On December 8th,1954 three scarborough Lifeboatmen lost their lives. Amongst them was young Frank Bayes. Local Ann Moncrief remembers this day well. Her uncle, Old Frank Bayes had flu and pluracy that day and young Frank Bayes decided to go instead of him. Young Frank was on leave from the Navy and just got engaged. He took Old Franks Bayes place on the lifeboat.
It turns out that the emergency call was a false alarm. Yet the lifeboat went out. It was a new lifeboat and it was supposed to be Scarboroughs first self rightable lifeboat. It had just been christened. Yet the storm they went out in was terrible according to Ann.
It was a bad storm that night. Ann remembers going down to the harbour. They went down late on. Young Franks body was washed up by the steps near the lighthouse. Old Tom Rowley pulled out the body. Ann remembers Frank as a good looking boy yet he must have been caught in the propellers as his face was badly marked. There was a cut down one side of his face several inches long.
That day John Sheader and John Cammish also lost their lives. The boat did right itself. Yet the storm shows that their were still many dangers.
Francis Bayes father and grandfather were both also called Francis. This was quite common amongst fisher people. They passed the names on. Young Frank Bayes grandfather had many children - one of them of course was Francis Bayes and the other was James 'Ruffin' Bayes who is featured below.
Ann also remembers her Grandad James 'Ruffen' Bayes . He used to sit round the fireplace and tell her stories of his life at sea. He was twice wrecked. On the second occasion he was washed up near Tynemouth. The ship which saved him was called the Evelyn.
Ruffen went home and found out that his wife had just given birth. He had just gained a new baby daughter. He immediately named the girl Evelyn after the boat that had just saved him. Thats how Anns mother got her name.
Ruffen was one of the hardy old fisher folk. Ann remembers one time when he came back from sea. He had badly damaged his hand and his thumb was nearly hanging off. He sent his granddaughter for the bottle of whiskey and needle and thread in the cupboard. He then poured the whiskey over his hand. Then he stitched his own hand up.
Ruffen also had extensive knowledge of local wrecks. He knew when to avoid these as they maybe hazardous during certain conditions. Yet he also knew how to take advantage of these. At certain times of the year he fished these wrecks. Sole and dabs would congregate around these wrecks and there would be rich pickings. This was much to the delight of young Ann who used to 'enjoy a little Dab'.
Ruffen was also extremely superstitious. Life at sea was harsh and very dangerous. Superstitions of all kinds were rife in the old days. Tragedy struck so often that the seamen would worry about all kinds of superstitions. Ruffen would never allow the word PIG. He would also never allow the word rat to be spoken. It was considered bad luck. If Ann was to mention these words ("Granddad I've just seen a huge long tail ") then Ruffen would shout at her and tell her about the bad luck and tragedy that would follow.
Ruffen used to live on Princess Street. His house is still there and is easy to spot as its called "Ruffans Cottage".
Little Ann was often scared by his gruesome stories of the seas. He told her of when they caught a dead body in their nets. It was in a truely shocking decayed state. Ann curled her face up at this and said she "Didn't want to know".
Ruffen also used to tell of the time when he was on the lifeboats. They went out in small rowing boats. Guessing by his age he must have been a lifeboatman in the few years prior to World War I. The lifeboat was motorised after 1918. He often told Ann of the rescues. He sometimes felt that the boat was about to go down. He was
"Young and didn't really think of the danger when he was going out to save his mates".
During this period of the lifeboat most of the rescues were of small fishing cobles rather than vessels from other harbours. So these really were his mates.
His bravery came out in another way one day when there was a fire at 2 Quay Street. Ruffan lived at 1 Whitehead Hill at the time and was just returning home as he had been at sea. He was one of a number of fishermen who helped out before the fire brigade arrived. There was a huge fire and Mrs Cook who owned the house said
"Go on Jim, I'll show you where they are".
He went up the stairs but was unable to go further due to the intensity of the flames. He broke the fall of a man who jumped from the upper floors. He was hit in the chest and surely saved the man from a broken leg. Charles Harwood(Whitehead Hill) and Thomas Flynn (30 The Bolts) also helped in the rescue. They were standing on the bay window and held onto the mans feet and steady his fall. 2 Quay Street is one of the oldest buildings in the Old Town. The fishermen were commended by the Fire Brigade. [Scarborough Mercury 12th August 1921]
Ruffan never felt that fishermen ever got the recognition that they deserved. They risked everything and frequently were injured. Shipwrecks were regular occurences then. The fishermen were the farmers of the sea yet they never got the praise they deserved.
He also had respect for the seamen of old. He used to say that in the past "they were wooden boats with men of steel. Nowadays they are steel boats and wooden men". The hardy old fishermen used to battle against the elements in the wooden sailing vessels. It was much more dangerous than more modern times.
Anns Great Grandmother was a real character. She died at the age of 96 in the 1950's. She got into trouble at the hospital and set the bed on fire three times. She always had a cigarette in her mouth - she used to say "wheres me Willie woods"(the woodbines she used to smoke). She was like a little doll all thin and white. She always used to call Ann Rosie - the name of her first daughter who died young.
Anns Grandmother was Gertie Bayes. The old fishing communities were full of superstitions and Gertie used to read the fire. She looked into the embers and saw the future. One time she insisted that a young girl was going to have a baby soon. The family laughed this off but shortly afterwards the truth came out. The young girl in question was not married and so the baby was one of the illigitimate births.
Ann always wanted to stay up late and listen to 'Trawlers' on the radio. This was a radio program devoted to the trawling industry. It would release information about fishermen soon to return home. So Ann wanted to hear when her Grandfather Ruffan would return home. Ruffen must have been working on one of the great box fleets which worked the North Sea continually. These vast fleets worked continuously at sea for two months at a time. The fish caught would be transported by small rowing boats to carriers which would take the fish quickly to market.
Annes Mother was Evelyn. She had all types of jobs to make money. When she was young she worked as a cleaner at King Richards House on Sandside. Back then it was an antiques shop. She saw the old cupboards and tunnels that go underneath it. These were used by the smugglers of old. Such cupboards and tunnels are a major feature of the Old Town.
During the herring season Evelyn used to work with the Scottish fisher lasses. She used to gut the fish and pack them. Most of the girls employed were young Scottish girls who travelled down the coast following the herrings. In September they came to Scarborough and in October they moved onto Lowestoft. Whilst they were here Gertie used to join them.
Ann remembers a time when she was on South Shields pier and asked the fishermen if they had caught any woofs. They all laughed. They had no idea what she was talking about. They all made woof woof sounds making fun of her. Ann was actually asking about Cat fish. In Scarborough they were known as woofs. This name was distinctive to Scarborough. Tynesiders of course had no idea what she was talking about.
The electoral records show that there were four houses occupied by Bayes families in 1905:-
- James Bayes 1 Gas house yard, Quay Street
- Francis Bayes, 6 Mast Yard, Sandside
- William Bayes, 3 Mast Yard,Sandside
- George Bayes, 7 Burr bank