The Missing Parson

The Scarborough Mercury on Friday, 8th December 1882 reported as follows:-

Filey: Strange Occurrence

This retired watering-place was thrown into a state of great excitement the other day, in consequence of the sudden loss of one of the Primitive Ministers. This rev. gentleman is in the habit of walking to Filey Brig and then returning to tea, but he happened to deviate from his ordinary custom, and the result was that a very painful scene occurred. His wife became excited, hearing nothing of her husband. for several hours. The aid of fishermen was summoned and the Brig searched, but no parson [was] to be found; after which, ropes, &c., were procured to drag the sea-pools about the Brig. The townspeople spreading the news, crowds of fishermen began to move towards the cliff top ; during this excitement a well-known ironmonger and a parson stepped among the crowd to enquire what was up, when the parson to his astonishment was told they were going to search for his body on the Brig, having heard he had been drowned. Naturally enough he bolted home to his distressed wife. I can’t describe the meeting, to explain that he had stayed tea with the ironmonger and had forgot to send a message home where he was. The fishermen were recalled from the Brig and the little town soon settled down to its normal quietness. This should warn husbands and wives to be sure and “come home to tea.”

The ironmonger was almost certainly John ROSS senior, a native of Castleton (near Danby) and active in the overlapping circles of Filey Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists. He probably had parson friends of both persuasions and after his death, in January 1885, the Rev. G. OYSTON opened a meeting of the Port of Hull Society Sailors’ Orphan Home with an “appropriate allusion” to John’s passing.  Reading the 19th-century newspapers one gets the impression that this watering place rarely had fewer than a dozen parsons going about their singular master’s business, so which one got his wife excited is anyone’s guess.

Amongst a supporting cast of lay preachers and circuit trustees were William STORY senior, who featured in yesterday’s post, and Harrison PHILLISKIRK. William indicated the depth of their friendship by giving a daughter, Ann, and a son, George, the middle name “Philliskirk”. George would take the name with pride across the Atlantic. He worked himself into an early grave as a teacher and Methodist clergyman in Newfoundland.

George married Elizabeth STEER in St John’s in 1880 and one of their descendants died in January last year – a William Story who had brought the honoured middle names, Philliskirk and Steer, into the 21st century.

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