Appeal to find ex-workmates of Royal London Dock canteen worker who died of mesothelioma

Shirley Bull worked in the canteen at the Royal London Docks in the 60s & 70s. Picture credit: Kevin

Shirley Bull worked in the canteen at the Royal London Docks in the 60s & 70s. Picture credit: Kevin Bull. - Credit: Archant

The son of a Royal London Dock canteen worker who served food to employees wearing overalls covered with asbestos is appealing for information following her death from mesothelioma.

Shirley Bull with her husband and sons. Picture credit: Kevin Bull.

Shirley Bull with her husband and sons. Picture credit: Kevin Bull. - Credit: Archant

Shirley Bull passed away from the asbestos-related condition in August and now her son is appealing to anyone who worked with his mother to contact him.

Kevin believes his mother was exposed to the deadly material while she worked for the Port of London Authority between 1965 and 1980.

During those years Mrs Bull worked in several canteens at the docks serving breakfast and lunch to the workers alongside a number of other women, including a colleague with the nickname ‘Big Lil’.

At the time, a range of commodities were being shipped into the Royal London Docks including cargos of hessian sacks filled with asbestos.


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The material would often leak from the sacks on to the overalls of dockers and stevedores who unloaded them from the holds of the ships.

Shirley Bull enjoying a night out wiht friends. Picture credit: Kevin Bull.

Shirley Bull enjoying a night out wiht friends. Picture credit: Kevin Bull. - Credit: Archant

Oblivious to the dangers the workers would playfully slapping each other on the back or clap their hands together to send up clouds of asbestos dust.

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They would also go straight to the canteen in the overalls where Mrs Bull would serve them their meals.

In addition catering staff like Mrs Bull would travel round in mobile canteens serving them hot drinks and snacks.

Mrs Bull spent a large proportion of her time stationed at the Great Eastern canteen where she worked under chef collier, who was head chef at the time.

She would have been well known amongst the workers as where her twin sons Kevin and Paul.

Kevin’s solicitor Isobel Lovett, partner and head of industrial disease at law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, said: “Mesothelioma is almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos and Mrs Bull only came into contact with asbestos during her time working at the Royal London Docks. “We are appealing on behalf of, Kevin, to all former colleagues who worked with her at the Royal London Docks to help with the investigation into her exposure to asbestos.”

If you think you can provide information or you know the whereabouts of ‘Big Lil’ please contact Isobel Lovett at Hodge Jones & Allen on 020 7874 8502 or email ilovett@hja.net.

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