A Current Event

In July 1865 John CHEW of Filey, while helping passengers disembark from his pleasure coble, noticed a bottle bobbing in the wavelets. Breaking it he found a chilling message.

January 23, 1865. – Dear Friends, – We are sinking; the pumps won’t work; in lat. 35., long 19.30. Captain John Roberts, screw steamer Golden Eagle. Anybody picking this up is requested to take it to the nearest magistrate.

I wrote about this in Messages in Bottles in January 2013 and clearly thought it an unlikely story. I am amazed that I spent so much effort assessing the prospect of a bottle finding its way to Filey Sands from four locations. I concluded it was just about possible if the Golden Eagle had foundered 600 miles south west of Portugal.

Four years ago I failed to find any references to the death of Captain Roberts or the sinking of his ship but re-visiting the event today I found this:-


Cap’n Roberts’ coordinates do indeed put  his vessel off the River Plate if the appropriate easting and northing are added – but over 2,000 miles off. And I would still argue that a bottle tossed into the sea there couldn’t float into the North Atlantic.  The dates are intriguing – Jan. 23 and Jan. 25 but the published report was a year earlier than stated in the message. I suspect a descendant of the writer of the note is now scattering fake news items about the Internet (and the Gray Lady is publishing them).

I spent a couple of hours searching for Filey CHEWS on FamilySearch Tree and found another candidate for the bottle finder. John Francis CHEW is plain John in some sources, including FST [ID MGCB-JN8], four years younger than the second cousin I thought might have owned the pleasure coble.

Every visit to FST  reveals how much work there is to do there. Here is an example of a mistake “the system” makes that cries out to be sorted.


Robert married Betsey Ann NICHOLSON and they had four children at least. His mother was Lucy COOK and she had twelve children with Robert Senior. The elder Robert has a duplicate ID attached to his own baptism record (MGZS-4N3). Search for that and you will not bump into the interlopers from New Jersey and Indiana.

A short distance inland from the cliffs in the foreground of Today’s Image, in amongst the caravans of the Blue Dolphin Holiday Park, the body if Gristhorpe Man was discovered in July 1834. Anniversary post in a few days!