Fishing safety campaigner honoured

THE woman who fought to improve safety on board Britain’s deep sea trawlers four decades ago has been honoured in her home port of Hull.

Lillian Bilocca, also known as ‘Big Lil’, headed a team of fishermen’s wives after three trawlers sank within weeks of each other off Iceland during the severe winter of 1968, with the loss of almost 60 lives.

A huge wall mural depicting the fiery campaigner has been unveiled in Hull, which is Europe’s City of Culture next year.

The ships were the St Romanus, the Kingston Peridot and the Ross Cleveland, which went down in the worst British fishing disaster since the end of the Second World War. Just one man, Harry Eddom, survived.

The killer for two of the boats was ice accumulating on the rigging and superstructure which effectively made the vessels unstable and top heavy. The St Romanus probably went down in heavy gales.

But the losses sparked a huge safety debate, with families protesting that not enough was being done in this area.

Bilocca, along with a number of other women including Christine Jensen, Mary Denness and Yvonne Blenkinsop, went to Downing Street to campaign vigorously for fishermen. They eventually succeeded in forcing new safety measures after lobbying the government.

The artwork which depicts Bilocca, who died in 1988, has been painted on the entire gable end of a college on Anlaby Road in Hull.

Belfast artist Mark Ervine, who painted the mural alongside fellow artist Kev Largey, said it was important Hull celebrated what she had achieved.

‘We’re trying to do her justice in the best way that we can,’ he said. ‘It’s a remarkable achievement and I think she’s fully deserving of a wall.’

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