Hull’s Headscarf Revolutionaries to be honoured in BBC documentary

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A group of Hull women who saved thousands of lives and knocked the Vietnam War off the front page are to be honoured in a BBC4 documentary.

The Headscarf Revolutionaries were a group of women dedicated to fighting for decent health and safety in the city’s most dangerous industry, trawling, and were spurred on by the loss of 58 men in the Triple Trawler Tragedy.

Now, to mark the 50th anniversary of this disaster, and the good that came from it, BBC4 will be airing a documentary for the rest of the UK to see how important these women were.

Police hold back Lillian Bilocca on the quayside at Hull. She is held back as the 717-ton St Keverne nosed out of St Andrew's Dock
Police hold back Lillian Bilocca on the quayside at Hull. She is held back as the 717-ton St Keverne nosed out of St Andrew’s Dock

A spokesman for the documentary said: “This film tells the epic story of the Hull fishermen who did the most dangerous job in Britain and their wives whose protest ensured such a disaster never happened again.

“The women’s campaign became one of Britain’s most successful civil action campaigns of the 20th century.

“Combining rare archive and emotional testimony- including that of Yvonne Blenkinsop, the last surviving leader of the women- those who lived through the tragedy and fought for change tell their incredible stories for the first time.”

Lillian, known as Big Lil, organised a petition, signed by 10,000 people in three days, calling for change.

Lillian Bilocca and Yvonne Blenkinsop speaking to the press in February 1968
Lillian Bilocca and Yvonne Blenkinsop speaking to the press in February 1968

She led a delegation to Parliament, held mass meetings and marched on bosses’ offices.

They also stopped the unsafe trawlers going to sea.

Lillian did not realise that while she was protesting, her young son Ernie was caught in a storm and fighting for his life.

He said: “I thought we were going to sink. We were lying at an angle. I didn’t know if we’d come up again.

The Headscarf Revolutionaries giving a press conference in the 1960s
The Headscarf Revolutionaries giving a press conference in the 1960s

“I was so exhausted by the work and long hours I didn’t have the energy to get out of my bunk.

“If the ship had sunk, I’d have still been laid there.”

Yvonne, the last surviving leader of the women, was inspired to fight for change following the death of her father at sea a few years earlier.

She said: “Nobody expected him to die. It was like a bolt out of the blue. He needed someone who knew what they were doing. The skipper wasn’t a doctor. I could have still had my dad.”

Narrated by Hull comedian Lucy Beaumont, the documentary will be shown on Monday, February 5, at 9pm on BBC4.



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