(Edward GILLINGS(1812-1843), Mariner, was lost in this disaster)

In late 1838, shortly after John GALE left the sea in order to help manage the family boat-building business, the firm was asked to build a lifeboat. There was already a small Coastguard boat with added buoyancy at Robin Hood's Bay, for life-saving purposes. It was now proposed to purchase a properly designed lifeboat.

The new boat was delivered in 1839. She was 28 ft in length, 10ft in breadth, and 3.5 ft in depth : she pulled ten oars and cost 100. The National Institution for the Preservation of Life in Shipwreck contributed 20 towards the cost. The Institution's records state that the boat had six relieving tubes, to drain off any water which might be shipped.

Her active career was brief and tragic, "On February 3rd 1843, a collier brig named the William and Ann, or according to some accounts, the Ann, sailed from Shields for London”. She ran into a gale of exceptional violence, and sprang a leak. Next day she tried to find shelter near Robin Hood's Bay, but by this time it was snowing heavily and the wind was blowing almost a hurricane from the NE. A tremendous sea threw the vessel on her broadside, and drove her ashore near the entrance of the bay close to Coling Scar. The crew took to the rigging for safety.

Lt LINGARD R.N, the Coastguard Officer at Robin Hood's Bay, had a magnificent record for saving life at sea. He launched the lifeboat with a crew of coastguards and fishermen. Their names were:
William POAD, Chris TRUEMAN and Edward GILLINGS.
Abraham TURNER, David DAVISON and Edward LOTHIAN.
Thomas BAXTER, James BAXTER, Thomas HEWSON, Nathen HEWSON.
John HODARTH and John KELD.

Presumably he had two men to some of the oars. Despite the huge seas which were running, he brought the lifeboat alongside the Ann, and started to take off her crew. One account says that all of them were in the lifeboat, which was just commencing the return journey, when an enormous wave capsized her. Another says that while the boat was still alongside the wreck, rolling violently, several of the Ann's crew jumped as a heavy sea struck her, and their combined weight was sufficient to send her right over.

Four men were trapped under the boat. They survived and they included John Hodarth and John Keld. Eleven managed to cling to her, presumably using the looped ropes which the Gale-built boats always had around the gunwales. These fifteen men were carried in by the waves and survived, but the remaining ten, sailors, lifeboatmen and coastguards were lost despite a gallant attempt by the brig Ayton to save them. Four of the drowned were Lt Lingard, William Poad, Edward Gillings and Chris Trueman.

The disaster had been seen from the shore. Five men brought out the old converted coastguard boat and launched it. The five were:
Michael GRANGER, John TRUEMAN, William TURNER, William ALLEN and Robert AVERY.
The second wave it encountered threw the boat end over end, spilling the crew into the water. Only three of the five struggled back to shore, William Turner and Robert Avery drowned.

Six coastguards, including Lt Lingard, and six others were lost in this disaster. In a small, closely knit community, such losses were keenly felt. The RNLI, at that time desperately short of money, gave 50 towards the relief of the widows. The local men knew their bay, and evidently decided it was not suitable for lifeboat work. A lifeboat which had drowned her crew was inevitably suspect, and it appears that the boat remained in her shed, unused for many years, while the Bay men turned with enthusiasm to the Rocket Brigade.

The foregoing account was presented by Robert E Monk. It was found and kindly provided by Mr Jim Foster, Editor of Bayfair, together with names extracted from notes of James Bedlington Harrison.
James Bedlington Harrison kept further notes on lifeboats such as:

Thus the old boat at Robin Hood's Bay saved the crew of a Dutch Galliot about 1837/8.

In the Spring of 1863 the lifeboat involved in the Ann catastrophe saved the crew of the Duke of Buccleuch. The brig became stranded near where the Ann had been lost twenty years earlier.

A non lifeboat affair happened on 8th February 1861 when two collier brigs struck at the Scar Ends. They were the Graces and Juno. On this occasion the crews were brought ashore by fishermen in their cobles. The life boat was launched but only for practice.

Another life saving incident happened in October 1852The barque Imporia was wrecked in Peak Hole. Most of the crew were saved although the Captain and his son were not.


Editor's note: It has been written by Nicolette Jones in The Sunday Times 25.6.06 that "one fifth of sailors who embarked on a life at sea between 1830 and 1900, perished at sea. During the same period an astonishing 70 per cent of Tyne coal ships sank. In 1871 alone.... 856 ships were lost within 10 miles of the British Coast in conditions no worse than a strong breeze".