Bridlington’s Great Gale marked by a service at the Priory Church and a Plimsoll Day fundraiser for the RNLI

The Reverend Matthew Pollard will lead the Great Gale service at Bridlington Priory on Sunday February 13.

Last year’s church service to mark the 150th anniversary had to be held virtually due to Covid restrictions, but the service will return to Bridlington Priory Church on Sunday February 13.

The service to mark the 1871 tragedy will take place at 10.30am, when volunteers from RNLI Bridlington will lay a wreath at the Great Gale memorial.

The rector of Bridlington Priory, the Reverend Matthew Pollard, who will lead the service, said: “This is an event that is etched in the collective memory of Bridlington. Part of Bridlington’s identity is indeed that it is the town that remembers the great gale.

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Author Nicolette Jones hosts an annual fundraiser to mark Plimsoll Day, encouraging people to wear tennis or trainers for the day and donate to the RNLI. Photo submitted

“It is important that we are true to our duty to continue to tell the story, to honor the memory of all those who died that night. I am delighted that we are once again able to do so in person This year.

The tragedy happened in 1871 when a storm hit the East Yorkshire coast. Many ships used an area known as the “Bay of Refuge” for shelter from bad weather when the wind changed direction, causing at least 23 ships to run aground or sink against the harbor walls.

At the time, Bridlington had two separate lifeboats, the RNLI’s Robert Whitworth and a locally owned vessel named the Harbinger.

Both boats were launched several times, with both crews managing to save several lives. Tragically, the Harbinger was trying to save the crew of the brig Delta when a wave capsized the lifeboat and six of the nine local men on board were drowned.

The disaster led MP and social reformer Samuel Plimsoll to ask parliament to introduce a new law to prevent ships from being dangerously overloaded, by introducing the painting of a load line on the hull.

Plimsoll Lines, as they became known, are still used today in international shipping.

Coincidentally, February 10 is also Samuel Plimsoll’s birthday. Plimsoll biographer, author Nicolette Jones, organizes an annual fundraiser to mark Plimsoll Day, encouraging people to wear tennis or trainers for the day and donate to the RNLI.

She said: “I started Plimsolls for Plimsoll Day because Plimsoll himself funneled the tribute money collected for him into lifeboats instead.”

Visit justgiving.com/fundraising/nicolette-jones to donate to Plimsoll Day.

Steve Emmerson, Bridlington RNLI helmsman, added: “Lifeboat stations are built on the achievements of those who came before them: it is essential that we remember them and reflect on their contribution to saving lives by sea. Never more than on this day.

Click here to read more about Plimsolls for Plimsoll Day

Jerry B. Hatch