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  • Publication date: 24 Dec 2017
  • Publisher: Barbican Press
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B078GW363J
  • Source: I am indebted to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for my ARC copy and invitation to be on the blog tour for this book

The Blurb

A true-life drama of an intense battle for survival on the high seas. The Luckiest Thirteen is the story of an incredible two-day battle to save the super trawler St Finbarr, and of those who tried to rescue her heroic crew in surging, frozen seas. It was also a backdrop for the powerful stories of families ashore, dumbstruck by fear and grief, as well as a love story of a teenage deckhand and his girl that ended with a heart-rending twist. From her hi-tech hold to her modern wheelhouse she was every inch the super ship the great hope for the future built to save the fleet at a record-breaking price but a heart-breaking cost. On the thirteenth trip after her maiden voyage, the St Finbarr met with catastrophe off the Newfoundland coast. On Christmas Day 1966, twenty-five families in the northern English fishing port of Hull were thrown into a dreadful suspense not knowing if their loved ones were dead or alive after the disaster that befell The Perfect Trawler. This eboook edition closes with 34 dramatic and poignant photographs from the period. By the same author as the powerful THE HEADSCARF REVOLUTIONARIES.

My Review

Anyone who is in any doubt that trawling, or deep sea fishing as its known isn’t the most dangerous profession in the world should watch the TV series Trawlermen, a BBC series now on YouTube Here I was completely and utterly hooked on the programme at the time. The danger and incredible power of the sea, the sheer gritty determination and back breaking work of trawlermen. The camaraderie of the crew in their common goal and the bravery of the men on board the trawlers.

This book is a true story of the fate of the Hull men who survived the terrible explosion on the St Finbarr on Christmas Day in 1966 that killed other crew members instantly. The survivors became known collectively as the Luckiest Thirteen.

This book by Brian W Lavery, author of The Headscarf Revolutionaries is an account of the disaster taken from first hand accounts, documented sources and newspaper stories. Some of the conversations have been fictionalised for clarity and timeline of events as they took place at the time

The trawlermen on board the St Finbarr for that fateful journey were from a local community in Hull, they all knew each other. Deep sea fishing was in their blood. Many of them descended from trawlermen and it was an occupation that most, if not all of them had started doing from a young age. One of them had gone to sea aged 10 years old as a cabin boy, another age 12. There were WW2 war veterans on board and decorated heroes.

The daring rescue attempts of the crew and skipper of the ship Orsino in the stormy arctic seas, after the Finbarr skipper Sawyer had managed to send a mayday signal to alert nearby ships. My heart was in my mouth reading the chronicle of events.

The news of the disaster was at first slow to filter through and the tragedy hit the local community hard, many of them either knowing or related to someone on board the ship.

Monday, September 19, 1967, Board of Trade Inquiry, The Guildhall, Hull,

The Wreck Commissioner’s inquiry into the St Finbarr disaster made its findings public on November 13, 1967.

The ship St Finbarr was one of the new ‘super trawler’ ships, fitted with the latest technology of the time and with better living accommodation for the crew. The fire and explosion had happened in the crew accommodation cabins.

For one of the widows of a trawlerman, Jill Harrison (now Mrs Long) her attendance at the Board Of Trade inquiry at the Guildhall in Hull was the first time she’d been out in a year, because the shock of her young husband’s death had affected her so badly. Jill had given birth during that time. Jill went on to become a volunteer for the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea fishermen

Mrs Long remains a volunteer with the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, a role she has held for more than fifty years. The organisation was the one for which David MacMillan, the man who broke the news of lost fishermen to many (including Jill), worked.

A fascinating, incredibly well researched account of the series of events and an insight into the lives and characters of those on board the ill fated ship.

Tissues needed for this one. I couldn’t put the book down but it was a heartbreaking read.

The list of sources, references and resources quoted by the author at the end of this book is staggering and I now desperately want to read the author’s other book The Headscarf Revolutionaries

About the Author

Brian W Lavery was born in Glasgow’s East End in 1959, the fourth of six sons. His father William was a sheet metal worker and his mother Margaret a shop assistant. He has been a factory worker, car valet, market trader, waiter, university dropout, VAT officer (very briefly) and latterly a journalist, university tutor and writer. After more than twenty-five years of various senior roles in national and regional journalism he returned to higher education and gained a first in English literature and creative writing at the University of Hull. His first book, The Headscarf Revolutionaries (Barbican Press, 2015) now optioned by a major television production company derived from a funded PhD at that university, where he taught creative nonfiction. His latest book, The Luckiest Thirteen (Barbican Press 2017) hit the shelves in November. In 2017, he has contributed to End Notes, a collection published by the University of Hull as part of its Crossing Over project; and Hull: Culture, History, Place (Liverpool University Press, 2017) with a chapter about trawler safety campaigner Lillian Bilocca. His programme for BBC Radio 4 s Four Thought series, entitled Courage and Effect, was also drawn from his doctoral research. The Oxford University National Dictionary of Biography ( the biographer’s Bible ) commissioned him to write the entry on Mrs Bilocca, aka Big Lil. Planet Publications (Wales) and Umber has published his short fiction over the years, and Other Poetry, About Larkin and the Larkin Press have published his poetry. Dr Lavery has lived in Hull with his wife Kathryn for more than thirty-five years. They have two grown-up daughters, Catriona and Rose, and a border collie called Dylan. He is an honorary research associate at the University of Hull and works as a writer, journalist and creative writing tutor. He is proud to teach with the Workers Educational Association. brianwlavery.com

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