The Headscarf Revolutionaries: Lillian Bilocca and the Hull Triple-Trawler Disaster
Winter 1968. Three Hull trawlers sink. One fishwife vows to change the law. A powerful story of death and survival. In the harsh Arctic seas of 1968, three trawlers from Hull’s fleet sank in just three weeks. 58 men died. Lillian Bilocca put down her filleting knife, wrote a petition, and stormed into action. With her army of fishwives she took her battle to the docks and led a raid on Parliament. They changed the shipping laws, ‘Big Lil’ became an international celebrity. The lone survivor of the tragedies made headlines too. In a tight fishing community, it’s dangerous to stand out.
BILOCCA Mrs Lilian Bilocca, known as “Big Lil”, the Hull woman who was the driving force behind radio operators being placed on Britain’s trawlers, died on August 5, aged 59. The daughter of a fisherman, she led a campaign in 1968 for better safety on trawlers. She brought together trawlermen’s wives in an-often violent campaign after three Hull trawlers went down within days of each other with the loss of more than 50 lives. “Big Lil” was at the dockhead at every tide with her following of
ashore around dusk on Monday. This was not long after his fellow volunteer search vessel failed to see it through the heavy mists and blizzarding snow. Harry told the Icelandic skipper how he had found the locked summerhouse and had not had the strength to open it and how he forced himself to stay awake all night until the shepherd boy found him. Apart from being dazed and tired Eddom appeared well. The farmer and his family had obviously taken great care of him, dressed him warmly and put heavy
well aired. Even the ship’s bell was polished. Preparation was everything. There was always work to do steaming out and it would get even harder when they reached the fishing grounds. A complete trawl was ready – prepared by the previous crew. It was part of the trawlermen’s etiquette to ensure the crew following them had a proper head start. Adjustments had to be made to the trawl to ready it for the fishing grounds. There was also a second trawl to put together, which would save more time.
a posh house near where the great Pickering had lived. Charlie could not resist. He sold up his café and moved his family into 117, Coltman Street. In no time at all he had sub-let the outbuildings to local tradesmen and set about using the skills of his rural past to set up his urban smallholding. He would go back to sea occasionally in the beginning until his plan got up and running. Then he would be ashore forever, lord of his own manor. That was his plan. Stanley took copious notes in
The Sociology of an Extreme Occupation MacGibbon and Kee, London, 1962. p.180) 3 “Sked” is an abbreviation for “schedule ship” and is the name given to the ship in a trawling fleet responsible for ensuring all movements are reported to the owners. 4 The author is again grateful to Skippers Jimmy Williams and Ken Knox for their recollections of the late Captain Peter Harvey and his eccentric yet effective approach to teaching. 5 The late skipper Rob Ellis’ description of a trawler capsizing is