Men Overboard

On this night in 1925, Robert Haxby JOHNSON fell from the steam drifter G.E.S. and efforts by other crew to rescue him were unsuccessful. The fishing boat was 36 miles East by North of Scarborough.

Twenty-two years earlier, and about five miles from Scarborough, a sudden squall capsized the herring coble Wild Rose and it began to sink.

…Two of the crew, Thomas H. Cowling, the skipper, who is 70 years of age, and T. Holmes, had just time to scramble into their small boat before the Wild Rose went down. Jenkinson Cowling, another of the crew, swam alongside the coble, and the fourth man, John Willis, went down with the vessel. His more fortunate companions were of the opinion that he was thrown against the halyards by the lurching of the boat, and, being unable to clear himself in time, was dragged down with it…

Aberdeen Press and Journal, 4 February 1903

The three were rescued by the crew of another coble, Romeo and Juliet, which just made it into Scarborough harbour “in a sinking condition”.

Robert Haxby JOHNSON was 36 years old and is remembered on the gravestone of his maternal grandparents Richard HAXBY and Hannah née CAMMISH.


In Loving Memory of ROBERT, the beloved husband of ELIZABETH JOHNSON, who was drowned Jan 29th 1925 aged 36 years.

Robert isn’t on FamilySearch Tree yet but his Filey Genealogy & Connections pedigree is extensive.

John married Ann Watkinson DAY in 1894 when he was 21 years old, and the couple had 5 children in their short time together. FamilySearch has three of the children but one, Harry, was fathered by Walter WILLIS, a textile worker in the West Riding. Again, FG&C is currently the more reliable source for this Willis branch pedigree.


In Loving Memory of JOHN WILLIS, died Feb 26, 1919, aged 20 years.

Also JOHN WILLIS, father of the above, who was drowned at sea Jan 29, 1903, aged 30 years.

We shall meet again


The Brothers Chow


Eight years after Elizabeth Richardson searched the Filey shore for her husband’s body, the family CHOW sought two of their own – brothers, Francis and James. Robert and Mary née PEARSON have ten children listed in Kath’s database, Filey Genealogy & Connections but only three had PIDs on FamilySearch until today.

FG & C has Robert drowning with his sons on 14 January 1808 but I have yet to find an official record to confirm this. This headstone offers circumstantial evidence that Robert lies beneath with  Francis and James, and that two months of searching separated discovery of the brothers’ bodies. The following verse is mostly hidden now but it was recorded by George Shaw in his book,  Rambles Round Filey, 1886 and is included in the East Yorkshire Family History Society transcription.

Most epitaphs are vainly wrote;

The dead to speak it can’t be thought;

Therefore, the friends of those here laid,

Desired that this might be said.

That rose two brothers, sad to tell,

That rose in health, ere night they fell –

Fell victims to the foaming main;

Wherefore awhile they hid remain.

Friends for them sought, and much lament,

At last the Lord to those them sent.

So child and widow may bemoan

O’er husband’s and o’er father’s tomb.

The EYFHS transcription adds the burial records for the brothers; James being interred on 24 January and Francis on March 25th, 1808.

The family unit isn’t complete on FST yet but here is the link to husband and father, Robert CHOW. By the time George, his youngest son, died in 1864 the family name was CHEW.

The Coble ‘Mary’

The York Herald reported the tragedy on 19 December 1896.

Three Fishermen Drowned at Filey

During a strong E.N.E. breeze which prevailed at Filey on Monday, a local fishing coble, the Mary, owned by Mr. William Johnstone, was swamped to the south of the buoy at the end of the Brigg whilst returning from the fishing grounds off Speeton Cliffs, and the three occupants of the boat were drowned in the full view of a large number of fishermen and others assembled upon the cliff tops. The names of the unfortunate men are Robert Skelton (skipper), aged 37, who leaves a widow and two children; Thomas Johnson (25), who also leaves a widow and two children; and George Jenkinson, 18, single. The sunken coble put off from the town about half-past ten in the morning in company with four others. At the time indications were  not wanting of the heavy swell which afterwards arose. Notwithstanding, the five boats, of which the Mary was the smallest, being only 17 feet long, reached the fishing grounds in safety, and laid and worked their lines. At half-past eleven the wind had freshened considerably, and the sea running higher it was deemed advisable to return home. Preparations were made for this purpose, and all went well until they were about a mile from the shore, when the Mary, running before the swell, was chased and over-run. She sank immediately, and everything went out of sight. It could not be seen whether the men in her were entangled with the cordage or whether they floated for some little time, the other boats being some considerable distance away. The accident had been witnessed from the shore, and the lifeboat was instantly launched and proceeded to the spot, but with the exception of the men’s sou’-westers nothing could be seen of either coble or its occupants. The three men were all natives of Filey. They were very well known on the coast and amongst the fleets of the Southern boats which visit the locality in the summer, having previously assisted in life-saving from several wrecks. Johnson’s father was drowned 20 years ago within a short distance of the spot where he himself was engulphed.

The three lost fishermen are represented on the FamilySearch Tree but their families await assembly from the system-produced fragments. They are more clearly represented on Filey Genealogy & Connections.


George Thomas JOHNSON


Two of the three pedigrees carry information taken from the January 1897 Parish Magazine detailing the disbursements from money raised by a local appeal to assist the bereaved and straitened families.

…Total sum collected £320.00 Mrs Skelton whose youngest boy is 8yrs old will have 8 shillings a week for 6 yrs.  Mrs Johnson whose youngest girl is only 1 yr old will have 4 shillings a week for 12 yrs.  At the end of these periods, the children may then be able to work for themselves.  These payments will exhaust £240 or £120 each.  Mark Jenkinson, father of the drowned lad, will have 5 shillings a week for 4 yrs and Mrs Johnson senior mother of one of the drowned  men will have 2shillings 6pence a week for 5 yrs.  These payments will take rather over £50 & £30 respectively, and the slight deficiency will be met by the interest on money.


On a previous examination of the value of “old money”, I decided that considering “labour earnings” gave the most appropriate figure for a fishing community like Filey. So, £320 in today’s money (2017) is £131,600. This seems a huge amount to raise from  such a small town  so you should bear in mind that the RPI “basket of goods” figure is £33,200 (source Measuring Worth.)

Mrs. Skelton’s  8 shillings a week can be visualized as either £41.65 or £164.50 – or anywhere in between. Six years of the lower figure would have amounted to a little under £13,000.

I don’t have much of a head for figures but I find these price/value comparisons fascinating. I noticed in yet another Titanic video, watched today, that third class passengers paid £7 9s each to sail to their deaths; £677 to £2,708.


In 1972, Sitmar Line charged me £225 for the five-week voyage to New Zealand, “all-inclusive”, aboard TSS Fairstar. That’s between £2,725 and £4,365. How times and prices change but maybe value not so much.


Two Brothers, Valued

At the  1861 Census, William JENKINSON was living at Hope Cottages, Filey, with his wife Frances and infant daughter Mary Elizabeth. His younger brother, Matthew, was in Mosey’s Yard with Jane née COATES and two children, William and Mary.

William was master of the yawl Hope, and in a gale on November 2nd that year he was lost.


At the beginning of December two years later, Matthew was drowned from his coble in Filey Bay.  The Yorkshire Gazette of 5th December carried a vivid account of the tragedy.

Two Lives Saved by “The Hollon” Life-Boat

This life-boat only arrived at Filey last week, and was the gift of the Lord Mayor of York, by whom it was formally presented to the town of Filey on Thursday last. On Tuesday several cobles went off in the morning for the purpose of fishing. The wind was rising at the time, and about noon blew a gale from S.S.E., with a heavy sea running into the bay. Seeing that the cobles would return shortly from the fishing ground, the new life-boat was speedily got out, manned and launched, in readiness to render assistance. The arrival of the boats was watched with great excitement. One boat upset near the shore, and the crew, consisting of three men, were thrown into the sea. The poor fellows had to struggle for life, and eventually the despairing cries of those on shore were changed to joy as they saw the last of the three men washed upon the beach, the lives of all having been saved. Shortly afterwards, another coble came in sight, the storm, in the meantime, having increased. When some distance from the shore, a huge breaker lifted the frail boat as if it were a toy, upsetting it and throwing the crew into deep water. The life-boat sped to their assistance, and after great exertions, succeeded in rescuing two of the men from a watery grave.; but the third, named Matthew Jenkinson, was never seen after the boat upset. He has left a wife and four children.


Two months after Matthew’s death, widow Jane took their fifth child to St Oswald’s to be baptized.

The Shipwrecked Mariner’s Society is now 178 years old and still “making a difference”.

One would expect Jane to receive more support from the Society but how much did the widows receive in today’s money? £6 5s. doesn’t seem a lot, does it?

There are several online calculators and those offering a single, and simple, answer usually satisfy curiosity. In this instance, Frances received £535 at 2016 prices. What’s that, roughly – two or three weeks’ wages?

The £535 figure is a calculation of the changing “real price” of a “commodity” valued at £6 5s over time, arrived at by multiplying the original sum by the annual percentage increase in “RPI”.

There are other ways to make the calculation, though, and they give wildly different figures.

Historic opportunity cost: £631

Assessing the labour value/labour earnings/labour cost of our commodity: £4,162

Income value/economic status: £5,606

Economic cost: £14,950

These terms are helpfully defined at Measuring Worth. For the two bereft Jenkinson families, I think “labour earnings” might be the most appropriate. So imagine Frances receiving about £4,000 and Jane £7,700. That would have helped a lot, perhaps, but both widows married again – Jane in 1870 to John PRESTON and Frances in 1872 to Thomas SEXTON.

William and Matthew’s parents have, like the CREASERs yesterday, loads of IDs to sort out on FamilySearch Tree. I have made a start but suggest you go to Filey Genealogy & Connections if you are interested in following the family fortunes in pedigree form.

SD ‘Research’

This was a fishing vessel that may have been just about worthy on a mill pond, but in heavy seas whipped by gale force winds, it put the crew of nine in the greatest danger, this day 1925. Had it pushed through the storm to Bridlington in deep water it might have survived but it grounded on Smithwick Sands and was overwhelmed by the waves. None of the crew survived and their bodies were never found.

Eight of the men were from Filey, five of them from one family. The ninth was James SOUTHERN, the boat’s engineer. Kath has a note in Filey Genealogy & Connections to the effect that James took the berth because he had six children and it was coming up to Christmas.

The tragedy is well described in Allen and Todd’s book, Filey – a Yorkshire Fishing Town, and you can read the extract at the Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre website.

A plaque on the wall of St Oswald’s Church remembers all Filey fishermen who “perished at sea & whose bodies were never found” between 1901 and 1848. A quarter of their number was lost from Research. The eight have memorials in the churchyard – on four headstones. Jane Baxter CRIMLISK née JENKINSON asks us to think of her father, husband, two brothers and a cousin. (A third brother, James Henry Newby JENKINSON drowned in another place at another time.)


In loving memory of JANE B. CRIMLISK, born 1885, died Sep 20th 1931. Also of her husband GEORGE J. CRIMLISK, born 1885, and her father and brothers JOHN R. JENKINSON, born 1862, ROBERT JENKINSON, born 1890, GEORGE F. B. JENKINSON born 1897, WILLIAM C. CAMMISH, born 1895. All drowned in the RESEARCH disaster.

The brothers Edwin Chapman and George JENKINSON, cousins to ‘Jack Sled’, are on a stone by the church, and Joseph Edward COLLEY with his parents and a sister, Amelia. William Cappleman CAMMISH has a second mention on another family stone.

I couldn’t find Ted and George on the FamilySearch Tree but the other lost Jenkinsons are gathered here.

The rustbucket on which they perished is recalled on Filey Promenade and you can see where she went down on a ‘thumbnail’ chart at Wreck Site.

The Great Storm, 1880 · 2

Loss of Filey Fishing Boats and Fishermen

The following is a list of the fishing yawls and of the fishermen belonging Filey now missing.

Francis Haxby, single, aged 23 years, washed overboard from the Felicity, near Withernsea.

The Elizabeth and Emma, yawl, stranded at Robin Hood’s Bay, on Thursday, the 28th Oct. Wm. Wiseman, aged 30 years, washed overboard and lost. Leaves a widow and five children.

The Eliza foundered with a crew of ten men. All lost. Captain Ross Jenkinson leaves a widow; John Crumpton, widow and three children; James Wyvil, widow and two children; Richard Richardson, and his son Richard, widow and three children; George Edmunds, single, and four others, names unknown.

The Sarah, with a crew of ten, foundered with all hands; Captain Thomas Cooling leaves a widow and two children; Wm. Mason, widow and three children; John Shippey, widow and three children; Thomas Holmes, aged 19 years, single, and four whose names are unknown.

The Scarborough Mercury, Saturday 6th November

The older of the two “Fishermen’s Windows” in St Oswald’s remembers all of the above, except for George Edmunds. Robert EDMOND takes his place. The window adds  George CAMMISH, John WATKINSON, and John BAYES. They were either amongst the eight whose “names were unknown”, or they were lost on other days in 1880.

The 15 memorialized are named across two of the panels beneath the main window.


Eight of the 15 can be found on Filey Genealogy & Connections, with three more being a little problematic; further research is needed.

Seven are readily found on the FamilySearch Tree; there may be others.

From Eliza

Ross Jenkinson MGC1-SY5

John Crumpton/Crompton MGCB-GC2

Richard Richardson MGZ3-ZLX

Richard Richardson jnr MGCB-GC2

From Sarah

Thomas Cooling/Cowling LHGB-F6S

William Mason MGZM-SJ9

From Felicity

Francis Haxby MGZ3-653

Four of the 15 are remembered on headstones in the churchyard, two with the date of their loss as 28th & 29th October and two the 29th.

And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

Matthew 4:19