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Tragedy strikes Britain's only band of sea-shanty singers

After winning major record deal, Fisherman’s Friends manager is killed in freak accident at gig

From singing together in seaside pubs to securing a £1m recording contract, the rise of the Fisherman’s Friends has been a life-affirming tale.

But the sea-shanty group of 10 Cornishmen, who recently performed at London’s Festival Hall, suffered a grim setback this weekend when their tour manager, Paul McMullen, was killed and one of the singers, Trevor Grills, seriously injured in a freak accident as they prepared for their latest concert at a Surrey music venue.

Mr McMullen, who had recently joined the group, suffered horrific leg injuries when a heavy steel door fell on him and Mr Grills shortly before midday on Saturday at the £25m G Live entertainment venue in Guildford, which opened in 2011. Mr Grills suffered serious head injuries in the accident and was taken to St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south London, where he remained in a serious condition last night. Paramedics battled to treat Mr McMullen, who was trapped under the door, but he died from his injuries at the scene.

Surrey Police said it was investigating the incident along with the Health and Safety Executive. As tributes were paid to Mr McMullen last night, Darcus Beese, president of the group’s label Island Records, said: “Everyone here is shocked by this tragic event, our hopes and prayers go out to the friends and families of those involved.”

Formed in the early 1990s, Fisherman’s Friends consists of three fishermen, six others who all grew up within half a mile of the Cornish village of Port Isaac and a Yorkshireman. They met while working on a project to build a boat, after which they were in the habit of retiring to a pub for “a pint and a song”.

After several years in which their performances of seaman’s shanties on the quayside at Port Isaac became a local draw, they were recorded for a documentary.

Soon afterwards, representatives of Universal Records, which owns the Island label and counts Lady Gaga among its other artists, arrived and offered them a recording contract two years ago.

Since then, the group have performed at numerous festivals, including an appearance on the main stage at Glastonbury. They have also provided the sound track for an advert for the seafood company Young’s.