Seeing the Light

Captain Price made an error of judgment 159 years ago and destroyed his “fine vessel”.


The barque “Carnatic,” of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Captain Price, 621 tons register, left Malta on the 24th of January in ballast, for Newcastle. All went on well during the passage, and they made Flamborough Head on the 26th ult., weather thick and hazy, on nearing Filey the captain mistook the light in the town, which is exhibited for the use of the fishermen, and, unfortunately, supposed it to be the light at Scarboro’ Lighthouse, and did not discover his error until too late. In consequence of standing in too close to the land he got upon Filey Brig, when they threw out some ballast, and got the assistance of some Filey fishermen to carry out two anchors, but they could not succeed in getting the barque off the rocks. She soon began to fill with water and they were compelled to leave this fine vessel on the Brig, after securing a great part of the stores, which have been landed at Filey. The vessel is about twelve years old, and was built in America, is coppered and copper fastened, and abundantly found in stores. The crew, 17 in number, were forwarded to their respective homes by Mr. White, secretary to the Fishermens’ Shipwrecked Society; but only two of them were members of this very excellent institution. The vessel and the stores saved from her, were sold yesterday.

Scarborough Mercury, 5 March 1859

The “light in the town” referred to stood at Cliff Top, outside the Coastguard House (aka Cliff Point) in Queen Street. It was only distinguishable from an ordinary streetlamp because it had a couple of coloured glass panels facing the sea. One green, one red (I think). It was affectionately, or jokingly, known as “Filey Lighthouse”. A few years ago the old lamp was replaced by one of similar Victorian design, but with plain glass panels. Earlier this month, on a bright, sunny morning, the lamp and its shadow beckoned me to take their picture.


If you are wondering what the label on the glass says:-


I doubt our 19th century forebears would have been so slack. Where was the Overseer?

I wondered about Mr. White, Secretary of the Fishermen’s Shipwrecked Society. There are only two likely candidates for the job, a father and son, both called Richard.

Richard senior was 72 years old in 1859, but still working as Chief Officer of Her Majesty’s Coast Guard two years later, when the census was taken. (He was living in Suggit’s Yard, not at Cliff Point.)

Richard junior was 43 when Carnatic was wrecked, and described in the ’61 census as “Late a Grocer”. In  1871 he was an “Assistant Overseer”, and in ’81 “Clerk & Assistant Overseer” for the Filey Local Board – good secretary material for any kind of Society one would think, and not one to leave a job unfinished.

This WHITE family is represented on FamilySearch Tree.Young Richard had two brothers, William and Lawson, but all three were resolutely single men as they approached the end of their lives. There may not be anyone around today interested in looking deep into their ancestry.

A few years ago I searched online for information about the unfortunate barque Carnatic but found nothing. I drew a blank again today, so she must remain a ghost, or mystery, ship.

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