Brief Wives

For hundreds of years, women who married inshore fishermen woke each day wondering if they would be a widow by nightfall.

Charles Dickens wrote about one Filey woman who lost her husband to the sea and searched for his body for three months (see A Loving Wife).

Available sources indicate that Elizabeth SPYVEE was 51 years-old when she married Richard RICHARDSON, so the suggestion that they had a child in their four years and eight months together has to be queried.

Born in 1816, Mary ROBINSON may have known Elizabeth, or at least have heard her story. Mary married Richard Anderson CAMMISH in September 1843 when she was 26 years old. Her headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard tells us that he left home one June morning and didn’t return.

Sacred to the memory of MARY CAMMISH, who died on 28th Nov 1882, in the 66th year of her age. She was for 35 years bathing attendant at Filey.

Her husband RICHARD ANDERSON CAMMISH, to whom she was married only 9 months, was drowned at sea and his body never recovered.

This stone was erected by the subscriptions of visitors and residents of Filey as a mark of respect for one who was in every way worthy of it.

In this instance, “written in stone” doesn’t mean that all facts presented are true. The marriage ended after just 155 days.

Richard was skipper of Jerome, a two-masted lugger built in Scarborough by Thomas SMITH in 1838 and purchased in July that year by Jerome VASSALI, a jeweller. An account of the sudden storm can be found at the Scarborough Maritime History website. (Scroll down to the seventh paragraph.)

The two recovered bodies were taken to Filey and buried at St Oswald’s on the 27th. John COWLING junior and Thomas WISEMAN have footholds on the FamilySearch Shared Tree but neither has a memorial in the churchyard.

Widow Mary chose not to marry again and appears to have been self-reliant. I doubt bathing attendants were well-paid but maybe the Vassali family helped out. Roman Catholic immigrants from Switzerland, they appear to have established branches in several Yorkshire towns. Their families are not easy to assemble. A Jerome Vassali aged 38 is a jeweller and master jet manufacturer employing 12 men in Scarborough in 1861 but I haven’t been able to establish who his parents are yet. If he is the son of shipowner Jerome his mother was born Jane ANDERSON and may therefore be related by blood to Richard Anderson Cammish. Captain Syd’s database indicates that Richard’s predecessor as skipper of Jerome was John FELL. A fisherman with that name married Richard’s sister Mary in 1830 and died in 1841 aged 33. Perhaps the respect afforded his widow derived more from a connection to the relatively wealthy “foreigners” than from her service as a bathing attendant.

Beach 131 · Reighton Sands

Scoured out

The Lost Boys

The wooden brig Eugenie was built in Blyth in 1855 and registered in North Shields. On February 2nd, 1886, she left the River Tyne on her final voyage, with a crew of eight and about 360 tons of coal in her hold. Five of the sailors were apprentices, ranging in age from 16 to 21. They reached the estuary of the River Seine without incident and discharged their cargo, replacing it with 86 tons of stone ballast for the return journey. Before departure, the master received instruction to make for Cardiff or the Tyne, “according as the wind might serve”. Eugenie left Honfleur on the 20th and Thomas JONES, 48, decided to go home rather than to Wales. The ship made slow progress up the east coast of England and on the night of the 1st and 2nd of March sailed into a “blinding snowstorm”. Between five and six in the morning, near Craster, Eugenie struck a rock so violently that she broke up and sank almost immediately. All hands were lost.

A few days later the Coroner held an inquest on a body that had been “found on the shore at Howick Burn Mouth”. The father of apprentice James KELLY identified his 17-year-old son.

Beach at the mouth of the Howick Burn
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © John Allan – geograph.org.uk/p/5523421

Another sailor found near Howick Burn was not formally identified but was assumed to be A.B. John Young HINDS, aged about forty. Not far away, recovered papers and a photograph identified Anton Lanitz OLSEN, 21, from Christiania. He had signed A.B. articles and acted as Eugenie’s cook and steward but was still bound as an apprentice. The body of the mate, James PINKNEY (or REDMAID or REDMOND), was not found, and neither were those of the three apprentices, William Charles SCRIVENER, 19, Joseph TAYLOR, 17, and Charles CLEGHORN, 16.

William was the son of Filey doctor, Charles Waters Scrivener. When I researched the family three years ago, I somehow overlooked William. Born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1867, he was with his grandfather Thomas Scrivener on census night 1871 and not christened until later that year – after the death of his mother, Jane Margaret née SWEET. In 1881, William was a boarder at a Scarborough school run by James WALKER in Castle Street. His father had remarried 18 months after Jane’s death and would die in 1882, aged 48, without having children with Mary Ann WOODALL.

The family is well represented on the FamilySearch Shared Tree but some relationships have yet to be fleshed out a bit more clearly. When apprentice William was born, his maternal grandmother Elizabeth Sweet was also his aunt. Another day perhaps…

Field 9 · Filey Fields