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Trevor Grills - 1959-2013

I travelled down to Port Isaac with Neil (Kimber) for the funeral of Trevor Grill who was mortally wounded when a metal door of the loading bay of The G Live Theatre in Guildford came crashing down upon him on February 9th.

The tour manager Paul McMullen also died that morning from fatal leg injuries. Another band member who had been standing and talking to Trevor and Paul had an extremely lucky escape, the back of his coat was marked by the door as it came crashing down.

The service, which was held at St. Endellion Church near Port Isaac on Friday February 22nd, was understandably very emotional, packed with mourners filling all seats and the aisles of the small village church. Trevor, known as 'Toastie' to his close friends was a builder and it’s probable that there is hardly a house in the village of Port Isaac that has not seen his handiwork and as a consequence there was hardly anyone not touched by the tragedy.

Trevor had a fine tenor voice and found unexpected fame in his 50s when Fisherman's Friends were signed to a major record label in a £1m deal. A fairytale story that turned into a tragedy, based around the north Cornish fishing village of Port Isaac, where Grills was born, and where he spent the rest of his life. He went to the local school, and attended Sunday school at the local chapel. His father was a carpenter and builder, and Trevor took over the family business, spending much of his time renovating the old cottages in the picturesque village that were bought by outsiders as second homes. He was also a footballer, playing on the wing for the village team and, because of his burly good looks, he was known to the other Fisherman's Friends as ‘the housewives' choice’, along with his group nickname of ‘Toastie’.

Fisherman's Friends got together, 15 years ago, simply because they loved singing. Assembled in the village pub on a Friday night would be a group of friends who had known each other since school days, and who had gone on to become fishermen, lifeboatmen, coastguards, builders or artisans. They began to specialise in sea shanties, taking songs from Cadgwith in south-west Cornwall, where there is a strong shanty tradition, and adding in any other seafaring ballads from elsewhere in Britain and around the world. Trevor enthusiastically took part in the sessions, joining in the a cappella harmony singing, but for years he was reluctant to sing lead – although he would be acknowledged as having one of the finest voices in the group.

The men aimed to enjoy themselves, and never thought of becoming celebrities, but their fame gradually spread, thanks partly to Show of Hands, who invited the group to appear with them at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2001, and join them for the recording of their song Roots. Then came the deal with Universal, the recording of a Top 10 gold album, appearances at major festivals including Glastonbury, and plans for a feature film about their remarkable story, to be directed by Nigel Cole, who was responsible for Calendar Girls and Made In Dagenham.

Grills became famous within the group for what they called his “bloody miserable songs”, one of which he performed at his final London concert, at the Royal Festival Hall, when Fisherman's Friends appeared alongside Show of Hands. One of the most powerful songs of the Fisherman's Friends set that night was the lament, The Last Leviathan (“I am the last of the great whales, and I am dying”) with Grills powerfully taking the lead, and his nine friends lined up on either side of him adding the chorus. Just a few days later came the accident in Guildford.

Trevor is survived by his wife, Lesley, and three sons, Mark, Paul and Josh.

Joe Stead