When 58 men from Hull died at sea in the space of 25 brutal days, 50 years ago, the city was left reeling in shock.
The trauma of the Triple Trawler Disaster galvanised fishwives, led by “Big Lil” Bilocca, to travel to Westminster to demand better safety conditions for their men.
They - and all 6,000 fishermen, who were lost, from St Andrew’s Dock’s opening in 1886 to its closure in 1975 - were remembered yesterday in a poignant service marking the 50th anniversary of the disaster.
The service led by Supt Tracey Stevens, from Hull Fishermen’s Mission, saw the dedication of a bower anchor, which has been moved from the quayside to a new home outside blocks of flats in East Hull, named after the three trawlers lost in 1968, St Romanus, Kingston Peridot and Ross Cleveland. Yvonne Blenkinsop, a founder member of the Hessle Road Women’s Committee, whose campaign resulted in new shipping legislation, laid a wreath alongside Jill Long, whose fisherman husband was lost at sea. Mrs Blenkinsop said the ceremony bought back “so many not very nice memories”: adding: “All I did it for was safety - I was so upset nothing was being done.” She said it was important to remember because Hull “has always had something to do with the sea”, be it whaling, fishing and now possibly cruise liners.
The son of Lil Bilocca, Ernie Bilocca was also there. His mother received death threats and telegrams telling her not to interfere in men’s work and she was blacklisted from working in the fishing industry. He said despite this, his mother “would do it all again - maybe slightly differently in hindsight - but hindsight is a great thing.”
Mrs Long, whose first husband Tony Harrison was lost at sea on Christmas Day, 1966, said she felt very emotional: “You never have closure. You don’t have a body, you don’t have a funeral; you are not there with your loved one to say goodbye.
“This is why it is so raw - you never get over it, you have to learn to live with it.”