The Trawlerman's Tale

Ron Wilkinson: Hull Trawlerman and Chairman of STAND, the St. Andrew’s Dock Heritage Park Action Group

Hull on Film: Tales From A City Exhibition (2018) by Yorkshire Film ArchiveYorkshire Film Archive

Ron Wilkinson - Hull Trawlerman (2018) by Yorkshire Film ArchiveYorkshire Film Archive

The Trawlerman's Tale: Ron Wilkinson

Ron Wilkinson was born in 1936; the youngest child of a family living in Tadman Street, Hessle Road, at the heart of Hull’s fishing industry. His first taste of life at sea came at the age of 11, when he spent three weeks fishing off the Russian coast – a ‘pleasure trip’ to allow him to see first-hand what life on a trawler was like. 

The crew of the St Alcuin ("circa 1950") by UnknownYorkshire Film Archive

After leaving school, Ron started work as a barrow lad at St Andrew’s Fish Dock. He says that, having a brother and four brothers-in-law who were fishermen, it was inevitable that he would follow in their footsteps.

In 1952 he signed on as a galley boy on the ‘Loch Seaforth’ and spent the next 25 years sailing from the Port of Hull. Ron rose to become Skipper of the trawlers ‘Kingston Jade’ and ‘Lord Lovat’.

Ron is now Chairman of STAND, the St. Andrew’s Dock Heritage Park Action Group, which was founded in 1989.

Ron Wilkinson - The Trawlerman's Tale (2018) by Yorkshire Film ArchiveOriginal Source: ST ANDREW'S FISH DOCK, HULL 1962

West Dock Avenue Primary SchoolYorkshire Film Archive

Ron Wilkinson was a student at West Dock Avenue Primary School, Hull.

Kingston Jade & Somerset Maugham (1962) by Ron NormantonYorkshire Film Archive

Top: Kingston Jade leaving Hull. Ron Wilkinson was the skipper in 1974.

Bottom: Ron Wilkinson sailed as mate on the Somerset Maugham in 1976.

Silver Cod Trophy by Hull Maritime MuseumYorkshire Film Archive

Between 1954 and 1968, the Silver Cod Challenge Trophy was awarded by the British Trawler Federation to the Skipper and Crew of the trawler with the largest total catch for the year.

In 1959, Ron Wilkinson was part of the crew onboard the ‘St Loman’, who were placed second in the competition.

Skipper Billy Brettel, of the ‘Somerset Maugham’ won the trophy a record four times, in 1962 then three years in a row from 1965-67.

Silver Cod Award Ceremony (1960)Yorkshire Film Archive

The relentless efforts by trawlers to land big catches often led to them fishing in very bad weather. The award and its black tie dinner were scrapped after the Triple Trawler disaster of 1968.

The third Cod War, November 1975 to June 1976, which saw Iceland declare – and ultimately expand – a 200-mile exclusion zone around its waters, severely affected Hull’s fishing industry, which was already in decline. Thousands of fishermen and people in related trades were put out of work, and the heyday of deep sea trawlers sailing from Hull was over.

St Alcuin and crew (1950) by UnknownYorkshire Film Archive

Top: St Alcuin

Bottom: Left to right aboard the St Alcuin - Fred Peacham, John Coats, Ron Wilkinson

The crew of the St Alcuin ("circa 1950") by UnknownYorkshire Film Archive

Aboard the St Alcuin: Left to right - Bill Steed, John Coats, Ron Wilkinson, Joe Blurton

Credits: Story

We are indebted to the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting our work to preserve the films included in this exhibition and make them accessible for future generations. The research has been extensive and the exhibition contains only some of the stories we have discovered. To see further films visit

It is not possible to list everyone who has helped with this project – we are hugely grateful for the generosity of responses we have received, from families, historians and volunteers. For this exhibition, we would like to thank in particular:

Ron Wilkinson, Jonathan Barker, Val Baxter, Tom Goulder, Malcolm Dunn, Daniel Morgan.

Curator: Martin Watts, Hull on Film
Editor: Andy Burns, Yorkshire Film Archive
Writer: Ruth Patman Yorkshire Film Archive
Archivist: Megan McCooley, Yorkshire Film Archive

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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