From the book "Filey - a Yorkshire fishing town" by Irene E Allen and Andrew A Todd
NOBODY EVER KNOCKED
It isn't surprising that Filey Old Town developed a strong community identity. The men shared the same dangerous occupation, and the women spent long hours, in the early morning, skeining mussels so that the lines could be baited and loaded when the men returned, ready for the next days fishing. Women from several households would be needed, and it was natural that the hours be whiled away with chit chat! Certain houses became grapevines of the town's news. George Burton remembers how his grandma's and later his aunts house were like modern news agencies:"You couldn't tell them anything!" he said, "You could see an accident happen and go in there to tell her about it and she knew all about it!"
The sheer density of housing contributed to this close community spirit. George reckoned that the 16 cottages in Richardson's Yard would fill the area occupied by only three modern houses and their gardens. People had little call to stray very far beyond: the top end of Queen Street was "foreign territory!"
There was much friendliness and good neigbourliness. Many of the older people recalled, with nostalgia, the early years of this century when 'people helped one another'. Elizabeth Hunter can remember running errands for 'Old Brazzy' (Matthew Jenkinson 1850-1929) and doing out his ashes. His great niece, Evelyn Willis, read him a chapter of the bible every night(though it is difficult to imagine a more unlikely recipient of such scriptual ministrations!)
George Burton remembers how his Grandma's door was always open: "Nobody ever knocked", he told us. Every day, her niece, Bella, would call in (She was a very talkative woman who enjoyed conversation!) As she came in through the door, she always called out, "No Aunt Liz, I isn't gan ter stop". Grandma was "a bit of a critic" : "Praise the Lord", she would remark wryly from her rocking chair in the corner of the room.
Sarah Ann Cammish, who married "jack Black" Jenkinson (John Robert 1864-1936), was another Filey woman who kept open house. Known affectionately as "Sal Tiny", she had a "heart of gold". George Burton reckoned that she "brought the whole of Filey up". She made toffee, like Bell; Taffy, but out of vinegar and treacle! She also acted as medical adviser to much of the fishing community; Bob Hunter related how she helped as a midwife at the age of eleven; it is said that doctors would consult her if they had a difficult case! She would treat all manner of complaints from bad fingers to poisoned hands and bad sores (remedied by the rubbing in of salt, on the assumption that this was always used to cure meat!)
Sal Tiny's husband, "Jack Black" Jenkinson, was a Filey street sweeper, and no less a character than his wife. Filey people have complained for years of 'strangers' from the West Riding taking over the town! One day, in the early 1900's, Jack was hailed by two Leeds chaps in a motor car, "Hey, granddad, come here," they called impudently, "can you tell us the road to Scarborough?"
"Aye", replied Jack, sardonically, "if you go to the bottom of this road you'll see a signpost."
Sensing the opportunity for further mickey taking, one asked him, "But what if I cannot read?"
"Then it'll suit a grand bugger like you," came the reply, "there's nowt on it"
Filey's strong community spirit was of course, sometimes puncuated by discord amongst the fishermen. Discord certainly broke out in 1877 when an altercation turned to violence! The Filey Post of the 20th October 1877 reported the hearing at Bridlington Magistrates Court as follows:
"Rickman Skelton, of Filey, was charged with assaulting Matthew Jenkinson, of the same place, fisherman. Complainant had placed a water cart and a pail in front of his house. The defendant kicked the pail away, and on complainant going out to ask what he had done it for, he immediately became very pugnacious, pulled off his coat, and for a quarter of an hour dared him to fight, and essayed to strike at his wife. Complainant stood with his hands in his pockets, and when defandant found he could not provoke complainant to fight he struck him in the face. The bench advised both parties to settle the matter, as they were neighbours, and they retiured to do so.
The Matthew in question was either "Old Brazzy" (1850-1929) or "Walsher"(1836-1911).
THERES A FRY FOR...
Nevertheless, the community spirit did rally round in time of trouble.
Fishing is, of course, an uncertain trade. At the best of times, a man's earnings could plummet drastically because his catch was too small to cover the cost of his bait. There was also the risk of lost gear, which would be uninsured. There was also the possibility of the loss at sea of a breadwinner.
In the 19th Century, a family beset by poverty might apply to the Poor Law Union relieving officer for "out" relief. As a last resort, they might have to enter the Scarborough Union Workshouse. We have been told that few people went to the Workhouse, as long as they had somebody to look after them.
As the fishermen grew older, they could no longer go to sea. Some older fishermen gave evidence to the Sea Fisheries Commission in 1863 had been fishing into their seventies. In the 1861 census, William Cammish, living in Cammish Yard, was 77, and described himself as a "worn out fisherman". He was still in Filey in the 1871 census he described himself as a "fisherman". The implication seems to be that men retained some connection with fishing up to their deaths.
They could continue to work onshore - they might bait the younger men's lines, or help with the launching of the boats. Before the tractor appeared on Coble Landing, 12 men would be needed to help haul in the cobles. Each boat would contribute a couple of "lanchers fish"; these were sold with the rest of the catch, and so provided a small reward for the old men's work. Men unable to fish would also keep crab stalls on the Coble Landing during the summer.
The town would subscribe to charitable funds for fishermen's families after a disaster. Money remained in trust, and was distributed annually to fishermen in need, or their widows. It was known as "March Money".
The census returns show that many old fisher people in Filey lived with their children and grandchildren. About a third of all Jenkinson households in the 1881 census were of the extended type - parents living with their married children's families. There was a strong inclination to help others. If a man or his family were known to be in need, it was not uncommon for neighbours to put aside a fish for their dinner. "there's a fry for..." would be the saying.