To Thread - Forum Home

The Mudcat Café TM
21 messages

Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)

25 Feb 04 - 11:34 AM (#1123513)
Subject: Lyr Add: THE ROBERT WHITWORTH (Roz & Neil Kimber)
From: GUEST,Dave (the ancient mariner)

"The Robert Whitworth" 1030 am 19th Jan 1881 ..The true story of an RNLI Lifeboat at Whitby which had to be hauled through snowdrifts 7 feet deep, to aid six men who abandoned a sinking Whitby brig, "The Visitor" in Robin Hoods Bay, Yorkshire, England. It was impossible to launch the Lifeboat at Whitby, so they harnessed horses and people to pull the boat six miles digging through snowdrifts 7 feet deep 500 feet above sea level and down to a sheltered cove. Even then they broke oars and damaged the rudder, almost lost a crew the first time they launched. They were able to rescue the six men despite the weather.

Written by Roz and Neil Kimber performed by Kimbers Men in aid of the RNLI on their CD "See You When The Sun Goes Down"

(Roz & Neil Kimber)

Captain Gibson hear our plea
Six men's lives in peril at sea
Send the boat oh send the boat
The Whitby Visitor is no more

Shovel the snow lads seven feet tall, hooves a pounding clear and haul
Clear and haul lads clear and haul, hooves a pounding clear and haul.

Coxswain shouted can't you see
We could never clear that sea
Boats not for sailing, not today
But six men's lives we shall yet save

Grab the shovels, seas of snow
Through blizzard drift we shall go
O'er the moors lads o'er the moors
At Robin Hood's Bay we'll launch there

Harness fastened leathers tight
Ne'er anyone had seen such sight
Steady up boys steady up
Mighty beasts haul the load

Hundreds fight the snow that day
More horses harnessed on the way
Twixt cosy homes with fires aglow
But pounding seas still lay ahead

Pull the oars lads seven feet tall, waves a pounding heave and haul
Heave and haul lads heave and haul, waves a pounding heave and haul

Exhausted men can barely stand
But the Robert Whitworth will be manned
Oars all smashed and steering broke
With salty tears they head for shore

We'll try again we shall not fail
Eighteen men shall fight the gale
Hours passed men hauled aboard
White horses crashing to the bay

Such a journey ne'er forget
Inner strength will save men yet
Fight nature's forces for precious life
Lifeboat men to you our praise

Recording by Kimber's Men:

25 Feb 04 - 11:50 AM (#1123528)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)
From: Dave Bryant

Don't Tom and Barbara Brown sing a similiar song about hauling a lifeboat across country down in the West Country ? I'll try and find out - perhaps they'll post the words.

25 Feb 04 - 01:13 PM (#1123592)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)
From: Raggytash

In 1999 loads of people including myself and my 12 year old son, recreated the pull to raise monies for the RNLI, I believe the total exceeded £30,000 and at the same time a documentary was filmed which I don't think has ever been broadcast although I did see the premiere of it at Whitby Pavilion,I think the idea was to enventually make a feature film. The idea for the pull came from Ian Hudson, I don't think he has ever received the recognition he deserved for all his tremendous efforts
I've not heard the above song but another about the Whitby Lifeboat disaster, a completely separate event was written by Sue Haithwaite and is a superb song

25 Feb 04 - 01:36 PM (#1123609)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)
From: GUEST,Dave (the ancient mariner)

Post them Raggytash, such songs should be heard more often.. Yours, Aye. Dave

25 Feb 04 - 03:34 PM (#1123704)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)

WHITBY, YORKSHIRE 19 January 1881

After several days iof heavy snowfall, at 10.30 am on 19 January 1881 Captain Robert Gibson, Harbour Master at Whitby, received a telegram to say that a ship had sunk off Robin Hood's Bay and that her crew had taken to the ship's boat, but had been forced to drop anchor. They were unable to reach land because of very heavy seas. The severity of the wind and the seas at Whitby made it impossible for the Whitby Lifeboat to be launched and sailed around to Robin Hood's Bay so the Lifeboatmen decided to take the lifeboat the 6 miles overland to Robin Hood's Bay and launch from there. No mean feat over very narrow roads and across moorland some 500 feet above sea level in drifting snow up to 7 feet deep in places.

About 60 Whitby men were given shovels and began digging to clear the snow from the roads. Horses were hitched to the lifeboat carriage and the "Robert Whitworth" set out on her journey. Eventually some 200 men joined in the snow clearance work. Additional horses were obtained from farmers on the way, eventually numbering 18. Men from Robin Hood's Bay started from their end clearing the snow and after 2 hours the lifeboat descended the very steep hill into the village.

The crew of the lifeboat had been involved in the digging but, tired though they were, they then manned the boat and set out to rescue the stranded sailors. Before they could reach them 6 of the boat's oars and the stearing oar were smashed by a heavy wave and they had to return to shore. Whilst the oars were being replaced Cox Henry Freeman asked for volunteers to double bank the oars and the lifeboat set out with 18 men on board and after an hour and a half managed to reach the sailors in the small boat, landing them at Robin Hood's Bay at 4pm. The six rescued crew members (from the Whitby Brig "Visitor") all needed medical attention as did some of the lifeboat crew.

26 Feb 04 - 07:34 AM (#1124226)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)
From: Dave Bryant

I've e-mailed Tom & Barbara - perhaps we'll hear from them.

Their song is called "Louisa's Journey" and tells a similiar story of how because it was impossible to launch "Louisa" the Lynmouth (Devon) Lifeboat at it's home port because of a force 8 gale, it was towed 14 miles cross-country to launch from the more sheltered harbour of Porlock. They then rescued the 15 man crew of the square-rigged ship "Forest Hall" which was being blown up the Bristol Channel with a damaged rudder. It seems that because of the weather, they had to spend the night in a Welsh port, before rowing back in the morning.

There has also been a re-creation of this journey recently and you can find out more about it here.

I expect that there were similiar incidents at other places, as many of the oar-powered lifeboats were cariage launched and there are many stories of larger objects being towed across country by teams of horses and oxen. The "Jill" windmill on Clayton Hill north of Brighton was brought there in a similiar manner from Polegate over 20 miles away - but obviously without such haste.

26 Feb 04 - 07:39 AM (#1124229)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)
From: GUEST,Dave (the ancient mariner)

I remember Jack and Jill Dave, but didn't know Jill was towed into place. Just got back from two weeks in Brighton. the Harveys best bitter still tastes good :-) Yours, Aye. Dave

26 Feb 04 - 07:41 AM (#1124230)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)
From: GUEST,Raggytash

For the words for Sue's song I'll have to a) ask for them b) get the go-ahead to print them her or c) ask Sue to put them on

Watch this space

26 Feb 04 - 08:21 AM (#1124263)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)
From: Dave Bryant

Modern offshore RNLI Lifeboats should be launchable in nearly all weathers, but I suppose about the only one that you could really transport overland these days is the Mersey Class which only weighs 14 tonnes and comes with it's own submersible motorised carriage. Of course the inshore boats should be easy to shift (I once towed an Atlantic 21 with a mini) but these aren't classed as all-weather.

26 Feb 04 - 08:50 AM (#1124288)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)
From: GUEST,Raggytash

The lifeboat we took overland (The Queen Victoria)in 1999 was similar to the Robert Whitworth and complete with carriage weighed in at over 6 tonnes, taking it down the Bank at Robin Hoods Bay was fun !!!. Once we had rounded Laurel corner we took it off the carriage and onto skids and slid it the rest of the way to water. It was rowed back to Whitby the following day by RNLI crew members.

26 Feb 04 - 07:26 PM (#1124791)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)
From: Tyke

Raggytash was there I was watching through the Pub window!!!

27 Feb 04 - 04:08 AM (#1124999)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)
From: GUEST,Raggytash

Tyke, why am I not surprise by that revelation

27 Feb 04 - 09:05 AM (#1125112)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)
From: Dave Bryant

"The Louisa" was evidently about 3.5 tonnes off it's carriage so sounds about the same size, and according to the description of her journey, it seems to have been very similiar with her being taken off the carriage and slid for some bits of the trip. Porlock Hill itself is quite well-known for it's 1 in 4 gradient, so that must have been fun.

I wonder if the RNLI actually had specific classes and designs of lifeboat as far back as these incidents - the lifeboat used for the re-inactment was evidently from Bembridge I-O-W. The date of the actual Lynmouth incident was 1899 - 18 years later than the Whitby one.

I erroneously said that they rescued the crew of the "Forest Hall" in fact their efforts in standing by her and taking towlines to two tugs, saved both crew and vessel.

08 Mar 04 - 02:45 PM (#1131643)
Subject: Lyr Add: LOUISA'S JOURNEY (Rachelle Jeffs)
From: BB

Here are the words to Rachelle Jeffs's song, which she wrote shortly after the centenary of the event, which was reconstructed in 1999. However, they weren't allowed to use horses to pull the boat - health and safety or animal rights or something of that ilk - and had to use a tractor instead! It was, incidentally, the first song Rachelle ever wrote, and although it has faults, it's a powerful song.

LOUISA'S JOURNEY by Rachelle Jeffs

Day was turning into night when Louisa's name was called;
A ship in trouble in the bay, but the lifeboat's launch was stalled;
'The sea's too wild, the blinding rain - we'll never get her off.
The only was is overland, but the going will be tough.'

'Away, men, away!
We'll launch from Porlock Bay/
'Tis far I know, but away we'll go.
We'll launch from Porlock Bay,
We'll launch from Porlock Bay.'

So overland they started out, a hundred men or so,
With eighteen horses harnessed up, some fourteen miles to go;
The hills were steep, the going rough, and one by one they failed,
Till only twenty men were left to face the storm and gale.

Up and up to County Gate, and on into Somerset,
These brave and fearless men went on, their destination set;
Ten hours and a half they journeyed on, these men who showed no fear
To take Louisa to her launch at the calmer Porlock Weir.

The crew of the Forest Hall were amazed to see Louisa's bow
As she rode the mighty waves; their rescue had come now;
So long they'd waited for this time, for these men so brave and bold,
All heroes to the Forest Hall, they came through the wind and cold.

It was twenty-four hours or maybe more before they were all home;
Louisa's men were hungry, tired and frozen to the bone,
But heroes of their time they were; none will forget this tale,
How the Lynmouth men saved the Forest Hall in the rain and the cold and gale.

If you want the tune, you'll have to buy our CD! :)

We recently heard that the Minehead lifeboat crew realised that they could end up in a similar situation, so they decided to try an overland haul with their own boat through to Porlock. They used a local carter who was also a lifeboatman, and they hitched up four pairs of horses, dragged the boat out of Minehead, and all was going well until, coming down Dunster Steep, the brakeman lost the rope. The carter realised what was happening, whipped up the team to a gallop, and managed to drive them all the way through the twists and turns of Porlock, and finally brought the team under control going up the other side towards the Weir. His employer was so impressed with what he'd done that he gave him an extra sixpence a week on his wages, and until the day he retired, he was the best paid carter in Minehead!


09 Mar 04 - 12:22 PM (#1132151)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)
From: Dave Bryant

Thanks for posting the words Barbara - it sounds a great song when you sing it. I still find it very interesting that two such similiar things happened at virtually the oposite ends of the country within 20 years.

09 Mar 04 - 03:32 PM (#1132358)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)
From: GUEST,Dave (the ancient mariner)

For those of you who may be interested. Yours, Aye. Dave

10 Mar 04 - 02:08 PM (#1133215)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)
From: BB

Thanks for those kind words, Dave.

I'm sure I heard that something similar also happened in Kent, but I can't remember the details.


04 Jul 13 - 10:54 AM (#3533727)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)
From: GUEST,henryp

Is there a song with a better chorus than "Robert Whitworth"?

Northern Belle was an American transatlantic ship which ran aground near Thanet, England on January 5, 1857. No lives were lost, thanks to heroic rescue efforts, in blizzard conditions. However, another ship sank en route to the scene, the Margate lugger "Victory" was lost with a crew of 9.

The Northern Belle set out from New York, crossing the Atlantic, only to run into trouble at Thanet, so close to its destination of London. At 3 am, on a bitter-cold morning, it became apparent that a ship was in some peril in local waters near the little harbour of Broadstairs.

The ship had been cast ashore on a dangerous ledge of rocks below the Foreness Point, at Kingsgate, between Broadstairs and the coast of Margate. On seeing the plight of the Northern Belle's crew, the Coastguard had sent warning to Broadstairs, and so despite the severe conditions prevailing, the Mary White and Culmer White lifeboats were hauled overland by horse-drawn trailer, against the blizzard, to a point where they could be safely launched.

27 Aug 17 - 12:18 PM (#3873903)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)
From: GUEST,henryp

There is another song about the Whitby rescue; The Visitor by Wendy Arrowsmith

Wendy won Saltburn Folk Festival Songwriting Competition in 2007 with this song, and released it on her CD Now Then? in the same year.

Hurry, boys, hurry! Clear away the snow.
Steady, horses, steady! There's many miles to tow.
Hurry, boys, hurry! We'll pray along the way,
As we drag the Whitby lifeboat o'er the hill to Robin Hood's Bay.

You can find it on the Yorkshire Garland site; The Visitor

30 Aug 17 - 10:06 AM (#3874315)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)
From: leeneia

Three years ago, I think it was, I heard Kimber's Men at the festival in Portsoy, Scotland. I recommend going to hear them whenever you can.

Who are Kimber's Men? See first post.

30 Aug 17 - 11:52 AM (#3874328)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Robert Whitworth (RNLI Lifeboat)
From: leeneia

By the way, these tales of heroic rescues and arduous labor are inspiring. Thanks for posting.