Wall Mural of Lillian Bilocca

Hull’s Headscarf Revolutionaries Remembered

8 February 2018

This week Hull’s “headscarf revolutionaries”, a group of women who fought to improve safety on UK fishing trawlers, were celebrated in a BBC documentary aired fifty years after a maritime disaster that led to the death of 58 men. The women were driven to take action when three Hull trawlers sank within three weeks of one another in Arctic waters in January and February 1968, leaving the fishing community in the city’s Hessle Street devastated. In Hull itself, the fiftieth anniversary of the sinking of the third trawler was marked, on Monday 5th February, with a dedication ceremony at a memorial to all 6,000 Hull fishermen who have, over the years, lost their lives at sea.


A black and white picture of Lillian Bilocca


The women’s campaign, led by Lillian Bilocca, was one of the most successful examples of direct action bringing about radical changes in the law. They organised a protest march, petitioned the authorities and the ship owners, and even attempted to board unsafe trawlers as they set sail from Hull’s St Andrews Dock. The women’s efforts led to a substantial overhaul of the laws relating to deep sea fishing which has since saved the lives of countless fishermen.

As well as the BBC documentary: ‘Hull’s Headscarf Heroes’ which includes fascinating archive footage of the women in action, their story is also told in The Headscarf Revolutionaries: Lillian Bilocca and the Hull Triple Trawler Disaster by Brian W Lavery available in the Calibre Library under Catalogue Number 11791.