The daughter of Hull-born Lillian Bilocca has today unveiled a special bus in honour of her mother ‘Big Lil’ and her historic campaigning for the safety of trawlermen.
Virginia McKenzie, Lillian’s daughter, travelled to Hull from New Zealand and took part in the celebrations to unveil the bus at St Andrews Quay.
‘Big Lil’ was a major female hero to many trawler fishermen in Hull in the 1960s. She, and the affectionately known ‘headscarf revolutionaries’, campaigned successfully for the safety of its trawlermen and better working conditions at sea in 1968.
Earlier this year, to celebrate Hull 2017 UK City of Culture, Stagecoach East Midlands gave people the chance to name one of the city’s popular buses after a famous or influential person, coinciding with the Made in Hull exhibition.
A local Hull resident was picked as the winner for the bus to be named after ‘Big Lil’. On the year that Hull holds the accolade for City of Culture 2017 and nearly 50 years on from the demands of the Fisherman’s Charter, which were successfully passed by government.
The unveiling coincides with further celebrations around ‘Big Lil’s’ inspirational achievements including the showing of the play ‘The Last Testament of Lillian Bilocca’ by actor Maxine Peake, as well as ‘LIL The Play’, both showing in November.
Paul Morfitt, AVL Manager with Stagecoach East Midland, is particularly close to the project. He lost his great uncle Alf Hartley in the Hull triple trawler tragedy in 1968 and said: “Big Lil is an inspiration and a key heroine in the history of Hull. She and her peers campaigned for better health and safety for trawlermen. My great uncle lost his life on the Kingston Peridot, one of the tragic triple trawlers, before these essential safety laws were passed. I am honoured to be part of the unveiling.”
Virginia McKenzie, who travelled from New Zealand, says: “When I first was made aware that a bus was being dedicated to my mam, I was keen to be part of the celebrations to mark her truly inspirational campaigning. She was an amazing woman; strong, brave, determined and dedicated to her family. I am delighted that she has a bus dedicated to her memory.”
Michelle Hargreaves, managing director at Stagecoach East Midlands, says: “We have dedicated eight of our Hull buses to key figures in Hull and are delighted that the ninth bus has been named after such a inspirational person in history. We were thrilled that Lillian’s daughter was able to join us in honouring her.”
The Big Lil bus is in service and travels along routes throughout the city.
Photo caption: (L-R) Lillian’s daughter Virginia McKenzie, Stagecoach East Midlands Kerry Ryan, Michelle Hargreaves, Jon Donnolly, Paul Morfitt.