12 Silk Handkerchiefs

“There’s a gig… and then there’s the Cutty Sark” Reg Meuross.

We are pleased to announce that The Seafarer’s Charity and Seaways have combined with the British Maritime Museum in Greenwich to invite Reg Meuross, Brian Lavery and Sam Martyn to perform 12 Silk Handkerchiefs on the Cutty Sark on Thursday May 16th 2024. This is to commemorate the first ever National Fishing Remembrance Day.

Join us aboard the ship to remember the 58 lives lost in the triple trawler disaster of 1968, and the incredible strength of character of Lilian Bilocca and the ‘Headscarf Revolutionaries’ who successfully campaigned for improved trawler safety, and sole survivor Harry Eddom.

We’ll be doing our usual Q&A after the performance.


“The 2019 12 Silk Handkerchiefs tour was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to spreading the word of a hugely important and game-changing event in British maritime history. From our experience so far I feel that, even for those who had no connection at all to Hull and fishing, the story of the plight and the fight of the common working person and their determination in the face of overwhelming corporate and political bureaucracy to do right by their families, is a story all can benefit from, and share in its triumph and strength of will and determination. It is a fight that is just as relevant now, in the current climate of austerity, when hard working people feel more alienated than ever from the organisations that are set up to protect and nurture them, and their lives are valued less than profit.” REG October 2019

To book the tour katie@fromthewhitehouse.com

Following huge success of the Arts Council England supported tour of the song cycle and multi media show ’12 Silk Handkerchiefs’.

Written by singer songwriter Reg Meuross, joined on stage by Headscarf Revolutionaries author Brian W. Lavery, shanty-singer Mick McGarry and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Sam Martyn, the tour has already brought audiences to their feet in Hull and now nine other towns and cities closely linked to the fishing, shipping and maritime communities of England.

The Arts Council’s feedback from the tour:

• Meuross and team have created a moving and brilliant story and song cycle.
• This is a story worth telling that still lives in the hearts of many people in Hull. The lessons learnt still need repeating.
• This is an exceptional work that reminds us that no matter who we are we can make a difference. It is very relevant for both audiences in and out of the Hull area.
• This is an exceptional work put together by an experienced team. It was a joy to see something so well thought through by a team who have honed their craft
• It would be a crying shame if this work was not toured more widely. Work of this quality is rare and needs to be supported and championed.

12 Silk Handkerchiefs, Reg Meuross’s 13th album opens a window on Hull’s Hessle Road fishing community in the aftermath of the Triple Trawler Disaster of 1968. After three sellout performances in Hull that recreated and expanded upon the original song cycle, the singer-songwriter took the show on a national tour in Autumn 2019 supported by public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Joined on stage by stalwarts of the Hull folk scene, musicians Mick McGarry and Sam Martyn, Reg’s powerful songs are interwoven with narration from author Brian W. Lavery and an audio/visual show that includes rarely-seen archive footage, photos and audio from the time of the disaster. Three Hull trawlers, the St Romanus, the Kingston Peridot and the Ross Cleveland perished and 58 men died in what became known as the Dark Winter.

Fighting fishwife Lillian Billoca’s subsequent successful campaign for improved trawler safety; sole survivor Harry Eddom who returned to sea just 11 weeks after the sinking; and the superstitions, lives and deaths of all those affected: all of these stories are contained within a fascinating and moving work of social and political history described as Meuross’s “most important work to date” by Pennyblack Music.

Reg himself says: “12 Silk Handkerchiefs is a classic tale of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and the mighty strength of the human spirit. For years the Hull trawlermen and their families fought for survival in the harshest of working conditions: frozen seas with very little safety or protection. It took Lillian and her fellow revolutionaries to fight the companies who were exploiting this community’s poverty and need for work. They took on the Government itself until desperately needed changes in the safety laws were made.

“If ever there was a story of survival vs. greed, honour vs. entitlement, courage and bravery vs. careless exploitation this is it. I believe such a story in living memory needs to be told now, and remembered for the future.”

Those fans of Reg’s music so accustomed to seeing his intimate solo performances at folk clubs and festivals across the land will be stunned by the power of this show, and those new to him will find it impossible not to be moved by this emotional and humbling tribute to the many, many lives lost to what was once the most dangerous industry in the world.

“Meuross has achieved something rare and important: he has reanimated a valuable piece of history, and he has done so with great sincerity and emotional depth. 12 Silk Handkerchiefs is a fitting tribute not just to Lillian Bilocca, but to the power of individuals to bring about change for the better.” Thomas Blake, Folk Radio UK

“A finely spun tribute… rich in honest emotion, deep humanity, resonant lyrics and infectious melodies.” Mike Davies, Folking.com

Winter 1968. Three Hull trawlers sink. 58 men die. A fishwife leads the fight to change safety laws.

A powerful show of songs & storytelling with Reg Meuross, Brian W Lavery, Sam Martyn, and Mick McGarry. . . and the spirit of Lillian Bilocca

12 Silk Handkerchiefs, Reg Meuross’s 13th album inspired by Brian W. Lavery’s book The Headscarf Revolutionaries, opens a window on Hull’s Hessle Road fishing community in the aftermath of the Triple Trawler Disaster of 1968.

Fighting fishwife Lillian Billoca’s successful campaign for improved trawler safety; sole survivor Harry Eddom who returned to sea just 11 weeks after the sinking; and the superstitions, lives and deaths of all those affected: all of these stories are contained within a fascinating and moving work of social and political history described as Meuross’s ‘most important work to date’ (Penny Black Music).

After three stunning sellout performances at Hull Minster that recreated and expanded upon the original album, Reg Meuross is now taking the show on a national tour supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Joined on stage by stalwarts of the Hull folk scene, musicians Mick McGarry and Sam Martyn, Reg’s powerful songs are interwoven with narration from author Brian W. Lavery and an audio/visual show that includes rarely-seen archive footage, photos and audio from the time of the disaster.

Those fans of Reg’s music so accustomed to seeing his intimate performances at folk clubs and festivals across the land will be stunned by the power of this show, and those new to him will find it impossible not to be moved by this emotional and humbling tribute to the many, many lives lost to what was once the most dangerous industry in the world.

“Meuross has achieved something rare and important… and he has done so with great sincerity and emotional depth.” Folk Radio UK








SEPT 20: *RAISING THE RAFTERS, WATH (NB This was a special solo fundraiser for Humber Rescue)




Any questions please call Katie on 07832 200980 or email HERE.

Photos – Rachel Snowdon

THE TEAM: L-R Reg Meuross, Brian W Lavery, Mick McGarry & Sam Martyn in Hessle Road


Folking.com Soloist Of The Year 2019, singer, songwriter, storyteller Reg Meuross is described by BBC Radio 2’s Mark Radcliffe as ‘a brilliant singer-songwriter with a social conscience’. Reg first emerged onto the acoustic music scene in the 1980s with the fast paced duo Panic Brothers and then went on to form the band The Flamingos which featured ex Graham Parker guitarist Martin Belmont, Bob Loveday from The Penguin Cafe Orchestra & Bob Geldof’s Band & Alison Jones of The Barely Works. They recorded one album called ‘Arrested’.

In 1996 Reg decided to go solo and has since released 13 highly acclaimed studio albums. Over the years, solo as well as with many other acclaimed artists, Meuross has toured the length and breadth of the UK and also in the US, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Accompanying his soulful tenor vocal with guitar, harmonica and dulcimer, Reg Meuross paints pictures in words and music that resonate long after the song has been sung. Protest songs, love songs and historical characters all feature in his extensive repertoire.

“A deep well of compassion and insight into the human heart and spirit.” Mike Davies, Folk Radio UK

“One of the most talented storytellers of our generation” Pennyblack Music

“A mighty songwriter and an equally fine singer” Martin Carthy


Author of The Headscarf Revolutionaries, Brian W Lavery says: “Reg Meuross tells a story as only he can with beautifully crafted lyrics and melodies that touch the soul. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a Meuross song must be worth so much more. With these six wonderful songs, this poet has re-cast a story that took me eighty-thousand words to tell. And I am honoured and delighted that he did.”

Brian W Lavery was born in Glasgow’s East End in 1959. 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 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 new book The Luckiest Thirteen, the story of the St Finbarr 1966 Christmas Day trawler disaster established itself as another best-seller for Barbican Press.

In 2017, he 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. 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.


Singer Mick McGarry, a lifelong union activist and doyen of the city’s music scene. Mick is a stalwart of the Hull folk scene for the past fifty years. He sings with the highly-respected singing group Spare Hands and is front man with cult-status steam-punk folk rockers The Hillbilly Troupe. He has sang and performed with some of the biggest names in the business and is much admired as ‘the singer’s singer’   

“It was a moving and humbling experience for me to be asked to be part of this. I really enjoy working with such talented people as Reg, Brian and Sam. Reg’s ability to weave the story from Brian’s book into such powerful songs is fantastic. Brian’s presence and skillful delivery of this very emotional story made him the perfect narrator. As a singer myself it is an absolute joy to work with Sam, in my opinion one of the finest singers on the folk music scene. [Hull Minster] was one of the best nights I have ever experienced as a performer.”

Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Sam Martyn. Sam is a member of Hull folk band Beggar’s Bridge, the White Horse Ceilidh Band and the Green Ginger Garland dancers, and she also performs solo – when she can find the time! Combining her rich, traditional singing style with piano, low and high whistle, and harmonium, her eclectic repertoire stretches from folk ballads to her own reworkings of musical and popular songs.

“The Hull Minster concert was one of the most special projects I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of and the memory of it will stay with me forever. Just the chance to work with Reg, one of this country’s finest singer-songwriters, was in itself amazing, but performing in front of the very people our show was about was something else. As I saw them take their seats in the front row, I realised even more how much this matters to them, and how we had a responsibility to do their story justice. And that standing ovation… that’s when it hit home that we had done them justice and there wasn’t a dry eye on stage or in the audience. Just an incredible moment. I keep saying privilege but that’s what it was – a massive honour and privilege to be involved in this.”


Reg Meuross Singer Songwriter Storyteller