Campaigners Make an Impact in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire

The Women of Hessle Road: Hull

The Triple Trawler Disaster

Following the triple trawler tragedy of February 1968 (when the trawlers St Romanus, Kingston Peridot, and Ross Cleveland were lost within a few weeks of each other and 58 men died), a campaign to improve safety was launched. 

The city of Hull went into shock, especially the Hessle Road area, where most of the fishing community lived. At the time, it was not illegal for trawlers to sail without a radio. At the time of its loss, the St Romanus had no radio equipment on board. 


The 'Headscarf Campaign'

The campaign for better safety at sea was launched by the wives, sisters and daughters of trawlermen and led by Lillian Bilocca.

Lillian was born in Wassand Street, in the heart of Hull's Hessle Road fishing community. Her father, husband and son all made their living at sea. Lillian earned her nickname of 'Big Lil' during her campaign to improve safety and conditions for trawlermen at sea and became a local folk hero, known the country over.


The campaigners met with trawler owners, and also with government ministers, and some wives picketed the dock to make sure that no ships left without a radio operator. The women travelled to London and met ministers to discuss better safety and fairer working conditions in the fishing industry. The campaign got a huge amount of attention by all of the national newspapers who gave it the name 'The Headscarf Campaign', as headscarves were popular with working women in the 1960s.


The campaign resulted in Lillian meeting with Prime Minister Harold Wilson at No. 10 Downing Street. Support for the campaign grew and spread from the families of Hessle Road to other fishing communities, such as Fleetwood, Grimsby and Aberdeen. Eventually it brought about changes which drastically improved the safety of British fishermen.


Find out more about 'Local Heroes: Hull's Trawlermen' on My Learning

Discussion ideas:

  • Why do you think Lillian and the other women decided to speak out about the trawler safety issues?
  • For what reasons might 'the Headscarf Campaign' have been so effective?
  • Why might the women have got more attention than official groups?
  • Can you think of any other campaigns where people have used picketing?


Drastically - greatly, dramatically

Illegal - against the law, not allowed

Minister - someone who runs part of the government

Picket - to protest outside a building

Trawler - boat used for catching fish


If you would like to learn more about how we can use the Campaign! Make an Impact model to inspire change today, please contact Hull Museum Education on 01482 318733.

Map link: the Hessle Road area of Hull was home to many of Hull's fishing families»

Document icon Learning article provided by: Hull Maritime Museum |  Wilberforce House, Hull |  Dales Countryside Museum |  North Yorkshire County Record Office |  Campaign! Make an Impact |  The Peace Museum |  North Lincolnshire Museum | 
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