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Photograph © Sean Spencer, Hull News and Pictures

Lost Trawlerman's Day, Hull - Sean Spencer, 2008

1 January 2013

Every year a commemorative service is held on the docks in Hull to remember the 6,000 trawlermen from the city who have died at sea over the last one hundred years.

After the service, which is usually held in February when most of the trawlers sank in harsh winter conditions, relatives of the dead throw flowers into the Humber Estuary.

In January and February 1968, three trawlers from Hull sank within a few weeks of each other and 58 men lost their lives with just one survivor. It became known as The Triple Trawler Disaster and the city of Hull went into shock, especially the Hessle Road area where most of the fishing community lived and where the annual service is held.

The three sinkings brought widespread national publicity to the conditions in which fishermen worked, and triggered an official inquiry which led to major changes to employment and working practices within the British fishing industry.

When the Cod Wars virtually ended fishing in Hull in the 1970’s, thousands lost their jobs and were never compensated nor did they receive the pensions that they had paid into. A campaign, supported by Hull MP Alan Johnson, was launched which has had limited success. Some trawlermen finally received payouts but most died waiting.

I was covering the event for The Guardian shooting with a Nikon D3 and the usual 24-70 and 80-200mm lenses. I supplied several pictures but this was my favourite despite it suffering quite badly from flare.

Over 400 people attended the service that day, but as so often happens a private moment summed up the mood and captured the poignancy.

On leaving school in 1982 Sean Spencer worked as a reporter on a local newspaper in Lancashire. He became interested in photography and attended the NCTJ Press Photography course in Sheffield in 1984-85. On the course that year were Jon Jones (Picture Editor Sunday Times Magazine), Mark Aspland (The Times Sports Photographer), Chris Thomond (The Guardian Staff Photographer) and David Boyle (New York Post). He completed his training on a newspaper in Lincolnshire then joined the Hull Daily Mail where he became Chief Photographer. He left in 1996 to set up press agency Hull News & Pictures which he continues to run, supplying news and pictures mainly to the UK press.

Photographer since 1986, EPUK member since 2000.

See more work by Sean Spencer

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