On 9 February 1861, a great storm wrecked more than 200 ships on the east coast.
The Whitby lifeboat crew launched five times to rescue stricken vessels, but on their sixth launch, tragedy struck. A freak wave hit the lifeboat, which capsized, and all but one of the crew were lost.
The men to die on the Lifeboat were:
- John Storr : The Coxswain who left a widow and 1 child(aged 16 years old).
- John Dixon : Who left a widow and 8 children.
- Robert Leadley : Who left a widow and 7 children.
- Robert Harland : Who left a widow and 6 children.
- William Walker : Who left a widow and 5 children.
- Isaac Dobson : Who left a widow and 6 children.
- John Philpot: Who left a widow and 5 children.
- William Storr: Who was bringing up 3 children since his wife died.
- William Tyreman: Who left a widow and 2 children.
- Matthew Leadley: Who left a widow and 2 children.
- George Martin: Who left a widow and a 1 month old baby.
- Christopher Collins: Who was single.
The charity appeal which followed this disaster was further augmented by an appeal in “The Times” which yielded a sum of £5,000 and interest raised this sum to £7,000.
Francis Haydn Williams, for reasons not fully explained or understood took it upon himself to accuse the trustees of this appeal fund of misappropriation.
John Tindale, in an historical pamphlet of 1995, suggests it may be that Williams was affronted that as a minister in Whitby he was not invited to be on the appeal committee and that this lead to a sense of grievance which resulted in this accusation.
He fought the trustees in his usual combative manner until 1906 when the Charity Commission in London decided against him citing lack of evidence.
Most interestingly the playwright Peter Tersonwrote a play for the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-On-Trent dramatising these eventswhich was subsequentlyadapted and produced for the BBC by Charles Lefaux.
It is a splendid production and offers keen insights into the character of Francis Haydn Williams as well as a vivid evocation of the town of Whitby at that period.
Below is the original programme note by the play’s director Peter Cheeseman for the play stage production at The Victoria Theatre.
Clicking on the soundcloud logo below will bring you to the recording. Enjoy.