From the book "Filey - a Yorkshire fishing town" by Irene E Allen and Andrew A Todd
The most famous tragedy in Filey's history must be the "Research" disaster of 25th November 1925. It is still remembered by the people that we spoke to. Steam powered fishing boats were rarely affected by storms and gales in the same way as the old luggers and yawls, but on this particular day a blizzard struck the coast, as the steam drifter "Research" was heading towards the harbour at Bridlington. Three huge waves hit the boat, and soon it sank with all nine crew. Eight of them were Filey men, and five belonged to one family.
The head of this family was John Robert Jenkinson (1862-1925), always known as "Jack Sled". His family were dogged by tragedy. His half-brother was "Dick Sled", Richard Cammish Jenkinson (1846-1918), whose son and two grandsons were blown up with the "Emulator" by a German Mine on April 15th 1919. Richard Cammish Jenkinson's grandson, Thomas Jenkinson (1896-1915) was killed in action on the western front on April 25th 1915. "Jack Sled's" own son James Henry Newby Jenkinson (1892-1911) had been lost off Ravenscar on 13th December 1911, aged 19. He and two other men were working the corfe from the herring coble "Swanland Hall" when it capsized. "Jack Sled", who had remained in the coble, dived in and tried to get all three onto the upturned boat: he was a strong swimmer, but as he got one on, another would let go of the keel and fall back into the sea. His son, James, and one other man, George Scales, drowned. Sadly, James Hnery Newby died leaving his fiancee, Mary Ellen Jenkinson (Born 1895) with child, and news of his drowning sent her into labour. His postumous daughter was born shortly after.
"Jack Sled" had frequently hired steam drifters, but the "Research" was a "poor affair, worn out", Captain Smith told us. For years after, the disaster was a recurring topic of conversation within the Filey fishing community. On many an evening, it would be said that the "Research" should never have been at sea. Terence Collins told us of a contemporary verdict on her unseaworthiness: "Filey Bay in a flat calm you could bend over and wash your hands in 't water o'er 't stern."
The last Filey men to see the crew of the "Research" alive were probably "Denk" Major and Mark and Rueben Scotter. They were on a steam drifter heading for the shore in the face of deteriorating weather conditions. As they passed within 60 yards of the "research", Rueben called, "it's time you were gettin in, Jack. Run for Brid". The crew waved to "Denk", and he waved back. Within an hour the boat and the crew were lost.
It seems certain that the drifter hit its bottom on "Smethwick Sands, a large shoal in Bridlington Bay. The sea would easily swamp her if she were stuck fast. Ironically, if she had stayed offshore in deep water she might have been safe.
"Jack Sled" drowned in the "Research" disaster with his sons Robert "Robin" Jenkinson(1890-1925) and George Featherstone Baxter Jenkinson (1897-1925); both were married, "Robin" having six children. Also drowned were his son's in laws, George J Crimlisk and William Cappleman Cammish, married to his daughters Jane Baxter Jenkinson and Lilian Jenkinson. By an ironic chance, "Jack Sled's" only other son, John Robert Jenkinson(1900-1958) would have died with them had he not been ill. He died in 1958, and we were able to talk to his widow, Rhoda Margaret Jenkinson, who made us very welcome when we visited her at Filey in 1983.
There is a tablet in St Oswald's Church which records
"the names of Filey fishermen who perished at sea and whose bodies were never found".
There are nine Jenkinsons on it. Seven of them belong to the family of "Jack Sled".
His widow, Fanny Elizabeth Jenkinson of 41 Mitford Street was buried at St Oswalds on 30th March 1939. The details of her sad life were powerfully expressed in a contemporary local newspaper report of the funeral. This cutting is still kept by her daughter in law, Rhoda Margaret Jenkinson (nee Scotter), widow of John Robert Jenkinson, and was shown to us when we met her in March 1983:
"The sea took her family: a gallant woman of Filey - There will be few of the fisherfolk of Filey absent from the funeral of Mrs F E Jenkinson, from whom the sea took her husband, three sons, a grandson and the husbands of two of two of her daughters."
"Just 75 years ago Mrs Jenkinson was born at Filey. Some twenty years later she married a local fisher lad, and they brought up a family of ten, four boys and six girls."
[John Robert Jenkinson (fisherman, aged 19, son of Robert Jenkinson, married Fanny Elizabeth Baxter, aged 19, daughetr of William Baxter on the 9th April 1882, at Filey St Oswalds. In fact they had five sons and five daughters].
"Just before the war one of the boys, fishing with his father from their coble, was washed overboard and never seen again."
"In 1925 the drifter "Research" sank with all hands off Flamborough Head and took with her Mrs Jenkinson's husband, two of her sons, and two of her sons in law."
"Mrs Jenkinson never despaired.She turned to comforting her two daughters, each mourning a husband."
"She was always a fine character such a sturdy sensible woman. Although the shock of her loss was terrible she refused to give in ... she was a grand lass."
Her epitaph on the family gravestone in St Oswalds churchyard speaks sadly for her, and for other countless bereaved women of the Filey fishing community: "She suffered much but murmured not."
Two Jenkinson brothers, Ted and George Jenkinson, distant cousins of the "Sled" family, were also lost in the "Research". They were grandsons of the well known Filey Character "Jossie Buggins". George Burton remembers two lads - "Teddy Fat" was about 21 at the time of his death: he
"allus had taithwack and a grey shawl wrapped round his jaw, and always had a bloody great gob full o' taffy... and a woodbine at the same time!"
George, only 16, was very quiet. Their deaths were deeply felt in the family. It is said that their mother, Liz Chapman, never again locked the front door on Spring Road, believing that one day they would eventually return. 20 years on, the family loss was still remembered. We found this notice in the Filey News of 1st December 1945:
"In memorial - Jenkinson - in loving memory of our two dear sons, Ted and George, lost at sea, 25th November 1925. Always in our thoughts.From Mother, Father, Brother and Sister."