The following story is based upon a real life account written by Forrest Frank based upon a story by Captain Wyrill. These appeared in the Scarborough Daily Post in 1920 as part of the 'Sea Dogs' stories by Forrest Frank.
My father was master and owner of the "Emulous" and once - it was in February, 1844, when I was only seven and a half years old, I and a companion - Richard Cowling (he is still alive) hid ourselves away on her when she was preparing to go to sea. We were discovered when the yawl was nearing the pier head and were promptly bundled ashore. My father was admittedly a thorough seaman and was noted for his habit of "keeping the sea" in bad weather, instead of running for port and risking loss, and on this very trip that we two boys had endeavoured to sail there came a tremendous north-east gale.
My father kept the sea till February 24th, when it being Saturday, and he being a man fond of his home and his family, and wishing to be ashore for the Sunday, decided to make a run for it. though a tar barrel had been set on fire at the East Pier to "burn him off," as it is said - that is, to signal him that it was unsafe to make attempt to make the harbour mouth. He made up his mind, however, to rush in on a big sea, relying on shooting into sheltered water with a quick turn of the tiller at the pier head; but it was just here and at this precise moment when the recoil of a wave from the pier caught her broadside on, and she foundered with all hands within only a few feet of safety.
It was a bitter blow for our little home. My mother was left with six fatherless children, of whom, I, aged seven and a half, was the eldest boy. None of the bodies of the crew were ever found. One Saturday morning - sixteen weeks after the event - one of our neighbours, Mrs Cowling, came into our place to see our mother. I can remember all the incidents of her visit now, after all these years, distinctly. As a native of Staithes she she generally got the appellation of "Staithes Nell," and was certainly a woman of strange powers, who had frequently given evidences of her possession of what was called "second sight."
She told my mother she wakened that morning from a sleep in which she had dreamed that she saw Richard Wray's coble sailing in the bay with his trawl down, that the trawl encountered a mound of sand which checked the boat. Immediately afterwards the body of my father , which had lain sand warped till thus disturbed, rose to the surface. It was in the morning when this dream was told.
On the afternoon of that day my Uncle Henry Wyrill called in a casual way, but seemed uneasy in his manner, and I can see him now as he stood by the mantleshelf, apparently absent mindedly picking up first one of the little china ornaments, scrutinising its contents, and replacing it, and then subjecting another to like treatment. He was certainly very fidgetty, and finally the object of his request was revealed - he wanted some buttons similar to those my father wore on his clothing when he last went to sea.
Mrs Cowlings dream had just come true, and Richard Wray had just landed a body which had risen at the identical spot and under the very circumstances which she had described in the morning. That it was my father's body was proved beyond doubt by his boots as well as his clothing. I make no attempt to explain the dream. It was recounted before the event occurred, was a matter of common knowledge in the town at the time, and the facts can be verified today by living witnesses.
Athough I was at sea for 54 years, I was never shipwrecked, but on returning from the Mediterranean on this occasion I had a very narrow escape of being so, and within almost a stone's throw of the spot where my father lost his life. At London we took all our ship's store's for another voyage to the Mediterranean, and were ordered to proceed to Shields. We actually got off the Tyne and taken to Shields pilot on board when a strong head wind sprang up, forcing us to tack on and off the land, and gradually driving us down till one night we had drifted back as far as Robin Hood's Bay. At this, Captain Husband decided to run to Scarborough and shelter there till the blow was over.
The wind was coming strong from the North West and when we ran in under the Castle Hill the high land had the effect of "blanketing" us, and a flaflw of wind catching the ship aback, she was driven stern first on to the rocks. The position was a very serious one, and we would soon have been poundered to pieces, but our plight was instantly recognised by fishermen on the look out, and assistance was soon forthcoming. An anchor was taken out by the shore boats, and the ship was hauled off into deep water, leaking badly, the water getting over the top of the ballast. When daylight returned we hove up anchor and commenced to tack into the harbour, the pumps being kept going all the time.
In this way we got within half a mile of the pier head, when the pump gear wore out and the pumps became choked with the ballast. The anchor was dropped, and here we rode, gradually sinking deeper and deeper the meanwhile, all available ropes were musted both on board and from the piers and ships in the harbour and knotted together, when the anchor was once more lifted and the vessel was hove in by the pier capstan just in time to save her from sinking. It was a very near go.
The visit, to Scarborough, thus resolved itself into considerably more than a mere call for shelter. Extensive repairs had to be made - I doubt if they could be affected in Scarborough today (written in 1920), for the Miriam was a brig of about 400 tons - and she had to go into a floating dock to get to her underbody. It was home again for me, and I felt of no small importance amongst my old time companions by virtue of my foreign travels.
On the evening before I first went to sea all the members of our family gathered together under the roof. We never alltogether met again. During our late adventure in the storm part of the bulkhead of the store room had broken away, and the stores of the provisions which we had taken aboard for the Mediterranean voyage were precipitated into the after peak, and when the water got into the ship these were all mixed up with the sand ballast.
Now, the Captain's pig had been put into the hold to save its life when the storm came, and he early found the stores, but when the water rose over the ballast, with each roll of the ship he was alternatively feeding like mad when the water passed to the other side and swimming for his life when the ship heeled over again.