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The Headscarf Revolutionaries: Lillian Bilocca and the Hull Triple-Trawler Disaster

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The public gathered to pay their respects to one of the city's true heroes as Yvonne's funeral procession made its way down Hessle Road. She lost her job with a Wassand Street fish merchant in 1968 for having taken three weeks off, without leave, for the campaign.

These are minor issues in what is otherwise an excellent book, and I guess it isn’t Lavery’s fault that I am quite pedantic when it comes to grammar and style; I blame it on all the undergraduate marking I do. This is a powerful book that gives full voice to the grief and determination of the women who fought trawler owners and forced them to put men s lives before profit. Back then, it was not a legal requirement for radio operators aboard, but change was just one of their demands.The campaign then turned to direct action, with the women going down to the dock gates to try to stop trawlers leaving port without a radio operator. They were largely pushing against an open door, but they did face hostility and criticism, including from some trawlermen who didn’t like women interfering in their working lives. The skipper would get the biggest percentage and then it was shared out amongst the rest of the crew according to seniority. Although they had some support from the National Union of Seaman, many trawler men and the TGWU were hostile. They started with a petition which grew to over ten thousand signatures in just days and two meetings at the Victoria Hall on Hull's Hessle Road which was packed with hundreds of fishermens wives and families and members of the press.

Their perseverance and passion changed the landscape of trawling forever, and cemented their status as working class heroes both in Hull and throughout the nation. She was the last of Hull's headscarf revolutionaries, the four brave women who led the campaign to make trawling safer and who are credited with saving countless fishermen's lives. When the sinking of the Ross Cleveland, skippered by 41-year-old Phil Gay, was announced, the bosses, who had earlier snubbed the women, now wanted to meet. She was one of the “Headscarf Revolutionaries”, the working-class Hull women who led the campaign for safety on the Trawlers and to save lives at sea. She quipped in her broad Hessle Road accent: “The married ones come home and take out their wives, then go to the pubs.

With overwhelming support from residents within the flats, the three housing blocks will honour the courageous women who never gave up their battle to make the fishing industry safer for fishermen in Hull and all over the country. The front cover of the Hull Daily Mail on 5 February, 1968, the day the loss of the third trawler, the Ross Cleveland, was confirmed. On the corner of Pease Street and Anlaby Road in Hull, there is a vivid mural painted on the gable end of the Goodwin Community Hub.

In 2017, he has contributed to End Notes, a collection published by the University of Hull as part of its Crossing Over project; and Hull: Culture, History, Place (Liverpool University Press, 2017) – with a chapter about trawler safety campaigner Lillian Bilocca. An illustration of the appalling standards is that those who worked on trawlers were still required to provide their own mattress and bedding.Maxine Peake and Sarah Frankcom’s immersive production The Last Testament of Lillian Bilocca, with a cast featuring local residents, premiered the same month at the Guildhall.

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