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Fishermen's Sunday, 10th February, 1935

Mike Wilson, Local Author and Historian

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The Band of the Royal Corps of Signals
(By kind permission of Brigadier F. A. Heyman, O.B.E., and Officers)
Conductor: R. R. Ricketts

The Spa Repertory Company
(Robert Roberts, Proprietor)

Mrs Bessie Nelson (Soprano)

Mr W. Walker (Bass Baritone)

Mr Geo. Hardwick

Accompanists: Mrs Marie Stephenson and Mr Norman Holden

Names of Boys in Life-boat Crew
J. Newby, R. Jenkinson, A. Jenkinson, J. Talentire, E. Hutchinson, N. Redhead, J. Petch, B. Pickering, A. Brown, R. Stringer and R. Newby, J. Sanderson

The Shipwrecked Mariners (The Shippey Twins)
Rescued by the Rocket Apparatus

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THE GREAT GALE OF 1871

By Mr Geo. Hardwick

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PROGRAMME

Royal Signals Band
1. March: "The Men of the Rocket Brigade," S. Ord-Hume. This is the First Public Performance of this March, and has been Written for and Dedicated to the Bridlington Rocket Brigade by the Composer.

2. Entry of the Life-boat Crew

Royal Signals Band
3. Overture: Orpheus in the Underworld," Offenbach

4. Park Songs by the Royal Signals Male Voice Chorus
     (a) Song of the Jolly Roger
     (b) Oft in the Stilly Night
     (c) Rolling Down to Rio

Royal Signals Band
5. Pastoral Fantasy "The Smithy," Alford

6. Play "For Those in Peril." A Drama of the Sea in One Act by Wilfrid T. Stephens. The Play roduced by Robert Roberts. Played by the Members of the Spa Repertory Company:

Characters (in the Order of their Appearance): Mary, Marjorie Summerville; Philip Boynton, Franklyn Scott; John Tasker, David Champion; Harriet Tasker (John's Mother), Gertrude Gilbert; Neville Barlington (a visitor at the inn), Norman Wooland; Travellers (Margot, Letty, Archie Reade), Maud Long, Cynthia Marshall, Walter Wingham; Henri Etrange (a French banker), Norman Hammond. The scene represents a room in an inn kept by the Taskers on the sea coast. Time: The present.

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INTERVAL
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7. Scena: Depicting Bridlington Bay at the height of the Great Gale of February 10th, 1871.

Song: "The Stormfiend," Weatherby

Mr W. Walker: Introduction to the Audience of Mr Geo. Robert Knowsley, aged 89, sole survivor of the crew of the Harbinger Lifeboat. Also Mr John Newby, aged 88, sole Bridlington survivor of the deep sea fishermen, who were afloat in Bridlington Bay on that day.

A Two Minute Story of the Gale, written and told in the East Yorkshire dialect by Mr George Hardwick.

8. To the Rescue: A red distress flare is seen outside the Hall. A ship is on the rocks. The distress flare is seen from the shore, maroons are fired to call out the Lifeboat and Rocket Life Saving Company. These men are quickly on the scene. They fire from the shore a rocket to which is attached a line, this drops on the ship. The men on the wreck pull on this line, and in this way draw out to the ship an endless rope (called the whip) to which a block is attached. This whip block is made fast to the ship, and enable the Rocket Company to send out to the wreck a thick hawswer. When this is also made secure to the wreck, the Rocket Company are able to pull out to the ship the breeches buoy by hauling on the ship. As soon as the breeches buoy arrives at the wreck a sailor gets into it and is at once hauled to safety by the Rocket Company. As soon as the rescued man is on shore the breeches buoy is hauled back to the wreck and another man brought ashore. This is repeated until all the ship's crew are saved. 

9. Duet for Celestaphone and Xylophone, Leo Stanley. Soloists: Cpls A. A. Robinson and A. G. Reilly.

10. Song "When the Ebb Tide Flows," Gordon. Mrs Bessie Nelson

Royal Signals Band
11. Selection, "Popular Songs of the 20th Century," arranged Brown

12. Hymn, "Eternal Father Strong to Save." The audience is requested to join in the singing of the hymn.

The Royal Signals March

God Save the King

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THE GREAT GALE

(Lest We Forget)             (By C.H.N.)

This, the 10th February, 1935, is the Sixty-Fourth Anniversary of that which will always be known to the inhabitants of Bridlington as THE GREAT GALE. The majority of those who took any active part in the splendid rescue work, from daylight to dark on that terrible day, have "crossed the bar," and are safe in the haven of rest. We who remain and can remember some of the tragic scenes of the storm, were only young people 64 years ago. But, as our old friend, Mr George Knowsley, says "It would be strange if we could not remember such a day as that was, and such scenes!"

The Tenth of February, 1871, was a day of disaster, when upwards of thirty sailing vessels were wrecked in our Bay and over seventy lives were lost. But, if it was a day of loss and anguish and despair, it was also a day, always to be remembered, when the men, aye and the women, of Bridlingtotn displayed true British courage and endurance. The splendid bravey of the lifeboat men on that day amounted almost to recklessness.

If you could have been standing at Cliff Cottage on that fateful morning, sheltering, as I was, amidst a crowd of anxious watchers, you would have seen ships buffeted by the fierce gale, their sails torn to shreds and their decks swept by every wave; and you would have seen the National Lifeboat and the little Harbinger battling against huge breakers, in the teeth of a fierce gale and blinding snow. At time you would have seen the oars high up in the air, and the next moment buried in a great rolling wave! And you would have heard women sobbing, women whose husbands and sons were straining at those heavy oars. Yes, and you would have heard the cheering when one or other of our little boats were seen coming to shore with the men they had saved! On that memorable day every man was doing his duty! And if ever the inhabitants of Bridlington allow these deeds of bravery to be forgotten they will be unworthy of the race of men who risked everything to save the lives of others. 

The story of the capsizing of the little life-boat Harbinger made a sorrowful climax to the tragedies of that day. You see the Harbinger was the fishermen's boat, built by our fellow townsman, Mr David Purdon, at his premises in North Street. I can remember the Harbinger better than any of our lifeboats because of her colour and size. She was painted a stone colour and was much smaller than the "Whitworth" boat, as the larger boat was then called. Every one knows that the Harbinger was presented to the town by Count Bathany. All day long she had been at work, and up to 2.30 had saved the crews of five ships. Mr David Purdon had watched the little boat at work, and had been amongst the many who did their bit ashore. It is easy to understand how proud he would be to send a telegram to Count Bathyany telling him what his little lifeboat had done. I can picture him runninig to the old Post Office in Prince Street, and handing that telegram to Mr Headley, the Postmaster.

But the brave little Harbinger had not finished her work. Some of the men who had manned her were completely exhausted, and some had to be wrapped in blankets and put to bed. Then news came that two ships were ashore on the south side, and when Coxswain Jim Watson called for volunteers to make up the crew to nine, Mr David Purdon and Mr James Clappison jumped into the boat. It was terribly rough, with a flowing tide running strong and it must have been very heavy work with oars in such a sea. 

This is what Mr Robert Hopper said at the inquest held before Mr J. W. Jennings on the 11th February, 1871: "All went right, and we rescued the crew from a brig which had gone ashore while we were proceeding to the other. After landing that crew we put off again and succeeded in reaching the other vessel. There was only one man on board, the rest having been lost in their own boat. We succeeded in getting a rope from the vesel and told the man to jump into the lifeboat. But he was either unable or afraid and did not jump, and the next moment a great sea broke over us, turning the lifeboat over, and throwing the men out of her. I succeeded in getting hold of the upturned boat, and held out my scarf to John Robinson, and helped him to reach the boat and take hold. The boat was three or four minutes bottom upwards and when it righted we found Richard Bedlington inside, where he had been all the time."

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The crew of "The Harbinger"

By courtesy of William Forster, "Chronicle Office."

In order that a complete list of the names of those who formed the crews of both the "Harbinger" and the "National" Life Boats on that day, February 10th, 1871, may be compiled, Mr F. J. Wilkinson, Captain of the Rocket Life Saving Company, would be glad to hear from any person having authentic information on the subject. The following names are a few already known: John Watson, David Purdon, William Cobb, S. Redhead, James Clappison, John Robinson, William Atkin, Robert Hopper, Richard Beddlington, Robert Pickering, G. A. Knowsley, Peter Anderson, Melch Walkington, John Brown, John Usher (Cox), William Miles, A. Miles, James Stephenson. 

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Hymn: Eternal Father, strong to save.
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The organisers desire to thank all those who have in any way helped to make this Concert a success. Thanks are especially due to Mr R. Callaway, Manager of the Spa; Mr H. Wilson for his wonderful scena of the Great Gale; the vocalists, Mrs Bessie Nelson and Mr W. Walker; Mr G. Hardwick. Also to Robert Roberts, Proprietor, to Wilfrid Stephens and members of the Spa Repertory Company.

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Note by  the writer: The picture above is said to show the crew of the lifeboat "Harbinger." The photograph does indeed show nine men, but I ask how it was that the crew could be assembled and photographed together when, on 10th February, 1871, the Harbinger's crew was not known. Men volunteered to man the boat and it is also known that at least one crew member was replaced by David Purdon. Is it possible that, many years after the event, researchers have found this exact picture in this publication and assumed that the identification is correct. I hope someone can set my mind at rest as I do not believe this is the 10th February 1871 crew of the "Harbinger."