowd fundraising campaigns of today. “The wife had to deal with her own grief and the grief felt by her own family - especially young children,” he said.

The loss of the trawlers in 1968 galvanised an army of fishwives into action - leading to a change in shipping laws. He said: “It’s a credit to them that they fought and overcame the disastrous circumstances in the next way they could.

”As a community we should be proud of their strength and determination, their fortitude was the catalyst to a major review of health and safety at sea.”

The walls of the marquee, which flapped in the bitter wind, were lined by pictures of those lost at sea.

By a photo of Steven Margerison, lost off the survey ship Pacific Horizon, in the Azores in 1983, stood older brother Pete Margerison.

He said: “I’ve been coming for years and people say sit down, but I like to stand up next to him.”

Mr Margerison, who worked in shipping laundry, said they were told he fell overboard: “I think of my mother. It knocked her wicked. There’s a bit of a mystery how he got lost, she went all over to find out what happened, even to Strasbourg.”

Everyone has a story to tell: standing in front of the memorial in the cold is ex-fisherman Kenneth Naulls, who was due to go with his brother Colin on board the supertrawler Gaul - the best known of all trawlers from Hull to have sunk in modern times because of the controversy over whether she was a victim of Cold War hostilities.

But he signed off to go on a different ship with his other brother instead.

“We both went out together and one ship came home,” he said.

“He was a kind-hearted bloke. He’d give you his last penny.”