Hundreds gathered on Sunday, 5 February at the ‘fishermen’s church’ in Hull for the 34th annual Lost Trawlermen’s Day service, reports Brian W Lavery.

St John’s Newington – the ‘fishermen’s church’ – was packed for the 34th Lost Trawlermen’s Day service.

The service at St John’s Newington also marked the 55th anniversary of the city’s 1968 Triple Trawler Disaster, with a focus on the third ship lost – the Ross Cleveland. The other vessels to perish in what is remembered as the ‘Dark Winter’ were the St Romanus and the Kingston Peridot.

Fifty-eight men died. There was just one survivor – Harry Eddom, mate of the Ross Cleveland.

The Rev Tony Cotson, himself a Hessle Roader, who spent 15 years in the fishing industry before taking the cloth, conducted the memorial service.

The event was sponsored by the St Andrew’s Dock Heritage Park Action Group (STAND), and the group was represented by Vic Wheeldon – brother of late skipper Jim Wheeldon, who commanded the ill-fated St Romanus in 1968.

The standard was raised, then lowered, to the toll of the ship’s bell recovered from the Gaul.

He told the congregation that work on the permanent memorial to the 6,000 men lost from the port will get underway in April. It is estimated that it will take 15 weeks to complete, with the work being done by local engineering firm Campbell’s to a design by Hull artist Peter Naylor.

Vic Wheeldon paid tribute to STAND chairman Ron Wilkinson, who had driven the campaign for a permanent memorial, and asked the congregation to show its appreciation for Mr Wilkinson, whom he referred to as ‘our skipper’.

After considerable applause, the children of the Eastfield Primary School choir sang ‘Lord of sea and sky’ followed by ‘Sailing’.

Rev Cotson’s address told of the church’s involvement with the fishing industry across the years. The vicar – known locally as the Hessle Road Chaplain – read two poems written by the late Mary Denness, one of the Headscarf Revolutionaries who campaigned for better safety at sea after the disasters of 1968, alongside Lillian Bilocca, Yvonne Blenkinsop and Christine Smallbone.

A 1968 photograph of the four women was projected onto a screen during the reading.

A display commemorated the 55th anniversary of the Triple Trawler Disaster.

A Bible reading by Sally Taylor of the Fishermen’s Mission was followed by prayers by Anne McLaren of Stella Maris, and wreaths presented by Hull Sea Cadets were blessed by Rev Tim Linkens of the Mission to Seafarers.

The City of Hull Brass Band played its special composition ‘Anchor for the Soul’. This was followed by a two-minute silence marked by the tolling of the ship’s bell from the Gaul, the Hull trawler that disappeared in 1974 with all hands.

The memorial service ended with the congregation singing the fishermen’s hymn ‘Eternal Father, strong to save’, written in 1861 by Hull-born Rev Dr John Bacchus Dykes.

The lyrics were projected onto a large screen – but only visitors needed them. The words are all too familiar to the folk of Hessle Road.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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