Tag Archives: Fishing Industry

A to Z of Statues – W is for William Wilberforce

I nearly went to Scotland this week for William Wallace or Walter Scott…

But eventually decided to stay closer to home and include William Wilberforce from Hull…

William Wilberforce is probably the most famous son of the city.  He began his political career in 1780 and dedicated almost all of his life to the campaign to abolish the slave trade.

Read The Full Story Here…

The Headscarf Revolutionaries

I am a day early on this one but Monday is Washing lines Day,  March 8th is International Women’s Day and it seems rather inappropriate to me that it should be on Washing Day.

There will be lots of posts explaining what it is and the history of it so I thought that I might just post an example…

In early 1968 there was a fishing disaster out of Hull. In the space of three weeks three trawlers were lost, fifty-eight fishermen and crew members died and only one  survived.

Lillian Bilocca, Christine Jensen, Mary Denness and Yvonne Blenkinsop called a meeting which resulted in the formation of the Hessle Road Women’s Committee.

The group became known as the Headscarf Revolutionaries. Bilocca and her women comrades led a direct action campaign to prevent undermanned trawlers from putting to sea, particularly when the ship had no properly qualified radio operator.

Read The Full Story Here…

The Fishing and Trawler Visitor Centre in Hull

Hull Docks and Arctic Corsair

I had been to the Museum Quarter in the City of Hull before, to the Street Life Museum and the History Museum so on this occasion I bypassed these and went first to the small independent Fishing and Trawler Visitor Centre in an old ramshackle dockside warehouse.

It is a  wonderfully eclectic place, the sort of museum that rejects no contributory exhibits, finds a place for everything and piles them up in random order all over the place, a sort of alternative to the minimalist National Gallery of London or the Uffizi Gallery of Florence.

No entrance ticket to show you because admission is free.

It was an entertaining visit, run by volunteer ex-fishermen oozing with enthusiasm, one of those places where, if you show the slightest dull glimmer of interest, the volunteers will latch on and beat you into submission with stories of the fishing industry and life at sea.

Fishing Mural Hull

I told them that I was a visitor from Grimsby which claims to have once been the biggest fishing port in the Worldand this immediately presented a challenge to their bragging rights.  They were keen to point out that Grimsby may have been a big port but Hull had much bigger trawlers on account of the larger capacity of its docks.  Not being a genuine Grimbarian I was careful not to take sides in this potentially dangerous debate.

The Visitor Centre is close to the banks of the River Hull and close by is the trawler Arctic Corsair one of the last side-winder fishing boats to operate out of Hull before the Cod Wars with Iceland and the ignominious collapse of the UK fishing industry.

I liked this place, I liked the bric-a-brac exhibits, the scrapbook newspaper cuttings and the detailed models of the old Hull fishing docks (now sadly a shopping mall).

I finished my visit by strolling along the banks of the River Hull, a dirty muddy estuary the colour of milk chocolate with rotting dockside buildings and crumbling brick wharfs which was once a busy fishing port but which now is gradually breaking down into an open-air museum of decaying brickwork, twisted metal and sagging piers with a thousand untold stories still to tell.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

The Fishing Murals of Hull

5397489_adab349eFishing Mural Hull

The city of Hull was the 2017 UK Capital of Culture which came as rather a surprise to a lot of people but not to me as it was in competition with the city of Coventry which is a truly dreadful place!

As part of the celebrations the City came up with an idea to bring in tourists – wall paintings to commemorate the fishing heritage of Hull.

One day in May I crossed the River Humber and went to see them.

Fifty year ago the Hull trawler fleet was the biggest fishing fleet in the world (see footnote) and deep sea fishing in Arctic waters was amongst the most dangerous work anywhere. A trawlerman was seventeen times more likely to be killed at work than the average British industrial worker including coal miners.

At the beginning of 1968 some of the worst ever winter storms hit the Icelandic fishing grounds. In the space of three weeks three Hull trawlers were lost and a total of fifty-eight crew members died.

Hull Fishing Mural

The St Romanus sailed from Hull on January 10th 1968 without a full and experienced crew, most significantly without a properly qualified radio operator to work the ship’s main transmitter. This left communications to the relatively inexperienced skipper with his much less powerful bridge-mounted radio telephone. The last contact was a radio telephone call on the evening of the day they sailed. Despite hearing nothing the owners did not raise the alarm until January 26th.

A life raft found on January 13th had come from the St Romanus. A search began, but by January 30th the families were told that there was little hope for the vessel and her crew.

The second trawler the Kingston Peridot had also sailed from Hull on January 10th with a crew of twenty and by January 26th she was fishing off north-east Iceland in really bad weather.

The ship radioed another trawler that she was having difficulties with ice build-up and moved east to join them. No further contact was established and on January 29th one of her life rafts was washed ashore. News of her loss reached Hull on January 30th just as hope was fading for the crew of St Romanus.

The third lost trawler, the Ross Cleveland, sailed on January 20th, before the loss of the first two trawlers became known. She was bound for the north coast of Iceland.

Conditions were atrocious and on February 3rd she made for a relatively sheltered inlet on Iceland’s north-west coast. A number of other ships were gathered there to wait out the long and hurricane-force snowy storm. A dangerous amount of ice was forming on the vessels superstructure and radar masts. The captain attempted to move her to a safer position but the ship was overwhelmed by the wind and sea, capsized and sank.

News of the Ross Cleveland sinking reached Hull on February and at first it was believed all aboard had died, but on February 6th Harry Eddom, the mate, washed ashore in a life raft barely still alive, the other two men in the raft had died of exposure.

Lilian Bilocca Wall Mural

The news of the three lost trawlers devastated the whole of the Hull fishing community but a group of women fishermen’s family members decided to do something more than mourn – they would fight to make the industry safer.

Lillian Bilocca, Christine Jensen, Mary Denness and Yvonne Blenkinsop called a meeting which resulted in the formation of the Hessle Road Women’s Committee. The group became known as the Headscarf Revolutionaries. Bilocca and her women comrades led a direct action campaign to prevent undermanned trawlers from putting to sea, particularly when the ship had no properly qualified radio operator.

Bilocca was a working class woman of Hull. She married a Maltese sailor who worked as a trawlerman. Her father, husband and son all worked on the Hull fishing trawlers. She worked on-shore filleting the catch.

They gathered over ten thousand signatures on a petition (that was a lot pre internet and social media) for a fishermen’s charter and sent to the Minister for Fisheries in Harold Wilson’s government.

As well as radio operators the women had other demands including improved weather forecasts, better training for trainee crew, more safety equipment and a mother ship with medical facilities to accompany the fleet.

Eventually Prime Minister Harold Wilson met the women and subsequently government ministers granted all of their demands.

9-lil_bilocca_mural

Lillian received death threats from some of the trawler owners and letters telling her not to interfere in men’s work. She lost her job and was blacklisted and she never found work in the fishing industry again.

In 1990 Hull City Council unveiled a plaque inscribed: “In recognition of the contributions to the fishing industry by the women of Hessle Road, led by Lillian Bilocca, who successfully campaigned for better safety measures following the loss of three Hull trawlers in 1968.”

This brave woman should have been included in the One Hundred Greatest Britons but that was never going to happen, the list only included thirteen women anyway!

This is not Hull, there are no statues of Lillian, it is a statue in the Portuguese city of Póvoa de Varzim but it seems to fit the story quite well.

Fishwives Pavoa de Varzim

Footnote: The port town of Grimsby on the south bank of the Humber makes a similar claim and they are probably both correct because they use different criteria.

This is my account of a day out in Grimsby

Grimsby Fishing Fleet

Hull, UK City of Culture – Slave Trade, Fishing and (redundant) Dock Yards

“God Almighty has set before me two great objects: the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners” – William Wilberforce ( A great man of Hull)

After the short detour I considered another, to see the statue of the poet and novelist Philip Larkin, a former resident of Hull, but it was back the way that I had walked already so I ruled it out and continued to the Museum Quarter.

There is a Philip Larkin walking tour of the City but I skipped that as well and left it for another day and another blog post!

I had been to the Museum Quarter before, to the Street Life Museum and the History Museum so I bypassed these and went first to the small independent Fishing and Trawler Visitor Centre in an old ramshackle dockside warehouse.  A  wonderfully eclectic place, the sort of museum that rejects no exhibits, finds a place for everything and piles them up in random order all over the place, a sort of alternative to the minimalist National Gallery of London or the Uffizi Gallery of Florence.

It was an entertaining visit, run by volunteer ex-fishermen oozing with enthusiasm, one of those places where, if you show the slightest dull glimmer of interest, the volunteers will latch on and beat you into submission with stories of the fishing industry and life at sea.

I liked this place, I liked the bric-a-brac exhibits, the scrapbook newspaper cuttings and the detailed models of the old Hull fishing docks (now sadly a shopping mall).

I told them that I was a visitor from Grimsby which claims to have once been the biggest fishing port in the World and this immediately presented a challenge to their bragging rights.  They were keen to point out that Grimsby may have been a big port but Hull had much bigger trawlers on account of the larger capacity of its docks.  Not being a genuine Grimbarian I was careful not to take sides in this potentially dangerous debate.

The Visitor Centre is close to the banks of the River Hull and close by is the trawler Arctic Corsair one of the last side-winder fishing boats to operate out of Hull before the Cod Wars with Iceland and the ignominious collapse of the UK fishing industry.

It is a big ship, about twice the size of the Ross Tiger museum ship in Grimsby but I didn’t go on the guided tour today and thought that I might leave that for a future visit as well.

Instead I went to the William Wilberforce Museum which I had missed previously when I was with the grandchildren because I wasn’t certain that they would care that much for a museum about slavery or that it would hold their attention for very long.

William Wilberforce is probably the most famous son of Hull.  He began his political career in 1780 and dedicated almost all of his life to the campaign to abolish the slave trade.

Most countries have something ‘not to be proud of’ (USA and the bullying of the Native Americans, most of Central Europe and the treatment of the Jews under the Nazis, Australia and the indigenous Aborigines and so on and so on) and in the case of Great Britain the African slave trade is right there at the top.

Thousands of Africans were transported to the colonies in the West Indies (Caribbean if you prefer) and to the emerging southern states of the USA.  In a way it might be argued that Great Britain was responsible for the American Civil War.

For Wilberforce, abolition became his obsession and life’s work.  In 1833 the British Parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act and three days later the exhausted Wilberforce passed away.

It is a good museum housed in Wilberforce’s actual birthplace and other adjacent Georgian buildings which by pure chance survived the German bombing raids of World-War-Two whilst everything around them was destroyed.

I had a few minutes to spare now so I walked around the Mandela gardens where I came across an unlikely statue of Mahatma Ghandi dedicated to achieving solutions to difficult World problems through peace and then I spent a final thirty minutes in the Museum of Street Life.

 

I had missed quite a lot here on my first visit as my grandchildren charged about like a Barbarian Army entering Rome.  My most noticeable ‘miss’ was a bust of the aviator Amy Johnson who in 1930 was the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia.

I knew that already but what I didn’t know is that she was born in Hull in 1903.

I should do more travelling in England and the UK and I am sure that I will when I grow tired of flying to Europe and visiting the Continent.  I have visited the obvious places like Oxford and Cambridge, York, Stratford-upon-Avon (I even lived there for a while) and Chester, Edinburgh and Belfast but I have never been to Bristol or Bath and never previously to Hull but if anyone asks me for a recommendation right now I point out directions to the River Humber and the A63.

I finished my visit by strolling along the banks of the River Hull, a dirty muddy estuary the colour of milk chocolate with decaying dockside buildings and wharfs which was once a busy fishing port but which now is gradually breaking down into an open-air museum of crumbling brickwork, twisted metal and sagging piers with a thousand untold stories to tell.

I like Hull and look forward already to my next visit.

Want to know more about HULL, UK City of Culture 2017? Then visit…

https://www.hull2017.co.uk/