Lost from the Drifter ‘Joan Margaret’

In 1941 Joan Margaret was destroyed by an exploding  German mine in the Humber estuary. Five Filey men were killed. They were Anniversary People last year and I promised to post a reprint of an old Looking at Filey article that can’t now be accessed on the British Library Web Archive. Better late than never, perhaps…

Wednesday 13 June 2012

‘Joan Margaret’ Revisited

I wrote about the fishing boat Joan Margaret last year on the anniversary of her sinking in the Humber. She had apparently struck an enemy mine but that may not have been the true story.

The Scarborough Mercury of Friday, 21st March 1941 had this brief report: –

Four Filey Seamen Lost

News has been received in Filey that four local seamen have lost their lives and one has been injured on Admiralty service.

The four men lost were as follows: – two brothers, George Robert Pearson, 12 Queen Street and Thomas E. Pearson, 98 Newlands, Richard Haxby, 5 Newthorpe and John W. Powley, 18 Queen Street.

The injured man is George Willis, 2 Ebenezer Terrace.

I looked carefully in later issues but found no further reports and wondered if there had been a news “blackout”. I mentioned this to Martin a couple of weeks ago and on Saturday he gave me a couple of photos to scan and two letters he had received about ten years ago from Joan Sewell, who was researching the tragedy – because she had been named after the boat. In these letters, Joan referred to another vessel, the Gloaming, which sunk in the same explosion with the loss of yet more lives.

Four years ago “Joff” appealed to other members of the Ships Nostalgia website for help in locating a photo of Gloaming, a herring drifter. His uncle, William S. REDGRAVE, engineman, was one of the men aboard who were killed. The others were Charles A. LITTLE, Second Hand and Robert SWANN, Ordinary Seaman Cook. Gloaming was also on Admiralty Service and the crew’s Royal Naval Patrol Service numbers can be found here.

It seems that Joan shared her research discoveries with a good friend, Mary Grant of Saltburn by Sea and in The Joan Margaret Story, published in Down Your Way “Yorkshire’s Nostalgic Magazine” [link now broken], Mary wrote –

The Yorkshire Bell (sic), with three Filey men on board, helped with the rescue. It was believed

at the time that the engine had triggered off the mine, but according to a book written by J

P Foynes: “The minesweeper Fitzgerald was sailing in the vicinity of Cleeness Light Float,

Humber Estuary, when she sank the little net Vessel Gloaming and the civil defence smack Joan Margaret by inadvertently triggering an acoustic mine near them.”

(The yacht, Yorkshire Belle, was herself mined at the mouth of the Humber about three weeks later, on the 11th of April.)

One of the illustrations in this article is a copy of a typed note with an East Riding Constabulary Police Station date stamp (22 March 1941) giving a more accurate casualty list than had appeared in the newspapers the previous day. The information had been provided by George BEE of Grimsby, owner of the motor boat Joan Margaret. It reveals that only the bodies of George PEARSON and Richard HAXBY were recovered. Thomas PEARSON, George WILLIS and Jack POWLEY were also killed and “James Johnston BROIGHT (sic), 13 Church Street, Filey, seriously injured and now in the Naval Hospital, Grimsby”. Mary Grant says that Jimmy BRIGHT lived until September 1996.

In this photo, Thomas Edmond PEARSON, aged about 22, is standing behind Robert ‘Chorus’ CAMMISH’s Bath Chair.

Photographer unknown, abt 1931, courtesy of Martin Douglas

The seated men are, from left, Bob ‘Codge’ CAMMISH, ‘Tommy Chicken’, ‘Jossie’ JENKINSON, ‘Fatty’ CAMMISH and ‘Jackdaw’ JOHNSON.

Another of Mary Grant’s article illustrations is this photo of Joan Margaret in Grimsby Dock (I guess), having its compass adjusted.

Photographer unknown, abt 1934, courtesy of Martin Douglas

Joan suggests the date for the photo and names the crew in one of the letters to Martin. (The name of the compass adjuster isn’t known.) From left: Richard ‘Dick’ WILLIS, Bob ‘Cock Robin’ HAXBY, Tommy WILLIS (in wheelhouse), George Robert PEARSON (back of wheelhouse) and, sat down at the side of the wheelhouse, Paul ‘Hobby’ ROBINSON. Suzanne Pollard nee ROBINSON told me recently that her Granddad Paul was a member of the crew on Joan Margaret’s last trip but was taken ill and sent home. (Jimmy Bright only survived the explosion because he had “gone top side for a smoke and was blown clear”.)

Here is a photo of Joan Margaret going about her peaceful business.

Photographer unknown, no date, courtesy Martin Douglas

The family headstones in St Oswald’s Churchyard

Crimlisk Survey 1977 with some additions.

Row 11 | 1930 Haxby E102

In loving memory of RICHARD HAXBY, killed by enemy action 20th March 1941, aged 36.

‘Love’s last gift

Also of his parents, ROBERT, lost at sea 23rd March 1911, aged 43.

ELIZA, died 29th July 1944, aged 72.

Also, WILLIAM WATKINSON, died 2nd Jan 1934 aged 85.

Row 6 1834 Pearson F71 Granite

In loving memory of my dear husband, GEORGE R. PEARSON, killed by enemy action, 20th March 1941, aged 36.

‘Treasured in memory’

Also, FANNY ELIZABETH PEARSON, died 5th April 1985, aged 83.

Row 6 | 1833 Pearson F69 | Kerb

F40b Add – new headstone within kerb – A Filey Fishing Family

GEORGE PEARSON (1880 – 1935)

& MILCAH NEE HOPE (1879 – 1930)

Their Children










Row 6 | 1833 Pearson F69b |  Open Book

Row 32 |661 Willis G532

In loving memory of HARRY WILLIS, died 5th March 1936, aged 35.

Also of GEORGE, his brother, killed by enemy action 20th March 1941, aged 44.

‘Thy will be done’

An Attempted Catch-Up

Horace Percy HOWARD died on this date in 2002 at the age of 90. At the start of the Second World War, he was a shepherd, living in Burton Fleming with his first wife Mary. Mary, only 53 when she died, was an Anniversary Person last year (AP 449 · death · 16 March) but I did not have time then to present the headstone that remembers them both.

The East Yorkshire Family History Society Survey records a vase on the grave –

HORACE/ devoted husband of AUDREY./ A true gentleman./sadly missed.

Audrey Brenda TYSON was a widow when she married Horace at Filey Methodist Church in October 1980 and she is also remembered on a family headstone with three Anniversary People, Duke CARTER (AP 1969 · death · 17 November) and married couple William TYSON (AP 625 · marriage · 14 April) and Emily ABBOTT. I failed (again) to post information and photographs.

Horace is without forebears, children or Audrey on the Shared Tree. I made some progress today, finding his parents – the intriguing Archie Edward (or Edwin) from Norfolk and Jane FILEY (or FALEY) – but again ran out of time.

Three More Sisters

Two are remembered on this headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard.

Row 20 | 2047 Somerset E164 | Granite cross

The family name and brief inscription give the impression that they were strangers here. The third sister, Kate, was the only one to marry and she was a beneficiary, with Amy, of the money shared out after Mary Ann died.

That’s over half a million in today’s money.

Brislington House was established as a private mental institution for the wealthy and was still being run by descendants of its founder, Edwin Long FOX, in 1939.  At the time of her death in 1948, Amy was living in Larkhall near Bath – in Somerset! And Kate died in 1952 in Sodbury, Gloucestershire.

All three were born in Doncaster to Edward SOMERSET and his second wife, Emily DALE. Edward had at least three children with Mary Elizabeth TIRPIN. The deaths of both daughter Mary at the age of eleven and her mother were registered in the same quarter of 1866. (Younger son Herbert currently has Emily for a mother on FamilySearch.)

Edward worked as a draper and later a valuer and he must have been successful in both occupations because neither his widow nor his daughters registered gainful employment with census enumerators – until Mary Ann was caught keeping a boarding house on the Crescent in Filey in 1921. Amy was with her but not, it seems, getting her hands dirty.

Filey welcomed lots of guests from the West Riding in the summer months and they were typically middle and upper-crust families. Lower orders preferred Bridlington and Scarborough. But it was still a surprise to find Amy and Mary Ann here, and puzzling that Mary was brought from Bristol to be buried at St Oswald’s when all three sisters seemed to have migrated to the South West. Amy invested her inheritance wisely but her wealth didn’t protect her from an untimely and shocking death. I don’t know if she and Mary Ann are close companions for eternity.

More Confectioners…

…and sisters!

The WARBURTON headstone hasn’t worn well, and I seem to have failed to accurately copy the Crimlisk Survey typescript inscription onto a laptop. (This was the first genealogy “work” I did when I moved to Filey in 2008.)

My version:-


beloved sister of EDITH 13th March 1951 aged 63 years

‘Severed only till He come’

Also of her husband HARRY PARKER died 15th Dec 1972 aged 84

I went up to the churchyard this morning to see if I could read the inscription. The morning sun was directly behind me so there were no shadows on the incised letters to assist legibility. The inscription published by the East Yorkshire Family History is complete, indicating that Harry was Edith’s husband, but the verse fragment offered seemed a little odd.

‘Savered only till he comes’

Tracing the letters with my finger this morning made me think ‘Severed’ and ‘He come’ would be a better transcription, though all the letters are capitals and it is impossible to detect a bigger ‘H’. An online search told me in next to no time that First Corinthians 11:26 inspired Edward Henry Bickersteth to write these final lines of a hymn –

Some from earth, from glory some

Severed only, “Till He come.”

But, given the Last Supper connection, one might imagine the mason carved “savered”. Further questions are begged  – were sweet foods on the table when Christ and the Apostles shared that final meal? And did the sisters choose the scrap of verse for their headstone because of the work they had done on earth?

Edith was 58 and Harry 67 when they married in 1955, four years after Madge’s death.

Sixteen years earlier, when The Register was taken, Edith was living with Madge at “99 Confectioner Grocers House Whetley Lane Bradford”. Naomi M gave her occupation as “Confectioner Shop Keeper Manager” and Edith offered “Master Baker Bread & Cakes”.  If the property numbering hasn’t changed since 1939, the address suggests they were not prosperous. Their shop, with living accommodation above, was to the right of Regency Kitchens.

(I discovered later that Madge had sailed to the United States in 1933 on Britannic, perhaps to seek a fortune that eluded her.)

The sisters’ father Frank was a Bradford-born miner and his wife Sarah ROBERTS Welsh. Madge first drew breath in Trimdon Grange, a village in County Durham. Frank relocated his growing family to the South Yorkshire Coalfield in the middle of the 1890s and Edith was born in Wath upon Dearne near Rotherham.

Frank has yet to marry on the Shared Tree but he has a younger sister called Naomi in the GRO Births Index and Naomi Madelina, aged 3, in the 1871 census.

Madge left an estate worth over £100,000 in today’s money.

Her last address was Coney Villa on Scarborough Road, Filey, next door to Mary Ann FANT’s house (see last Monday’s post.)

Butcher, Baker

John ROBINSON of 13 Kendal Lane, Leeds filled out the 1911 Census form. He was the eldest of four siblings, all of them single, ranging in age from 54 down to 39. They were born into the farming family of Timothy and Elizabeth née THORPE at Clough House near Pateley Bridge. The Robinsons moved to Easingwold, perhaps shortly before Timothy’s death in 1890. Widow Elizabeth gave her occupation as “farmer” at Plump House the following year but in 1901 was living at Kendal Lane with the four children who occupied the same house ten years later.

Robert, a butcher in 1911 must have been preparing for his marriage to Florence WRIGHT, just a few days or weeks after the census was taken. He was 39 and his bride was about three years younger.

Free BMD Marriages Jun 1911: ROBINSON Robert E & WRIGHT Florence, Leeds 9b 643.         

Ten years earlier and just a mile away in Burley Road, Florence was living in a similar household to Robert’s, with her widowed mother Hannah, younger sister Maggie and a brother-in-the-middle Harold, 25, a foreman in the timber trade. The three women were all confectioners.

I don’t know where or when Robert and Florence met but in 1921, they lived in Filey on the corner of Hope and Mitford Streets.

Robert had undergone a career change and was making the most of his wife’s confectionary skills. He was now a baker, with Florence as his “assistant”. The dwelling also sheltered their daughter Kathleen, aged six. She was an only child and had three years to live. Not long before her ninth birthday, she dressed up fancily for a notable Filey event.


Row 1 | 1737 Robinson E11 | Cross

In loving remembrance of KATHLEEN, dearly loved and only child of R. E. and F. ROBINSON, born 11th March 1915, died 23rd Dec 1924.

Also, ROBERT EDWARD, dear husband and father, re-united 20th October 1961, aged 90.

FLORENCE, mother of KATHLEEN, died 17th March 1951 aged 76 years.

Crimlisk Survey 1977

Shared Tree.

Timothy and Robert Edward ROBINSON not found

Elizabeth THORPE not found

Frederick Wright [LW1V-68G]

Hannah BARMBY [LW1V-68P]

Florence WRIGHT [LW1V-68L]

What’s in Six Names?

George Jenkinson WATKINSON died 89 years ago at the age of fifty-seven. His wife Annie Ellis PITCHFORD found rest just over two years later.

Row 12 1938 Watkinson E112 Kerb

In loving memory of GEORGE J. WATKINSON, died 9th March 1934, aged 57.

Also his wife, ANNIE E. WATKINSON, died 25th March 1936, aged 57.

‘At rest’

Crimlisk Survey 1977

George is a great-grandson of Joseph, a West Riding man who was verger for a while at Filey St Oswald’s. George’s mother Mary was a JENKINSON and an Anniversary Person on the first day of last year (AP 5 · death · 1 January).

Annie had seven children with George but only one appears on the Shared Tree.

Filey Genealogy & Connections is not the only information source uncertain of Annie’s family name. On the day of her marriage, she was not in doubt.

“Ellis” is a common middle name in this part of the world and is often accompanied by “Alice” in brackets. I have never understood why this is. The poor hearing of registrars, transcriber uncertainty or something else?

On the Shared Tree, Annie’s father is without forebears. FG&C gives him a mother, Ann Pitchforth, and maternal grandparents William Pitchforth and Ruth BEDFORD. What are the chances of her paternal grandfather being Henry ELLIS? (I found a suspect.)

The Watkinsons named their third daughter after Annie’s older sister Charlotte, a witness at their wedding. For British boys of a certain age, the name FROBISHER may cause a frisson of excitement. Nice boys will picture the intrepid seeker of the North West Passage; the not-so-pleasant will imagine the pirate looking for plunder. Perhaps Canadians now in their sixties and seventies will recall Martin of this ilk.

Public domain, Martin Frobisher. (2023, January 27). In Wikipedia.

FG&C takes the Frobisher line no further than William and Agatha née FOXCROFT. The Shared Tree delivers. (Martin is the ninth great-granduncle of Annie Ellis Pitchford.)

What of the other witness at George & Annie’s wedding? FG&C doesn’t have Charles WEBB but I found someone with the name in the 1901 census, about the same age as the groom and from George’s neck of the woods. The best man perhaps. Charles was a railway signalman who had recently married Ada LONGBOTTOM. (A seventh name to conjure with.)