Walking towards the Boulevard where it meets Hull’s Hessle Road, I was almost bumped into by a teenage couple, both in track suits and trainers, but not too athletic. The girl had the Croydon facelift hairstyle. But before I got to pre-judge them further, they shamed me, when one said to the other, ‘Quiet now, it’s the fishermen’s memorial thing.’ And with that they both slowed as they passed the crowds there to mark the 50th anniversary of the sinking of the Kingston Peridot, the second of the ships to disappear in the Triple Trawler Disaster of 1968. In what became known as the Dark Winter, the St Romanus, the Kingston Peridot and the Ross Cleveland all perished with the death of 58 men. One man survived, Harry Eddom the mate of the Ross Cleveland – and the world’s eyes were on Hull as an uprising of Hull women led by Lillian Bilocca, Chrissie Smallbone, Mary Denness and Yvonne Blenkinsop, stormed both the docks and Westminster to bring about safety laws and rules that were to transform the most dangerous industry on Earth. And when you write about such things, there are often reminders that it is people’s lives you have written about.
As the memorial service led by Fr Phil Lamb, himself a Hessle Roader, ended a striking dark haired woman and an older man approached me. The man said, ‘Are you that author?’ Before my answer came he outstretched his hand to shake. The dark-haired woman said, ‘This is Dennis. Me dad’s brother.’ ‘I’m sorry, who is your dad?’ ‘He was Ray Wilson, the skipper of the Kingston Peridot. I am the baby Kathryn from your book!’ And that, as if it were needed, was a reminder not to underestimate the responsibility of writing about others. Two lessons in one hour. The first – pre-judging the teenagers – and the second meeting Kathryn and Dennis taught me never to be surprised by the fact that I am always surprised by the fine folks of Hessle Road. Time passes but folk do not forget. It was moving to watch the ‘people from my book’ pay their respects to the men who sailed never to return … and that’s no parable.