The Great Storm, 1880

The wind rose on our coast on Wednesday the 27th and reached its peak of ferocity about two o’clock on Friday morning. Many fishing boats and cargo vessels were wrecked and scores of lives ended.

We do not know that it has ever been our lot to record such a list of maritime disasters as have resulted from the violence of the late gales. At Lloyd’s as many as 130 losses were posted in one day. We have been unable as yet to direct attention to the effect of these gales, in as much as the reports have been coming in from day to day, but we shall take an early opportunity of doing so. The gales set in about S.W., but on the east coast appear to have veered round to the N.E., and the principle line of the destruction of life and property extended from the Land’s End to the Pentland Firth on this side of the Channel and North, and on the Continental seaboard from Ushant to Copenhagen. So sudden and so violent a visitation has seldom been experienced in these latitudes.

The Shipping and Mercantile Gazette

The storm seems to have taken most seafarers by surprise and those that ran for shelter failed to find any.  A number of ships reached South Bay, Scarborough but, for one reason or another, couldn’t enter the harbour. The local population looked upon the making of wrecks, widows and fatherless children from the cliffs and the rocks by the shore, most unable to help those in distress.

There were, of course, examples of selfless heroism by people whose names have now been mostly forgotten. I doubt many photographs were taken of the various dramas that unfolded but one artist in particular documented what he saw. I am assuming that Robert Ernest ROE was present to make the sketches he worked up in his Sheffield studio, presenting the finished paintings the following year. Art UK generously allows the sharing of some works for non-commercial purposes and the two below illustrate the terrifying grandeur of the occasion. (Photo credit for both: Scarborough Museums Trust.)

Roe, Robert Ernest, 1851-1930; Wreck off Spa with Crowds on Sands

At ten o’clock the ‘Black Eyed Susan’, of Bideford, was spotted again. It had been seen making good offing from the North Bay. But it headed for shore again with full sail set. But after missing the harbour headed south. It hit shore opposite the White House just beyond the Spa. The Rocket Apparatus was ideal for this situation. But the master and another hand were disabled so the crew were not sufficiently strong enough to work the line. Some of the crew headed for the rigging to escape the heavy seas. The Lifeboat remained on the slipway not relishing the perilous journey.

Extract from 1880 Storm & Shipwrecks, Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre.

The lifeboatmen had a change of heart and made the perilous journey to the schooner, rescuing the crew of five.

Roe, Robert Ernest, 1851-1930; Wreck below the Grand Hotel

I guess this shows Lady Leigh returning from one of its four rescues.

The Scarbro’ lifeboat was launched four times last Thursday, and was instrumental, in a raging sea, in saving the crews, numbering twenty-four men, from the brig Mary, of Shields, the schooner Black Eyed Susan, of Bideford, the Prizeman, of Plymouth, and the galliot Five Brothers.

Scarborough Gazette

The Coastguards with their rocket apparatus saved fourteen sailors.

Most of the lives snuffed out by the storm were not witnessed and some bereaved families in Filey, uncertain when their loved ones had died, had “the 28th & 29th October” inscribed on their memorial stones. There is still some confusion, 137 years on, about some of the Filey men lost.  I‘ll write about them tomorrow.

Robert Ernest wasn’t the only artist in the extended ROE family. His grandfather, Edward Hodges BAILEY sculpted the figure of Lord Nelson atop the column in Trafalgar Square. His father, Robert Henry Roe, has many works on the Internet but seems to be confused with HIS father judging by his dates of birth and death. Robert’s oldest brother, Clarence Henry, could have been a contender for the title of greatest British landscape painter but preferred a dissolute lifestyle and died in a mental institution. A search online for Colin Graeme will yield a number of charming animal paintings but it seems sister Eva Constance Emily may only have told census enumerators that she was an artist. I haven’t found a painterly digital trace of her yet. In 1901, aged 41 and single, she was caring for her 79-year-old widowed father in Dongola Road, Tottenham.

There is a brief but excellent account of Family Roe here.

During my researches into Robert Ernest, I happened upon a painting that looked like Filey but was titled “Scarborough”. I did, however, find a surprising connection to this town. In 1878 Robert married Elizabeth Jane MAWHOOD, who had been born in the Australian Colonies. Her family “back home” had business connections in Sheffield and that is where she returned to marry and settle. I had not heard of this family name before but the clan gathered for Robert Ernest’s funeral at Great Longstone, Derbyshire and amongst them was “Miss E. Mawhood, Filey (sister-in-law)”.

There are no Mawhoods in Filey Genealogy & Connections and the Roes were sparsely scattered about the FamilySearch Tree. I added a few leaves this afternoon.

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