The following is an extract from John Cole's ancient history of Filey "History and antiquities of Filey in the county of York" published way back in 1828. It records some of the great storms and shipwrecks of that time period. It particularly features a heroic rescue in 1799.
It records a famous rescue of a ship in distress off Filey by four scarborough Fishermen. They rowed for fours hours through a heavy sea. This heroic act of humanity obviously inspired Hinderwell who wrote it. This great passion for epic rescues came across in other articles by Hinderwell.
Later he was influential in setting up Scarboroughs first purpose built Lifeboat. It was one of the earliest Lifeboat stations in Britain.
A tremendous storm occurred at Filey and along the coast, in November, 1696, emphantically called the "November Gale" it was the oft repeated story related to those of the last generation to their children when assembled around the blazing hearth on a November's night.
The shipwrecks during this disasterous storm were numerous, as well on other parts of the county, as in the immediate vicinity of Filey, and a similarly awful storm occured about 50 years since, called the "Last November Gale", which is fully detailed in Anderson's narrative.
On the second February, 1799, a very distressful storm occurred on this coast, when his Majesty's ship the Nautilus was wrecked on the south part of Filey Bay, but all hands were fortunately saved. A merchantman was also saved at the same period.
The late Mr Hinderwell has left a very animated description of the next event of this calamitous kind, we have to record.
On Friday, the 6th of October, 1799, at the dawn of the morning, a vessel in great distress, was discovered at anchor near Filey Bridge.
A severe gale had prevailed upon the coast for some days previous to this incident; the sea was tremendously agitated, and the wind contrived to blow with violence, which seemed to exclude every possibility of assistance from the shore, and executed the greatest anxiety for the safety of the vessel and mariners.
In this moment of extreme danger, four of the fishermen of Scarborough, of greatest bodily strength and daring spirits, had courage to venture to their assistance in a little open fishing boat, called a coble, and, braving all the dangers of the sea, boldly committed themselves to the perils of the boisterous ocean.
The distance from the harbour to the vessel was nearly 8 miles, but the extent of the traverse which the fishermen were obliged to make, was increased as they could not keep a straight course, being under the necessity of preserving the boat in a proper direction to the sea.
The water at the mouth of the harbour when they departed was extremely agitated, and the waves broke with uncommon fury at some distance from the shore - the moment was critical and perilous, and required an extraordinary degree of skill and intrepidity; indeed,it was esteemed a daring attempt of desperate men, prodigal of their lives and insensible to every idea of danger.
The scene was highly interesting and alarming, to see those intrepid men, embarked upon a little open boat in a high and dangerous sea, exerting all their strength and skill to combat its fury.
Many and great were the perils they had to encounter - their lives were exposed to a variety of accidents; at some moments they were suspended on the summit of a mountainous wave, at others they totally disappeared from the view fo the spectators.
The boat from its construction, required the greatest attention and dexterity in its management - a single unskilful movement might have proved fatal - they had to make their way through a boisterous sea to a great distance, every nerve was to be strained and all their power exerted; and had they failed in their efforts to have reached the vessel, there was no possibility of returning; or of landing upon any part of the coast, which made their situation truly desperate.
After contending four hours with the tempestuous element with the greatest fortitude and perseverance, drenched with the waves which frequently broke over them; greater dangers were still presented on their approach to the vessel.
The sea was dashing against her sides and breaking upon the decks in a tremendous manner, and she was rolling at the same time with the most violent motions.
In such a critical situation, every attempt to board her seemed impracticable; but those intrepid men inured to all the perils of the ocean; cool and collected in the midst of surrounding dangers, waited a momentary suspension of the waves, and instantly pushed to the vessel, leaping on board in succession at proper intervals, with the most undaunted resolution and activity.
After having thus providentially got on board, they found the ship in a hazardous situation.
The crew were fatigued and dejected the anchor was cast upon a rocky shore, and the cable was every moment in danger of being cut by the asperities the sea was high, the wind was blowing from a dangerous quarter; and the formidable rocks of Filey surrounded with foaming waves theatening to leeward; and inevitable death with all it's terrific horrors around them, if the cable separated: the time of the tide was also critical; not a moment was to be lost, decision and judgment being essentially necessary.
With a comprehensive presence of mind, and skilful foresight attained by long experience, they saw at a glance all that was requisite.
Temporary masts were immediately erected, and some small sail expeditiously fitted; a spring-rope was fixed upon the cable to cast the head of the vessel the right way to the sea; the little sails were hoisted and trimmed to the wind and the cable was cut at the proper moment.
By these and other skilful manoeuvres, the vessel and crew were extricated from the most imminent danger, and by extraordinary management and exertions, safely conducted into this port at five o'clock in the evening of the same day, amidst the applauses of numerous spectators.
The Royal Humane Society sent a reward often guineas for their meritorious conduct, and the strangers who were at the Spaw, and the spectators of the scene, raised a handsome subscription on the occasion.
The names of the fishermen who displayed so much skill and intrepidity, were Matthew Hodgson, William Henderson, John Harwood, and Robert Reed. Hodgson had been three separate times overturned in his boat on similar occasions, three of his former companions have in those cases been drowned, but he has been preserved in a most providential manner.
The fishermen are in general, a very bold, hardy, robust race of men, their lives are exposed to the greatest danger in their little boats in the storms of Winter, and they sometimes venture to the assistance of ships in distress, in such high and boisterous seas, as one might suppose would make the stoutest heart to tremble.
Happy would it be, if the many providential deliverances they experience, made a suitable impression on them. These men see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep in the highest degree. O that they would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness ; and declare the wonders that he doth for the children of men.
That they would go into his gales with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him and speak good of his name.
On Monday, the 15th of February, 1807, a severe storm of wind and heavy rain came on, succeeded on the following day by snow and frost, and the wind continued to blow high till the Wednesday morning, during which period a fishing boat belonging to Filey, containing seven persons , was unfortunately lost; by which awful catastrophe one poor woman of this place, who now industriously performs the office of post and errand-woman to Scarborough and Hunmanby, was bereaved of the valuable services of a husband, two sons, and a brother in law!
The fifth of November,1821, was a boisterous day, and much damage was done to the shipping on the coast; as was the case on October 12th, 1824, and the two folowing days[note 1], but after these respective storms "at length calm appeared".
How calm, how beautiful comes on,
The stilly hour,when storms are gone,
When warring winds have died away,
And clouds beneath the glancing ray,
Melt off, and leave the land and sea,
Sleeping in bright tranquility.
NOTE 1 - The following lamentable end of a young fisherman of Filey may here be appropriately recorded: on the morning of March 1st 1822, a young man named Donkin, who it was supposed had slipped in stepping on shipboard, was found drowned in Scarborough Harbour.
He was about 19 years of age, and had been bound to sea only on the previous day, having previously followed the occupation of a fisherman at Filey.