And its three score and ten boys and men were lost from Grimsby Town;
From Yarmouth down to Scarborough many hundreds more were drowned.
Our herring craft, our trawlers, our fishing smacks as well.
They longed to fight that bitter night to battle with the swell.
Methinks I see some little craft spreading their sails a-lee
As down the Humber they do glide all bound for the northern sea.
Methinks I see on each small craft a crew with hearts so brave
Going out to earn their daily bread upon the restless wave.
Methinks I see them yet again as they leave the land behind,
Casting their nets into the sea the fishing ground to find.
Methinks I see them yet again and all on board's all right,
With the sails flow free and the decks cleared up and the side-lights burning bright.
October's night was such a sight was never seen before:
There was masts, there was yards; broken spars came floating to our shore.
There was many a heart of sorrow, there was many a heart so brave;
There was many a hearty fisherlad did find a watery grave.
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Source: Palmer, Roy (ed),(1986),Oxford Book of Sea Songs,Oxford, OUP
'In memoriam of the poor Fishermen who lost their lives in the Dreadful Gale from Grimsby and Hull, Feb 8 & 9, 1889' is the title of a broadside produced by a Grimsby fisherman, William Delf, to raise funds for bereaved families. The song passed into oral tradition, lost six verses and gained one - the last, which refers to October instead of February. It also acquired a chorus and a new tune. This oral version was collected from a master mariner, Mr J Pearson of Filey in 1957 by N A Hudleston. A copy of the original broadside is held in Grimsby Public Library.
It was reported like this:
As day after day passes and no tidings arrive of the missing Grimsby smacks, it is beginning to be realised that the gale of the 9th ult. will prove one of the most disastrous to the Grimsby fishing trade on record. Altogether nearly a dozen fishing vessels, carrying between 60 and 70 hands, are missing. Most of these vessels were only provisioned for eight or nine days, and many of them have been out over a month. Of the safety of seven of them all hope has now been abandoned. The vessels are:
Sea Searcher, trawl smack, owner Mr Joseph Ward; five hands.
John Wintringham, cod smack, master and owner Mr John Guitesen; eleven hands.
Eton, iron steam trawl smack, owner Mr H. Smethurst, Jun.; eight hands.
British Workman, cod smack, owner Mr Thomas Campbell; seven hands.
Sir Frederick Roberts, trawl smack, master and owner Mr W. Walker; five hands.
Kitten, trawl smack, owner James Meadows; five hands.
Harold, trawl smack, master and owner Mr Blakeney; five hands.
Portions of wreckage from the Kitten have been picked up at sea and brought into port, and the British Workman was seen to be reduced to a mere wreck by a heavy sea on the morning of the gale. Many of the men who have been lost leave wives and families, and an immense amount of distress will be caused amongst the fishing population. The total number of vessels lost will, it is feared, be near 15, and of lives between 70 and 80.
Hull Times, 2 March 1889.
Roud: 16873 (Search Roud index at VWML)