The Man Who Scared Me

When I was nine or ten years old, my mother took me to Wilberforce House in High Street, Hull. Wandering alone through the museum rooms, I saw a dead man and fled in panic to find my mam.

The effigy of the Great Emancipator is still there and you may happen upon him if you take the Virtual Tour. The image above is a screen grab. From memory, the room was more true-to-life in the 1950s than it is now. Today is the anniversary of William’s passing. A couple of years after my scare, I found myself doing a six-year stretch in another Wilberforce House – at Malet Lambert School. The other houses were Andrew Marvell, De La Pole and Ferens. (Times have changed. “Malet Lambert have six houses, each with its own ethos.”)

One of the four sons William had with Barbara Ann SPOONER married into the  Hunmanby WRANGHAMs. I don’t know of a closer Wilberforce connection to Filey but there are now twenty-nine of their ilk in my RootsMagic database. Maybe I am just being sentimental.

Today is also the anniversary of Elsie May BURR’s death. (See yesterday’s post.)

Thomas ROSS, Filey-born, crossed the river and married Maria BANNISTER in Cleethorpes, not long after she had turned eighteen. Though Thomas had generations of fisher forebears, his first census occupation was “clerk”. But he was soon working in Grimsby as a fish merchant and must surely have influenced, encouraged, and supported his second son John Carl when he created what would become a famous British brand.

The Ross Group was a British food company founded in Grimsby, England in 1920. The Ross brand remains prominent in the retail frozen fish market. David Ross, the co-founder and significant shareholder in mobile telephone retailer The Carphone Warehouse, is the grandson of J Carl Ross. Originally a small family-owned fish merchanting company, Ross diversified into trawling, fish processing, and later into food processing in general, expanding into factory farming to become the largest chicken producer in Europe by 1962 via a series of takeovers. The company bought out rival Young’s in 1959 and, after a series of takeovers and mergers and de-mergers, forms part of what is now Young’s Bluecrest, the UK’s largest company in the frozen fish sector. The company’s history is also Grimsby’s industrial history.

William ALDEN is the brother of Joseph (birth anniversary 11 April). Baptised at the old Primitive Methodist Chapel, he married Mary Elizabeth AGARS in 1893 and they had three daughters and a son. Firstborn Hester did not reach her first birthday. In her short time on earth, she seems to have been known as “Maggie”. William worked as a porter at Gristhorpe Station and was only thirty-eight when he died.

Richard Cammish “Snosh” JENKINSON and Lily JOHNSON married at St Oswald’s in 1915. Richard served as a sailor/stoker in the First World War and survived. Sadly, three of the couple’s children born after the war died in infancy. Third child George Thomas Johnson JENKINSON, “Tommy Snosh”, became Mayor of Filey.

A new headstone in the churchyard remembers…

The old stone had this inscription (Crimlisk Survey 1977).

In ever loving memory of ELSIE ALICE, the beloved daughter of GEORGE THOMAS & ANN JOHNSON of Filey, died Dec 29 1920, aged 27 years.

‘Blessed are the pure in heart

For they shall see God’

Also, of the above GEORGE THOMAS JOHNSON, who was drowned near Filey Bay from the Coble ‘Mary’, Dec 14 1896, aged 26 years.

‘Out of the deep I cried

Oh Lord be merciful to me’

And his wife ANN JOHNSON, died March 14 1951, aged 82 years.

‘Sadly missed’

About ten years ago, Lily was identified in a photograph of women and children celebrating Christmas at the Ebenezer in, I guess, the late 1940s. Please let me know if this isn’t her.

Photographer unknown, courtesy of Martin Douglas

Samuel Edward HALL is on his own in Filey Genealogy & Connections but has the company of his wife Charlotte Alice BEST in St Oswald’s churchyard. The couple married in Leeds in 1893 and had two children, Lottie and Frank. In 1911, Samuel worked as a Tailor and Draper.

Flower 33 · Bindweed

A Dynasty


This modest house in Chapel Street was the last home of William ROSS and his wife Mary Elizabeth before they died in 1921 and 1931, aged 82 and 92, respectively. On their headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard it says after Mary’s inscription: –

We shall meet in the sweet bye and bye.


Kath has this note in Filey Genealogy & Connections: –

…see the story of the Ross family – how William was saved and became religious. His brother Castle Ross was a well-known minister. 1867: a labourer – see also Kendall’s ‘Storm’.

It is tempting to imagine him being rescued from drowning in a storm while fishing and following the Lord’s advice to get a labouring job on land. But he is a fisherman in the 5 censuses from 1871 to 1911. and in 1883 he was (probably) the captain of the yawl Tranquility. I have written about it before but here again is the story from The Scarborough Mercury of 3 August.

SUDDEN DEATH ON BOARD A YAWL.-On Monday morning, about 5-30, as the yawl Tranquility was about to proceed to sea, one of the men named Charles Hamilton, a native of Barton upon Humber, was observed by the Captain, William Ross, to sit down. The Captain asked him if he was ill, but the deceased made no reply. Seeing the man looking very ill the skipper ordered the boat to be launched and the deceased was rowed on shore, and the doctor was sent for with all speed, but on Dr. Orr’s arrival he found life to be extinct. The deceased had a wife living at Hull. He had only arrived at Filey on Saturday night last and gone on board the yawl that morning. An inquest will be held.

Other than this distressing event, William and Mary’s lives together in Filey seem to have been unremarkable. Before she married, aged 20, Mary had lost her father to the sea. John WILLIAMSON was drowned off Reighton in 1858, I think from the coble Rachael & Anne. Death took one of her six children in 1877 when young Thomas Castle was just 7, but four married and produced at least 19 grandchildren. Tragedy would strike some of William and Mary’s descendants – and great wealth would accrue to others in the extended family. And my parents would contribute to the Ross fortune, by feeding their frozen foods to me when I was a child.

William was the uncle of Thomas Ross, son of older brother John and Eliza WHEELER. Thomas crossed the Humber to seek his fortune and found it in Grimsby, founding the firm that became Ross Frozen Foods.

William was a granduncle to John Carl Ross, son of Thomas and Maria BANNISTER. John Carl took over the business when his father retired and ensured its continuing success.

John Carl’s grandson David, William’s second great grand nephew, grasped an early opportunity offered by technology and quickly amassed a fortune estimated at £873 million. But he flew too near the sun.

I don’t know if the Ross Family representation on the FamilySearch Shared Tree mirrored what happened “in real life”. The family was connected on Filey Genealogy but split on FST. I doubt there really was a rift between those who stayed in Filey to continue long-line fishing from small boats and the Ross adventurers who built a fleet of distant water trawlers. Whatever, I’ve built the bridge on FST. You could start with the Dynast John Carl and travel back in time to Old Filey. There are images aplenty online – just search for ‘Ross frozen foods’.