Porthole in Time: Public Memories

As part of the NLHF 'Porthole in Time' project we have gathered the public's memories of Scarborough.  

Below are a few written examples. Click here for more stories and audio recordings

Scarborough Memories – July 2022 – Dick Brearley, age 84.

I was born 84 years ago and my father was a fisherman. He was 6 foot 4 and three quarter  inches tall. His ship was sunk during the war and he was the only survivor as he clung to a floating bathtub. My mother was distraught but then one day he turned up at home, what a surprise. He always said he would retire age 60, like the Police, and he did but died 3 days later. 

I am the first child and the shortest, some people said I had a different father?  I wanted to go to sea and join the Sea Cadets but my dad said it was too dangerous at sea and so took to me a builders yard when I left school. I earned £7.50 a week as a hod carrier. I also drove a dumper truck. 

When I was age 10 I did a paper round but they told me I was under age so stopped me going. My mum had 8 kids and used to criticise my dad after he spent 3 weeks at sea then went to the pub. I felt sorry for him.  He never took any benefits whilst many others did. Feeding 8 kids could not have been easy.

I deliberately failed my 11 plus exam so I could go to Gladstone Road School, not the high school, so I could stay with my mates. I was good at maths and all the Glado Rd kids did well.  

My best mate, Ernie Southwick, was sadly hit by a car and died. I had a best mate who was the first black lad in Scarborough, his name was Maurice Miranda. People looked at him and said keep away but I liked him.

My mum always said keep away from South Cliff as it was too posh! Even the coppers told us to go home to Eastfield, but I lived in Beaconsfield Street! 

I kept homing pigeons for a while but mum did not like them. She made me get rid of them and I got into trouble after that. I was very cheeky at school, calling my teachers names. 

When my uncle died he said he would leave me his bird’s egg collections and I asked for it when everyone was still crying. I regret saying that, it was the wrong time to ask. 

Mt granddad was a bare-knuckle boxer and I was pretty good at it winning a Durham championship. We are related to the Whittakers who were miners in Bishop Auckland.  Kate Brearley was my auntie and ran the best chip shop in the old town. Folk would walk there from Eastfield!

I was turned down for the Navy as had been in trouble with the law. In Borstal, officers would sometime hit you in the kidneys with a truncheon! I had a job down the potash mine but insulted the German manager and he sacked me. 

My best job was being a bouncer outside Bacchus and the Golden Last pub, £60 a week for 10pm to 2am.  Groups of visiting women were often the most difficult to deal with. I loved playing dominoes and now I love betting on horses.


Growing up in Scarborough - My Memories by Colin Scales - Click here 


Scarborough Memories – November 2022 - Barbara Jackson

My daughter, Hilary, and I travelled to the Crown Plaza Hotel on Wednesday 26th October 2022. My daughter Verity, with her husband Paul Sutton, travelled from Preston (his first visit to Scarborough to celebrate my 95th birthday).

My mother, Gladys Mabel Helm (nee Burns) was born in Harrogate (July 1902). On leaving school with her certificate (not wanting work in service) travelled to Scarborough. Walking along the High Street she noticed an advert for an apprenticeship (trainee) in a Photographer’s shop window.

The gentleman showed surprise. Leaving my mother, he consulted with his wife living upstairs. He had expected a boy! On returning he confirmed she could start and she could stay with them for a month. She became an accomplished photographer proficient with her Brownie camera and in the dark room producing popular negatives. Popular as gifts in the 1920s. She photographed members playing in cricket week. She met seasonal celebrities and entertainers who visited and worked in Scarborough.

My father, Jonathan Helm, known as Jack, had served 4 years in France and returned to Manchester and regained his job on the Manchester stock exchange. In the early 1920s he along with his brother, Arthur, sister Florence and two friends, took his first holiday in Scarborough. He had run out of film for his camera and decided to walk along the High Street to purchase new film. He was served by a young lady. Both their lives changed! He had to establish himself and save for a home, not easy to do in those years of austerity. I personally have no known details of their friendship or romance.

In 1925 a modern housing estate was built, a first after the end of the war (1918). He made a deposit on 59 Cringle Road, Levenshulme. They married at St Andrew’s Church in July 1926. I was born on October 27th 1927.

I have a lifetime of memories of Scarborough, times spent with my family. As I bid farewell to Scarborough in 2022, standing on the Promenade looking across the sea to my son (H Martin Jackson) who has his home in Scarborough, Capetown, Western Cape, South Africa, with my lifetime of memories of holidays spent through those years in Scarborough.

A heartfelt Thank You – Barbara Jackson.


Thomas Fishburn my great, great, great, great grandad 

Thomas Fishburn is without doubt my most famous ancestor. 

He was born in Scarborough in 1744 to parents Francis and Ambrose Fishburn.

He was a bright lad, with an enquiring mind. He was a fast learner, and good with his hands, and he was strong too.

The sea was in his veins, as both his father and grandfather were proud fishermen.

He went to sea most days, and was fascinated at how a few planks of wood could be made into a fishing boat. ‘Why doesn’t it sink’ he wondered, and ‘How do you build a boat’.

When Thomas was just 13 years old he was apprenticed to a local shipbuilder, and he loved everything about the job, and in just two years, he was making his own boats.

The bigger shipyards were only 20 miles away in Whitby, and he pestered his family every day, to be allowed to work, and live in Whitby. His dad knew right away that the lad should go, but his mother was not so keen. Eventually they agreed to let him go the day after his 16th birthday.

On that fateful day the three of them walked down to the harbour in companionable silence. Thomas put his kitbag down and hugged his mother. She whispered in his ear “Work hard son, and make us proud”.

“I will, ma. Don’t you worry about me”.

His father took Thomas to Whitby in his fishing boat, both men lost in their own thoughts.

Once safely berthed the two men shook hands. “Take care lad” was all Francis had to say. Thomas simply replied “One day I will build you a bigger boat, pa, and I will sail it down to Scarborough for you”.

Thomas was now in his element and when he was only 19, he was promoted and began working on much bigger ships. ‘Whitby Cats’ they were called, and they were designed to carry coal from Newcastle down to London, with several dropping off points along the way. 

When Thomas turned 21, together with his best friend Thomas Brodrick, he bought a nearby shipyard from an old man, who wanted to retire and spend more time with his daughters and his grandchildren. He had no male offspring to carry on the business in his name. 

By 1768 the two Thomas’ had established themselves as the best yard in Whitby. They were renowned for the high quality of their work, and their attention to detail, so it was no great surprise that when the world’s greatest navigator needed a new boat, he went straight to Fishburn’s yard.

“Hello” said the imposing, uniformed gentleman “l’m looking for a new vessel to get me and my crew to The Australias and back”.

Stretching out a hand he added “The name’s Cook, Lieutenant James Cook”.

James and Thomas became firm friends immediately, as both men held the other in the highest esteem.

After a tot or two of rum in Thomas’ office, the men took a short stroll to the harbour.

“This might suit your needs, James. Only built last year, and named after the Earl of Pembroke. What do you think?”

“It’s perfect, but that name will have to go. I shall call her ENDEAVOUR”.

The two men went to a nearby inn called The Crab-pot, to discuss the details. James told Thomas the ship was "the fittest for service of any I have ever seen"

A price of £4,151 was agreed, and James and Thomas spent a most convivial evening together, telling tales of the sea.

Three years later the newly promoted Commander Cook returned to Fishburn’s Yard to buy two more boats. After another splendid evening at The Crab-pot, another deal was done, and Cook was now the owner of the RESOLUTION and the ADVENTURER, as well as the ENDEAVOUR.

Thomas Fishburn’s yard was so successful, it became the not just the biggest in Whitby, but the third largest shipyard in the whole country.

Far from being an obscure business on a provincial river, Fishburn's shipyard was becoming something of a Georgian Cape Canaveral,  a launch site for expeditions to new worlds.

Thomas became a successful, and wealthy businessman, and not only did he build his father a bigger boat, he bought his parents a modern cottage, where they could enjoy their later years together in contented retirement.

Thomas married Ann Snowdon, who sadly died in labour along with her stillborn child. Many years later he married Margaret Smith who gave him the son he always wanted, Thomas junior, my great great great grandfather.


Fishburn’s Shipyard was closed in 1830 to make way for the terminus of the Whitby and Pickering Railway in 1836.

The site of the shipyard was infilled as part of the works for the railway in the 1840s.

More recently, what was once a massive ship building yard, now caters for leisure sailors. Whitby Marina now stands proudly on the site of my ancestor’s famous yard.



Martin Dove (age 15)

Wednesday 11 Dec 1963



Seeing The Beatles live in concert, at The Futurist Theatre in Scarborough on December the 11th 1963, wasn’t just the best day of the year, it was, without doubt, the best day of my life so far.

The Beatles had changed the face of popular music forever, with 4 smash hit singles, and a clutch of record breaking EPs and LPs. They were also touring the UK, with a gruelling concert schedule which included Dundee, Dublin, Llandudno, The Isle of Arran and Scarborough.

Beatlemania was a new phenomenon, which quickly established The Fab Four, as the band everyone wanted to see. But seeing was not enough, fans wanted to chase them, touch them, kiss them, hold them and get as close as they possibly could to their idols. Listening to the band’s music was not the priority, just being in the same shared space was enough, and for most young girls, they couldn’t deal with the thrill of seeing The Beatles in the flesh, they just screamed, and screamed, and screamed. The screaming got louder and louder, until it was impossible to actually hear the music at all.

Many fans passed out with excitement, and many more needed medical attention.

The concerts were a farce, but Beatlemania was rampant, and showed no sign of slowing down, as the tour continued.

I actually went to the show with my mum, who would have been 52 at the time. I can remember clearly that we sat in the circle about five rows back.

Excitement was already at fever pitch, but as soon as the boys walked onto the stage, the place erupted. The band kicked off with ‘I saw her standing there’, although nobody heard a thing, as the hysteria mounted.

‘From me to you’ followed, but already, the fans were fainting in the aisles, and teenagers were being carried out on stretchers.

The concert continued with more songs that no one in the audience heard, as the audience became more vocal. Some girls screamed themselves hoarse, others cried their eyes out, many more just collapsed in their seats, heads to one side, drooling like babies.

By the time the band were nearing the end of their set, what was left of the audience made their way to the front of the stage, where they threw jelly babies, and screamed out the boys names, JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE, RINGO.

The Beatles finished their set with ‘Twist and Shout’, and those that were still able, screamed some more, until their voices finally gave up.

The Fab Four made a quick exit, and within minutes, they were bundled into a waiting limousine, and driven down Bland’s Cliff, where a handful of struggling coppers tried in vain to hold back the swelling tide of over 2,000 crazed fans.

Just being there at The Futurist Theatre on that memorable night, was enough for me.

I had seen my favourite band, live in concert, and I had witnessed the strange phenomenon of Beatlemania first hand.

What a show, what a night, what a memory.


Dean’s Den 

Scarborough: 1965

Bernard Dean’s music shop on St Thomas Street in Scarborough, was always the place to be seen on a Saturday afternoon, in the Swinging Sixties. Browsing the wide range of guitars and amplifiers, reading the sheet music, or listening to the latest singles in the soundproof booths at the back of the shop, would easily keep any youngster happy for an hour or two.

Oh yes, a weekly weekend visit to Dean’s was on every teenager’s agenda (unless of course, like me, you had to work on Saturdays).

But there was always something missing, a coffee bar where budding musicians could hang out in comfort.

It was in March 1965 when the new venue was officially opened.

Known as ‘Dean’s Den’, the trendy cafe was accessible via a staircase from the shop below.

The area was attractively decorated in grey, blue, red, white and black.

There were three tile topped tables, with red and yellow stools and a bar.

Also on display were guitars, drums, amplifiers and clarinets.

The space could seat 20 customers, and eased congestion in the main shop, which was always very busy on Saturday afternoons.

The original idea came from the shop’s founder Bernard Dean, who died in 1958, so it was Bernard’s sons, Barrie and Roger Dean who made the dream a reality. Mother Marie, and Roger’s wife Audrey were also on hand to help out.

Although anyone was allowed into the den, it quickly became the preferred hangout for local bands, such as The Tennesseeans, The Methods, The Incas, The Kerbsiders, The Mosaics and The Mandrakes, featuring the legendary Robert Palmer as lead vocalist.

Around 4pm every weekday, schoolgirls would pop into ‘Dean’s Den’ in the hope of seeing their local heroes. Dinner times would also find a few young girls hanging around outside, if they couldn’t afford a coffee.

A mug of coffee cost nine (old) pence, and minerals, chocolate biscuits and crisps were also available.

Smoking indoors was permitted back then, in fact it was actively encouraged, with staff members offering free cigarettes to customers, resulting in the den having a very smoky, almost surreal atmosphere, as if there were always seedy transactions taking place, amongst the swirling clouds of nicotine and tobacco.

Dean’s Den really was a great place for local musicians to meet up, audition prospective up and coming singers, drummers and guitarists, or just set up impromptu jamming sessions.

It was the only place to be seen in Scarborough, if you wanted to be a part of the town’s beat scene.

Sadly for me, work commitments meant I rarely got the chance to visit, and I had to rely on others to keep me up to date with what was going on in the local world of music.

This was a list of Scarborough’s very own top ten bestselling singles, on the weekend of the opening of ‘Dean’s Den’ in March 1965.

1 The last time (The Rolling Stones)

2 Silhouettes (Herman’s Hermits)

3 It’s not unusual (Tom Jones)

4 Come and stay with me (Marianne Faithfull)

5 I must be seeing things (Gene Pitney)

6 I’ll stop at nothing (Sandie Shaw)

7 I’ll never find another you (The Seekers)

8 Goodbye my love (The Searchers)

9 Yes I will (The Hollies)

10 I apologise (P J Proby)


Ken Fishburn (My cousin, my hero)

I was trying to work out how many cousins I have, and I lost count at 33, although there could easily be more. With such a large family, it’s very difficult to keep tabs on them all, as often the men move away from Scarborough, and the women change their name when they marry. 

But, out of all my many cousins, there was none braver than Ken Fishburn, a Scarborough fisherman carrying on the family tradition. Ken’s dad, (my uncle) Albert, and our grandad Robinson  were both fishermen.

Ken attended Friarage school, and Graham Sea Training, before working on deep sea trawlers out of Hull. 

When Ken was only 27 years old he was working as a spare hand on the deep sea trawler ‘Arctic Hunter’ off the Norwegian Coast, when, in a freak accident, the Bosun was catapulted over the side, into the turbulent freezing waters. Ken, without a seconds thought, threw off his cap, and dived overboard, fully clothed into the pitch black icy sea, to attempt a rescue. Ken managed to get a rope around the Bosun, and heaved him back to the boat that was rolling around in the choppy waters. Miraculously he singlehandedly hauled him to safety, and without doubt he saved that man’s life that day. The bosun’s name was Mr Lawrence Sayers.

Ken was later awarded a bronze medal for bravery from the Royal Humane Society, and a gold watch from the trawler owners.

Now, saving someone’s life is pretty impressive, but brave Ken went on to emulate the feat, by doing it again just one year later.

Seeing a man fall into Hull Docks, he moved like lighting, and fuelled only by instinct, dived into the water,  and dragged the helpless man to safety.

Ken was a seafaring man, through and through, and as well as working on deep sea trawlers, he had a succession of fishing boats based in Scarborough harbour, including Our Clare Louise, Summer Rose and Carousel. He was a popular figure, and could regularly be seen on the West Pier, making and mending nets, in all kinds of weather.

There is no doubt in my mind that my cousin Ken Fishburn, was the most heroic man that I have ever met, and I am humbled by his bravery, and proud to have called him family.

Ken was married three times, and had five children, Stephen, Julie, Joanne, Paul and Clare.

He and his third wife, Sonia, fostered several children, and went on to adopt two siblings, a brother and a sister.

In his later years after suffering a heart attack at sea, Ken worked as a porter at Scarborough Hospital.

Ken truly was an indefatigable force of nature, a devoted family man, with an abiding passion for the sea.

Ken’s son, Paul, carries on the family tradition and regularly goes fishing for crabs and lobsters in his boat, Prevail, accompanied by his own son, Liam.



I first went to sea on my father`s trawler at the age of just six years old in the summer of 1962. I can vividly remember him waking me up at about 3.30 am to make the short walk from our house in the Old Town to the harbour. I can recall standing behind the tiny wheelhouse near the back of the boat, whilst my father went below to start the engine. 

What sounded like an injured wild animal, screeching and screaming out loud in pain before thundering towards me out of the engine room hatch, was indeed the 88-horsepower Kelvin diesel engine bursting into life. This was soon followed by the overpowering smell of diesel and Diethyl ether wafting up on deck.

Once the two crew members, Fred and Harry had joined us, we sailed out through the darkened harbour entrance at around 4 am and headed out into the South Bay.

The sea was calm, and we soon reached one of my dad`s favourite fishing grounds close inshore near Filey Brigg. Apart from a compass, there was no radar or other navigation equipment on board. My father used buildings in Scarborough and other clifftop landmarks, known as metes, to pinpoint the exact place to shoot the trawl. 

Of course, this was only possible on clear days. If there was a sea fret or foggy conditions prevailed he couldn`t see the metes, so would have to fish further out in deeper waters.

As the fifty-foot boat lay broadside on to the gentle swell, she began to rock sideways with increasing velocity as my father and his crew threw the net overboard by hand. Thinking the boat was about to capsize I grabbed the inside of the wheelhouse window frame I was perched on, hoping this would somehow stop the vessel from keeling over.

Once my father reassured me that `keelboats,` as these small inshore trawlers were known, were the safest boats afloat and would not capsize, the fear subsided and I settled down and thoroughly enjoyed my first trip on a trawler.

Looking back, the good news for me was that I survived the trip without being seasick. This, however, did not last, and in nearly all the subsequent fishing trips I made as a child, I was seasick practically every time. Sometimes just the once, usually quite soon after leaving port and then recovering to enjoy the trip.

But quite often I would be terribly seasick all throughout the trip. Luckily, my father only went out for the day, from 4 or 5 am, and was usually back in harbour by teatime, but spending 12-15 hours throwing up was quite a harrowing experience.

Now, you'd think after suffering like this only once that I would never set foot on a fishing boat ever again, wouldn`t you? But strangely enough, it didn`t stop me from repeating this horrendous ordeal time after time. All these years later, I still can`t really figure this out. Even to this day, I still suffer from seasickness, but I am still drawn to traveling on boats with every opportunity that presents itself. I think the magical lure of the sea must be too powerful for me to resist.

And as horrible as seasickness is, sometimes you've just got to see the funny side of it.

In May of 1972, aged sixteen, whilst on Easter leave in the Royal Navy (where funnily enough I was never seasick) I went out to sea on a local trawler, of which my best friend was a crew member. We steamed the six or seven-hour journey south from Scarborough to fish off a place called Mablethorpe in the Humber Estuary.

After fishing all day (and yes, I was seasick even though the weather was fine) a northerly gale was forecast to be coming straight for us. The skipper decided to carry on fishing for a few more hours before hauling in the net and heading back to Scarborough.

We soon ran headlong into the teeth of the gale and I was so ill that I went below and turned in, spending the rest of the trip home shamelessly hibernating in my bunk, whilst throwing up periodically into a nearby plastic bowl. After a hair-raising few hours of being violently thrown around inside the bunk, and on several occasions nearly thrown out of it, we finally arrived back in port.

Having not eaten now for about 24 hours I was starving. I glanced at the cabin clock and smiled. It was half past seven. Harry`s Tea Shack on the back of the fish pier would now be open and he made the best mug of tea and bacon sarnies in town. I licked my lips at the thought of devouring a hearty breakfast as my friend entered the cabin.

I excitedly told him that we should both head over to Harry`s as soon as we had landed our small catch. He smiled at me knowingly and nodded in agreement.

Staggering out on deck into the harsh, glaring daylight I rubbed my eyes, yawned, and stretched out my arms, breathing in the fresh, clean morning air, amid looks of derision from the other crew members for spending practically the whole of the trip below deck in my bunk. 

A quick look up towards the clock on St. Mary`s Church confirmed the time. A quarter to eight. After repeating out loud my plans to go for a hearty breakfast at Harry`s, I was met with looks of confusion, disgust, and derision from the hard-working, tired, and grumpy crew.

`You`ve just slept for 12 hours solid, you lazy little bugger!` snarled one particularly irritated fisherman. `Harry`s won`t be open now. It's nearly eight o`clock at night!`

I`d just lost twelve hours of my life! BY COLIN SCALES 2023.


I arrived in Scarborough on May 3rd1985 for an impromptu weekend’s escape from London, where I then lived. I had booked into the Flower in Hand hotel, a former fisherman’s inn, perched up over the harbour and South Bay. It was run by Jean Hobson and Mark Hampshire. Jean was originally from Wallasey, Cheshire and had trained in printed textiles at Liverpool College of Art, before moving to Scarborough in 1972. There she became renowned as a vegetarian chef, played accordion with a blues band and opened her first studio. Her paintings adorned the walls of the hotel. Her partner Mark, a saxophone player, used to work for the local paper but left to collaborate on a book about Little Richard.

The following morning I was up early for a good breakfast and set off for the tourist office and bus station to try and plan some trips. Frustrated by the difficulty of getting to the North Yorkshire Moors railway I spent the morning sitting on the bank above the rough, grey sea. I started to feel rather cold and headed off for lunch at Sarah Brown’s vegetarian restaurant, which I enjoyed so much that I booked a table for the evening. In the afternoon I took a long, bracing walk along the cliffs, following the Cleveland Way and passing Scalby Mills on the north edge of Scarborough, as the sea lashed over the sea wall. I walked back via St Mary’s church where I saw the grave of Anne Bronte who had died in the town. At my evening meal at Sarah Browns I was joined at my table by a rather nervous young man who worked in Cleethorpes. 

The next day I travelled by bus to Thornton-le-Dale on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors national park. After a ten mile walk through woodland and forest, and a comforting afternoon tea, I took the bus back to Scarborough. I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the sea front near the harbour reading Paul Theroux’s book about his travels through Pakistan (slightly incongruous reading matter). My excellent evening meal at Sarah Brown’s cost me the grand sum of £3 and I then needed a walk round the harbour at sundown to digest it! In 1978 Sarah Brown had opened a small wholefood shop in Scarborough stocking some of her favourite items, such as muesli and brown rice. When customers came in asking for more unusual things such as aduki beans and tahini Sarah decided she needed to find out more about them and she began to experiment with different dishes. This eventually led to the Terrace Project restaurant, a BBC series ‘Vegetarian Kitchen’ in 1984 and the production of cookery books. I still use my increasingly battered copies of her books!

Memory from Adrienne Wallman (October 2023)


Typed interview with bottom ender Charlie Wharton. His grandfather and uncles were Scarborough fishermen and he was living with them at no 22 The Bolts as a young man. His great grandfather was a sailmaker. 


If you enjoyed reading these why not send us your own memories of Scarborough? By Post to 45 Eastborough, Scarborough, YO11 1NH or email scarboroughmaritime@yahoo.com

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