From Old LaF 8 February 2013

Photographer unknown, 8 Feb 1932, courtesy Martin Douglas (cutting from unknown newspaper)

The following account of the Hull trawler Johannesburg’s encounter with the Brigg is reproduced by the kind permission of Tony Green, Filey Bay Research Group.

This vessel was a steam trawler of Hull owned by W Normandale of Scarborough and although the vessel was saved, the circumstances surrounding this incident are worthy of note. 

On 8th February 1932 at 6:30am the Johannesburg came ashore on the north side of Filey Brigg, at 6:35am the Coastguard reported the wreck and at 7:30am the Coxswain of the Filey Lifeboat reported to the Honorary Secretary of the Filey Lifeboat Station, Charles Burgess, that the sea was “very rough” on the north of Filey Brigg. Accordingly the Lifeboat, the Hollon the Third was launched shortly afterwards. 

Exactly why the lifeboat came back at 9:15 is unclear but it went again at 1pm as the sea was getting worse and tried to get the men off but they would not come off the vessel. The Coxswain of the Filey Lifeboat signalled to the Coastguard at 2 pm for the Scarborough Lifeboat to attend and assist and it was launched and arrived on scene at 3:20pm, however at 3pm the men on board the Johannesburg decided that they wanted to come off and “with great danger and difficulty” the lifeboat got them at 3:30. 

The rescued crew consisted of 8 crewmen of the Johannesburg and 20 Filey fishermen who had got aboard and could not get back to their cobles due to the “strong gale and very heavy sea”. The Honorary Secretary watched the incident and reported thus – “I watched through my telescope and it was very well done and the danger was very great, every minute from 3 to 2:30 I thought the boat would roll over”. He then went on to report that the rescued consisted of “Crew 8, Pirates 20 about” which perhaps gives an indication of why the Filey fishermen were present on the wreck! 

The wreck slipped of the rocks after the men were taken off her and the Scarborough lifeboat put three men aboard of her who cut her cables and towed the vessel into Filey Bay where she was beached for repairs, it was reported that “it is full of water and sand”. 

The written accounts of the day do not always do justice to the danger that the Lifeboat Crews were exposed to or the difficulties and hardships that they endured. The Honorary Secretary’s account above however is the closest description that we are likely to see to a daring rescue and it must be borne in mind that the Filey boat had no engine and relied on traditional sail and oar and sheer good seamanship. 

An indication of how bad the conditions were can be seen in the entry in the records enquiring about damage to the boat which reads, “2 oars lost – sail slightly damaged”.

There are photographs of the trawler on Filey Sands and berthed in Scarborough on Wreck Site.)

Johannesburg  (H711) was built in 1902/3 for the Hull Steam Fishing & Ice Company and sold on to William Normandale in 1932. The following year she was re-named and re-registered as Nordale SH89.

In September 1935 Nordale offered a tow to the trawler Skegness, which had hit the rocks beneath the Speeton/Bempton cliffs. This was declined and a tragedy ensued. In March 1937 Nordale was moored in Scarborough Harbourwhen her radio operator picked up an SOS from Lord Ernle and passed it to the Harbourmaster.

Nordale was bought and sold several times between 1938 and 1941 and, after playing bit parts in the tragedies of others, took centre stage when her own luck ran out on 15th January 1942.

At 6.20 p.m. steaming at about eight knots [she] struck the Carskey Rocks on [the] tip of Kintyre 2 miles SW of Borgadelmore Point, bumping once violently then two more bumps before stopping and settling firmly about 100 yds from the cliffs.

(Source: Wreck Site.)


I only had three or four hours to work on Anniversary People today and hit the rocks with the first two. The PINDER and HOLMES families that produced Frank (born 1895) and Susannah (baptised 1857) needed a lot of attention if I was to reconcile FG&C with the FamilySearch Shared Tree.

Frank is the son of Jane Pinder.

Susannah on the Shared Tree.

Below – Susannah and her siblings on the Shared Tree, FG&C and in the GRO Births Index.


1985 Coalbrookdale


In the dream, I had opened a shop selling prints in some dusty, hot place. Walking up to the shop (on opening day?) I saw a line of people in the street and up the wooden outside stairs. I pushed past. In my gallery the walls were bare… The room was dense with smoke. The floor was littered with dark-skinned people smoking ganja (?). “All your pickchers sold, man.” Rastas apart, it must’ve been Australia (from the Morris West novel which is bedtime reading)…

The Severn Way is a dreary track, especially cycling into sleet. Crossed my mind that humping a camera to work on such a morning would be a total waste of time. But then the sleet turned to snow. While I slowly put together the bones of a darkroom I could see it swirling, almost horizontally, across the windows for several hours. By the time the poor little Roadline Man came with the Morsø, it was two inches deep. And the Gorge transformed into a place of astonishing beauty.

The lorry driver had “got stuck” three times already and wouldn’t risk descending the ramps into Maw’s main yard. He slipped as we eased the crate over the tailgate and the crash set the machine’s springs vibrating loudly. He managed to heave the crate onto his barrow but, looking down the slope, said “This isn’t going to work.” Two boys came round the corner with a plastic toboggan. “Maybe we could borrow that.” (He wasn’t joking.) I suggested we just toboggan the crate as it was. From the bottom, he barrowed it the rest of the way and we hauled it up the steps into the workshop. I removed the top when he’d gone. Beautiful machine. Half-past three. Decided to go home.

Earlier, while going about my crude carpentry, I saw something fall from the electric meter, heard a light slap. A butterfly, which seemed to be dead. Moments later another fell. This one started to walk, groggily, towards the fan heater. At the step it paused for several minutes, basking in the warmth, wings fluttering in the blast of air. It then set off for a walk along the timber, back across the floor to perch on the leg of the stool. False spring. Outside the blizzard raged. Wondered how many of the moths and butterflies I’d swept up in the past few days had been sleeping, not dead.

Beach 157 · Muston Sands

Speeton Cliffs

Six Boys and a Rocket

On the night of Wednesday, 2 March 1892, the Coastguards at the Hilderthorpe Lifeboat Station called out the Volunteer Life Company and the lifeboat crew by firing two “rockets”. One of the gun-cotton detonators failed to explode and landed in the garden of William GRAY in West Street. If the new RNLI Station is on the site of the old one, the detonator didn’t fly far. You can see West Street at the top of the image above (though there seems to be little room for gardens nowadays). The Saturday Leeds Mercury reported that a boy called HUTCHINSON found the detonator on Thursday morning. He did a deal with another boy, receiving a knife in exchange. The new owner of the ordnance was one of five boys who conspired to take what was in effect a small bomb and “let it off” on Thursday evening. They placed it on a wall surrounding the Local Board’s tool-shed on Beck Hill (a short walk north of West Street) and one of the boys ignited it with a match. The explosion shook the neighbourhood and was heard all over the town. The first people who rushed to the scene found  four of the “poor little fellows” lying senseless and bleeding on the ground. The fifth, John WILLIS had been able to run to his home in nearby Boynton’s Yard. Harry LYON and Arthur ATKINSON were conveyed to their home in Grundell Terrace (Nelson Street); Fred EDMUND was taken to Dr GODFREY’s surgery, his wounds dressed and then sent home; and after his wounds had been attended to, Tom WILLIAMSON was taken to the Lloyd Cottage Hospital.

The boys injuries received further attention from two more doctors (WETWAN and THOMPSON). Arthur Atkinson, 10, and his stepbrother Harry Lyon, 8, were considered the most seriously injured – some of the charge had penetrated Arthur’s lungs. Tom Williamson’s face and jaw were “shattered” and his left hand partially destroyed. Fred Edmund, 10, received injuries to his left hand and left leg. John Willis had “received a slight fracture of the skull and injury to the left eye”.

An addendum to the newspaper report ran –

Death of One of the Sufferers

Arthur Atkinson succumbed to his injuries at five o’clock yesterday morning at the hospital. Harry Lyon and Tom Williamson are in a critical state. Willis and Edmund are progressing favourably.

One of the survivors died some weeks later.

I happened upon this sad story in pursuit of information about John Henry’s father. George Francis was the illegitimate child of one Sarah Willis – but there is a second Sarah Willis born in the same year and location, and they appear to be first cousins. I was looking for a source that would show which Sarah was George’s mother. I have a hunch, because one Sarah “disappears”. At one census George is with a woman who claims to be his aunt. At the next census he has been given her family name – MORGAN – but marries later as a Willis.

I will write more about the Morgan/Willis situation another day but will end with “the boy named Hutchinson” who, sensibly, got rid of the bomb. William Gray of West Street was a Coal Merchant and at the previous year’s census his roof was sheltering six sons and three daughters. You would think one of these children would have found the dangerous object first. But next door was Holdsworth Hutchinson, a cordwainer, wife Ann, four sons and a daughter. I suspect ten-year-old Alfred was the finder who chose not to be a keeper. (Eldest Frederick was seventeen and an Ironmonger’s Assistant and third son Harold only seven and surely too young to barter with older boys.)

I wonder how the deaths affected Alfred Holdsworth Hutchinson. In 1901 he is following his father’s trade and living with brother Frederick, who is now married to Mary and father of a four year-old son. In 1911 Alfred is living alone, still single at thirty. He marries before the end of the year though. His bride is Rose Ethel SEARBY, daughter of a Hull provision dealer and somewhat mysteriously, they tie the knot in Hartlepool. Alfred takes her to Bridlington and at the end of September 1939 the census-taker finds them here…

… in the street where Arthur Atkinson had lived for such a short time.

Path 108 · Cleveland Way

The Unfortunate Apprentice

On the night of Sunday, 10th January 1892, a gale blew the Whitby brig Lancet towards the Filey rocks. The Master, Lewis, ordered the anchors to be cast and these held the vessel until early morning when distress flags brought out the Filey Lifeboat, Hollon the Second. It took about six hours for the Filey volunteers to rescue seven of Lancet’s crew of eight. A newspaper reported that “one boy was drowned while launching the ship’s boat in an effort to get ashore”. Another report named the deceased as Henry COOR, who hailed from London and was “within eight months of completing his apprenticeship”. Henry’s body was transported by wave and tide about three miles and was found at Reighton the next day, the 12th. Several newspapers repeated the macabre and possibly misguided observation that “the poor fellow had evidently been alive when washed ashore, as his hands were full of gravel”. It is hard to imagine him surviving 24 hours in the winter sea.

Henry’s age isn’t given and I couldn’t find a “boy” with his name in London birth registers. Henry Thomas COOR, born in Bethnal Green, would have been 21 in January 1892. Old for a boy, and perhaps for an apprentice seaman, but a curious fact suggests it was indeed he who drowned in Filey Bay. His mother’s maiden name was registered as McCLARENCE. In the June Quarter of 1892 in Bethnal Green, a boy was born to Mrs. COOR née McCLARENLL (sic) and given the name Henry.

The names COOR and McCLARENCE bamboozled most registrars and their clerks. I couldn’t return the young man to his folks today with certainty. I think his father was William and his mother Maria – but she seems to have died aged 24 when Henry the First was two-years-old. It isn’t impossible that Henry the Second’s mother was Emma McCLARENCE, wife of  James COOR and a younger sister of Maria, but it’s quite a stretch.

I just hope the unfortunate apprentice will take his place on the FamilySearch Tree some day.

Mistaken Identities

Eighty-seven years ago John William WILLIS was crushed by a wheel of the Filey Lifeboat carriage as Hollon the Third was being hauled down the Coble Landing. At the Coroner’s inquest into his death the Lifeboat’s Honorary Secretary, Charles BURGESS, admitted that the launch had been chaotic because there was nobody effectively in charge. Frank COLLING testified that his father, who had formerly acted as chief launcher, had not informed the Institution that he had been losing his sight over the preceding twelve months or so and was not in a position to give orders. The consequence seems to have been that a shout to let go of the hauling ropes was given and all the “lanshers” heard and responded except John William. He held on, the wheels turned and he was knocked down and killed.

The tragic accident was reported in newspapers around the country and one scribe reported in the Hull Daily Mail that it was the unfortunate John William who was blind. An apology followed but averred that “These remarks should be been (sic) applied to Mr. Collins.”

The Lancashire Evening Post report of 1st September was brief and to the point.

John William Willis of Queen Street, Filey, one of the lifeboat crew, and skipper of the herring drifter Protect Me II, was killed by being knocked down and run over by the carriage when the lifeboat was being launched to the assistance of the Yarmouth steam drifter Girl Ena.

Girl Winifred
Steam Drifter ‘Girl Winifred YH 997’by Kenneth Luck (1874–1936) and Claude Mowle (1871–1950), © and photo credit Great Yarmouth Museums

John William was 54 years old, husband to Tilly, nee CLARK, and father of two daughters.  There were two other Filey men bearing his name, born within ten years of each other, but not related by blood – and Filey Genealogy & Connections, alas, gives us the wrong victim of the accident. The World Tree doesn’t have “our” John William or Matilda. I’ll deal with this omission as soon as I can.


I went to the churchyard this afternoon to photograph the headstone and walked on to the cliff top overlooking the scene of the accident.