Seventy years ago, four Filey fishermen drowned when their boat overturned off Primrose Valley. Auxiliary coastguard Eddie BELT, on bad-weather watch on Carr Naze, saw what happened through binoculars and raised the alarm. Eddie would later say that one of the fishermen had made it to the beach, had shaken himself and walked back into the waves. (This information from Ben Jenkinson senior in an audio clip posted to Looking at Filey but not available on the Wayback Machine.) I assume this was Richard Ferguson CAMMISH returning to the upturned boat to rescue his brother. (At the inquest a couple of weeks later, the Coroner would pay tribute to a Leeds man, Sidney Leonard Moon, who stripped and went into the sea “in a vain attempt to rescue the fishermen”.) Richard’s body was never found. His brother was buried in St Oswald’s churchyard, with Francis CAMMISH and William Robinson JENKINSON, on 3rd July.
The four men were fourth cousins; the brothers two of three sons born to Robert “Codge” CAMMISH and Mary Emily Simpson WATKINSON. In the photo below they are standing together beside their elder sister, Mary Margaret. The little girl is Annie Elizabeth. Her father named his boat after her. Girl Annie is one of the Filey fishing boats memorialized on the Promenade.
There is only one boat that goes salmoning regularly now. I photographed it this morning and have added an arrow pointing to Primrose Valley. Lady Shirley capsized about fifty yards from the beach.
The 2016 brood on the boating lake lived for about five days; the unfortunates in 2017 less than that. This year, six ducklings soon became five but the surviving quintet is now 11 days old and looking well. The mother appears under-protective. Maybe previous experience has lowered her expectations. The father paid his family a brief visit a couple of days ago. He looked rough on the prow of his canoe.
SH200 Margaret was built in Filey in 1881 and its first owner was Arthur DOUGLAS senior. In 1896 Arthur bought the slightly older herring coble, SH111 Jane & Priscilla’. On Monday 26th May 1902 both boats left Scarborough together to fish off Robin Hood’s Bay, Arthur skippering Jane & Priscilla and his 23-year-old son Richard in charge of Margaret. At some time on Tuesday, the boats parted company. At 10.30 pm Margaret was about a mile off Ravenscar and heading swiftly for Scarborough, blown by a strong wind. While the mainsail was being reefed the boom swung and knocked Richard’s younger brother, Arthur (junior), into the sea. A third brother, James (17), shouted “Art is overboard” and Richard, at the tiller, leapt into the sea without hesitation. Both young men were good swimmers but, hampered by oilskins and seaboots, neither stood a chance of rescue. Even if James and an older fisherman, Isaac ETHELL, had been able to bring Margaret about immediately it may have been impossible to see them in the darkness. (They heard their cries for a while.) After searching the area hopelessly for a couple of hours, James and Isaac took their melancholy news to Scarborough where it was passed to Arthur senior by John OWSTON, coxswain of the Scarborough lifeboat.
Three days before he drowned, Arthur married Mary COLLEY. Mary gave birth to their daughter, Maud, just a few weeks after Arthur’s death. The child was baptized on 25 June 1902 and buried on 15 January 1903. The photograph of Arthur (inset) was given to me by his grandnephew, Martin, who told me that Mary lost touch with the family thereafter. A small headstone in the churchyard is a poignant reminder of them.
In loving memory of MAUD, the beloved child of ARTHUR & MARY DOUGLAS,
who died Jan 12th 1903, aged 7 months.
‘Adieu sweet babe, short was thy stay,
Just looked around then passed away
Thy angel face we all did see
But soon we were deprived of thee’
Also of the above ARTHUR DOUGLAS, who was lost at sea May 27th 1902, aged 20 years.
‘We shall meet again’
FamilySearch Tree and Filey Genealogy & Connections are in serious disagreements concerning this branch of the DOUGLAS family. I don’t want to interfere too much on FST because it appears that descendants are providing information, rather than “the system”. Over the next few weeks, I’ll work on a version in RootsMagic to see if I can reconcile the differences. I will just say that I have happened upon a Super Pedigree that takes Clan DOUGLAS back to sundry Scottish Lairds before branching into the ruling houses of several European countries. Philip Henry DOUGLAS is a great-grandfather to the drowned Arthur above on FG&C – but not on FST. For fun, you may want to start on FST with Hugh CAPET, King of Franceand make your way “back” to Philip Henry, or wander further into the mists of time to some of the usual suspects, like William the Conqueror and Charlemagne.
SH76 Trio was built by Robert SKELTON in Scarborough in 1859. Her first owners were three of the TINDALL family, Alexander, William and James; shipbuilder, sailmaker, and banker respectively. The last change of ownership noted by Captain Syd was in 1881, four Scarborough fishermen, Robert ALLEN senior & junior, James and John ALLEN, took possession. At some point thereafter Thomas Avery JOHNSON became skipper and he was aboard with two of his sons in 1895 when a gale blew up in the North Sea, off Spurn Point. The crew on a passing Hull boat saw three of Trio’s fishermen washed overboard by a huge wave but could do nothing to effect a rescue.
The six men on board Trio were all from Filey and a pall fell over the town when news of her difficulties was received.
British Armed Forces and Overseas Deaths and Burials (The National Archives) gives 14 May as the date of the men’s demise. Five are remembered on headstones in St Oswald’s churchyard. Two are recorded as having been lost in the gale of 16 and 17 May, and the three JOHNSONs as having drowned on the 16th.
‘Matty Wiggy’ CAPPLEMAN played for the Filey Red Stars FC and was photographed with the team in 1891 when he was 18-years-old. The insurance money from the benefit clubs was supplemented by local fund-raising events. The following was noted in The Scarborough Mercury on Friday 30th August 1895.
Dr. Spark, the Leeds City Organist, gave a very charming recital at Filey Church on Monday for the benefit of the widows and orphans of the fishermen lost in the Trio. The collection realized between £5 and £6. The programme was composed of some of the choicest illustrations of the gems of Silas, Tours, Mendelssohn, and Gounod, and Dr. Spark gave two or three of his own compositions, which were very much appreciated. “The Vesper Hymn” and the finale introducing national themes by Purcell, Arne, and Dr. Bull afforded the veteran musician an opportunity of showing his wonderful skill as an executant and of displaying the passion and dramatic instinct which have always characterized his playing.
There were only two of the lost six on FamilySearch Tree when I looked a few days ago and in the process of gathering in the others I ran into some difficulties. I had hoped to point you to more complete pedigrees!
Robert EDMOND was the member of the crew without a remembrance in the churchyard – and he isn’t represented yet on FST. Find him on Filey Genealogy & Connections.
Dr. SPARK, a Devon man, makes a couple of appearances on FST – but as an only child without a mother. At the 1881 Census, he was living in Eccleshill, Bradford, with wife Elizabeth and son Thomas, age 23 and a law student. William Spark died in Leeds less than two years after his Filey recital.
[S. S.] Wesley’s articled pupil from his Exeter days, William Spark (1823-97) went with him to Leeds where he became Organist of St. George’s and then, after designing the Town Hall organ, Borough Organist from 1859 to 1897. His brother Frederick was a guiding light of the Leeds Triennial Festival and William played at each Festival between 1874 and 1886. Grove’s Dictionary dismisses his compositions as “numerous but unimportant”. Unimportant or not, they were nevertheless widely performed. His oratorio Immanuel figured in the Leeds Festival of 1877 and Spark’s recitals in and around Doncaster in the 1870s and 1880s (he appeared in the town as early as February 1853, conducting thirty voices of his own Leeds Madrigal and Motet Society) included his Concertstuck, a Fantasie and (several times) Variations andFugue on Jerusalem the Golden, also solo songs and excerpts from Immanuel. Spark’s Yorkshire Exhibition March was written in 1875 for the grand organ in the Exhibition building. He wrote and lectured tirelessly, his lecture subjects in Doncaster at that same period including “The Vocal Music of the Victorian Era“, “The Minstrelsy of Old England“, “National Ballad Music of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales” and “Glees and Partsongs“, the illustrations for the latter talk including at least one of his own compositions. He edited books of music by others for organists to play.
After having enjoyed spring-like weather for a little while, an unwelcome change took place on Wednesday morning [27th], when it rained and blew incessantly. The weather and wind having changed toward evening, it being fine and pleasant, some of our fishing craft ventured to the fishing ground, and had already got a great many miles from land, when a sudden gale sprung up about four the next morning, a strong north wind blowing accompanied by heavy seas.
The small boats and a couple of larger herring cobles turned for home as soon as the weather “looked treacherous”. Two of the vessels needed the assistance of the lifeboat to get home safely. The skipper of Tally Ho! reported that they had been in the company of a third herring coble and great concern was shown for its crew. The boat was still missing on the morning of Friday (29th).
SH87 Unity was 40 feet long and weighed 20 tons. Although described above as a Scarborough boat, Captain Syd notes that Thomas COWLING of Filey shared ownership with John REYNOLDS and Arthur Harrison SELLERS. The database gives the lost-with-all hands-date as 25th April but that may be my digitization error! The official Overseas Deaths and Burials record gives the 28th April and this date appears on the headstone of John and Richard’s parents.
Also of JOHN AND RICHARD, sons of the above, & EDMUND ROSS JENKINSON, son-in-law, who were lost at sea, April 28th 1892, aged 36, 34 and 30 years.
‘In the midst of life we are in death.’
You can easily navigate to the three men on Filey Genealogy & Connections, from John CAMMISH senior.
George BEAN was an incomer to Filey, born in one of the Hecks (Great or Little), near Selby. He is on FG&Cbut I suspect he has been given the wrong mother there. You can see, though, that his father in law is ‘Unity Jack’ CRIMLISK, after whom the doomed herring coble was presumably named. The image of him (left) was taken in 1891 in his guise of Treasurer of Filey Red Stars Football Club.
SH140 Tally Ho!, mentioned in the Driffield Times report, was lost in Filey Bay on 8th December 1892.
Filey Bay was a millpond this morning. Ninety-nine years ago it claimed two lives.
Three men in the coble Annie were returning from the crabbing grounds at about 10.30 am when the tideway, racing strongly round the end of Filey Brigg, tipped them over. The youngest of the three at age 27, John LANE, who had only just been demobilized, clung to the upturned boat and was rescued by Richard Cammish JENKINSON in the coble Sunstar. Matthew Jenkinson CAMMISH, 65, and Mortimer SCALES, 42, were swept away and their bodies never found.
The drama had been watched from the shore by helpless local folk and early season visitors. Everyone’s thoughts must have turned to the loss of seven Filey men from the drifter Emulator the previous week.
Captain Syd Smith’s database offers six fishing vessels named Ebenezer but only one yawl, registered as SH30, official number 14911. She was built in Scarborough in 1856 and was only three years old when she lost three of her crew. The Yorkshire Gazette of 9th April reported the tragedy.
Fatal Calamity at Sea
A deep gloom has been spread over Filey for the last few days, owing to the melancholy intelligence having been received on Saturday last that three fishermen, named Francis Haxby, William Sayers and Edmond Sayers, the two latter of whom were brothers, had met with a watery grave. This sad event occurred about four o’clock in the afternoon of Friday, the 1st inst., 30 miles distant from Flamborough Head. The particulars, so far as can be ascertained, are as follows:- The way in which fishing is carried on here, at this season of the year, is by proceeding out to sea a great distance, perhaps 50 miles, in large decked boats called yawls, manned with a crew of eight men. On reaching the fishing ground, two smaller boats called cobles, which are carried on the deck, are launched, three men getting into each. From these smaller boats the lines are put out, and will often extend for miles in length. The lines are taken in after a few hours, the cobles remaining attached to them. It was at this juncture the accident happened. There was a strong gale of wind blowing from the south-west, which, at this distance from the shore, brings on a dangerous sea. The yawl had broken its fore-yard, and whether the men in the coble had been directing their attention to this circumstance, not sufficiently regardful of their own perils, or from whatever other cause, must remain a mystery; but, sad to relate, on proceeding to the spot, nothing could be seen of the men, – the coble was there, and full of water. It is supposed a heavy sea had broken into her, or upset her, and that the coble had afterwards righted herself, – the poor fellows having been thrown out. It is to be regretted that the fishermen do not provide themselves with “life-belts,” to put on when following their dangerous calling; had these men had them their lives would probably have been saved. Edmond Sayers was an excellent swimmer, but this could be of little avail, encumbered as they are with clothing and heavy sea boots. William and Edmond Sayers are unmarried; Francis Haxby has left a wife and three young children. His widow will be entitled to some relief from the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners Royal Benevolent Society, he having been a member of that noble institution. The bodies have not been recovered. The coble, too, and all the lines were lost.
Francis was part owner of Ebenezer, with his brother Jenkinson, Robert JENKINSON and Francis CRAWFORD. Jenkinson HAXBY skippered the boat. The vessel was transferred to Hull in the summer of 1876 and re-registered as H1228.
Francis is remembered on his parents’ headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard, and on the stone below, which also names his wife, Susannah, and a fourth child, Mary, who died aged 5 years and 6 months, a year and a half before her father. Francis junior, the couple’s youngest child born in the spring of 1857, would drown from Eliza in October 1880.
It is thought that HMT D. V. Fitzgerald triggered an enemy mine in the River Humber on this day, 1941. The explosion sank the motor fishing boat Joan Margaret, and the herring drifter Gloaming, with the loss of eight lives.
There are two posts about this event on the archived Looking at Filey:-
Wreck Site gives the location of the event, details about the vessels and their crews. Joan Margaret, Gloaming.
Below is a list of those killed with links to their Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) web pages and, for the Filey men, links to their pedigrees on Filey Genealogy and Connections (FG&C). At the time of writing, only George WILLIS can be found on FamilySearch Tree. (I haven’t looked for the Gloaming men on FST.)