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Wreck of the 'Galway Lass' - 14th October 1875

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last updated :

24th October 2005


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Before the RNLI
Station History

The rocks around Flamborough Head have dashed many a vessel through out the years. The Galway Lass set sail from Sunderland at 2 O'clock in the morning. She was carrying a cargo of small coal and was bound for Dieppe in France. The captain sailed the ship down the coast in the fresh northerly winds and moderate sea.

Silex Bay todayAs the vessel approached Filey Brig the wind suddenly shifted eastward. It became apparent to onlookers that with the wind in this direction the ship would find it difficult to round Flamborough Head. As they approached Silex Bay they ran into difficulties. The wind and tide combined to drive the vessel ashore. The crew lit signal torches on the deck to broadcast their distress in the dark. Beam on to the pounding seas, the vessels plight was sealed.

The Lighthouse keeper spotted their distress and ran into the night shouting "A vessel in distress" and waking people from their sleep. He continued on in search of the Coastguards, but alas the ship by now had begun to break up. Crowds had gathered on the beach to watch the drama unfold. They could hear the crew calling, but were unable to affect any sort of rescue. By daybreak all signs of life were extinguished and the Galway Lass was a complete wreck.

Two bodies were washed up at South Landing just after daybreak and were recovered by the local fishermen. They had travelled some 3 miles around the Head before coming ashore. The two men turned out to be William Hart and Killick Stevens. A little later a young man spotted the Captains body on the beach at Silex. It was quite obvious that he had attempted to swim the short distance to shore, but perished before reaching safety. The crowd by now were getting restless for the sea to give up the dead.

As night began to fall another body washed up, given up at last by the sea. This proved to be Edmund Earle. On the high tide of the following morning another three bodies had washed up. These were young lads as words written at the time describe the bloom of youth still on their cheeks. The bodies were in good condition despite spending so much time in the water. Two of the three had similar looking faces and eventually proved to be the Grimsey brothers. The third was that of Nelson Tasker. Seven of the eight-man crew had now been washed up.

Early on the Sunday morning teams set out in the wind and driving rain to once more search the shoreline for the remaining missing crewman. The body of Alfred Penn was eventually found washed up near the wreck. The eight men were laid side by side and onlookers from the village wept at this sorry sight.

Again the villagers rallied round to provide the crew with coffins and a funeral. The dead crew were treated as if they were their own. The coffins were carried through the streets, shoulder high to the church. The procession set off with the church bells ringing and fishermen old and young singing hymns. All eight were buried in the church graveyard with respects being paid. Finally the story was immortalized in a poem by Joseph Cappleman. He finished it with a quote from the bible, which read: "Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me".

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