Hull Remembers… and looks to the future

Posted on Monday 23rd July 2018

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Triple Trawler Tragedy a Memorial Service was held at Hull Minster. 650 people gathered to reflect and remember together. Many felt comforted by the service and the opportunity to have an affinity with other families. The names of each of the 58 trawlermen lost 50 years ago were read out and candles were lit for all who have lost their lives to the sea.

The Ross Cleveland was the third Hull fishing vessel to perish in the space of 26 tragic days. The St Romanus was lost in the North Sea on January 11th 1968 and the Kingston Peridot sunk off the coast of Iceland on January 26th 1968.

58 Hull fishermen perished in what became known as the Triple Trawler Tragedy. This was Britain’s worst peacetime fishing disaster, leaving the city of Hul mourning.

Donald Woolley, Fishermen’s Mission Assistant Superintendent at the time, informed half of the families of their loss. He remembers the impact on the city.

“Many of the people who lost their husbands or partners were no age at all. They must have been terribly traumatised by what happened to them. One minute they were happy and content, looking forward to their men coming home, but in fact they were never to return.”

As Donald went about his work of comfort and care he witnessed a moving spirit of resilience amongst the women,

“These women were quite remarkable, I’ve never seen such bravery. They were brave because they had to carry on, they had to manage home, the children had to go to school, they wanted to show their love and their dad’s love to their children… but he was never going to be there again”

Donald recalls meeting Harry Edom, the lone survivor of the tragedy. Harry gave Donald a New Testament he had received when he was rescued in Iceland. Donald recalls,

“Harry gave me the New Testament and wrote a dedication inside to our son Richard. We are proud to have recieved it from Harry and have treasured it for 50 years.”

We know family members of those died and I am one of them. My Uncle David was lost on the St Romanus. As a small child, I remember the devastating grief of my family. We lived in hope that one day he would return. He never did.”

Fishermen’s Mission Hull Superintendent, Tracey Stephens, speaking personally on the ripples of Triple Trawler Tragedy 50 years on. Today, Hull is a very different fishing port but the love and care shown by the Fishermen’s Mission to Hull’s fishing community has never changed.

Assisted by Superintendent Sal Van Beem, Tracey is a friendly face along the North Yorkshire Coast, regularly travelling to ports such as Bridlington, Whitby and Scarborough. With over 640 beneficiaries in Hull and more than 200 along the coast, keeping in touch with everyone is vital as Tracey explains,

“Being a familiar face is paramount. It shows we care and are ready to help. I take time to listen and to chat, building relationships and trust. Working fishermen in need are accessing our welfare provision alongside those from the retired fishing community.” 

As with 50 years ago, fishing remains highly dangerous. In November 2017 Darren Morley was lost overboard from Scarborough fishing boat whilst shooting pots. Tracey supports Darren’s wife Donna and his 10-year-old son. Tracey comments

“Donna values the time I spend with her. We talk about her grief, we laugh we cry and share special memories of Darren. Donna feels unable to burden her family with her feelings so talking to someone independently is veryu important to her.”

Tracey has recently been supporting Stephens, a seriously ill, retired fisherman. His wife died a few years ago and he was struggling to cope without her. Stephen had fears about his forthcoming surgery and Tracey acted as an advocate, helping Stephen express his anxiety to his consultant. Reassurance was given and the surgery went ahead. Tracey was Stephen’s first visitor following the successful operation. He held her hand tightly and wept, saying that he was helpless without the love and support given by Tracey and the Fishermen’s mission.

People like Donna and Stephen rely on Tracey and the Fishermen’s Mission when all seems lost. We can only be there for them if you are there for us. Please continue to support our work, it is so important.