Monday 28 December 2009

XMAS 2008

The organ featured here is the old Southsea Gavoli belonging to Graham Atkinson.

Tuesday 22 December 2009


As I walked over the western plain
The silent snow descending
I saw winter lean on the valley's edge
His frozen medals spending
Charles Causley

Sunday 13 December 2009


This memorial to Gunner Robert Watmore is set in the grass at the front of some old people's flats close to The Metropole Hotel on the west cliff.

Tuesday 8 December 2009


Abe Rogers was a bold peddler who was afraid of nothing. Selling pins, needles and other small household items, he travelled from door to door and made a meagre living from his endeavours. He was used to crossing the vast swathes of moorland to get from one village to another. Changes in the weather, treacherous boggy ground, inpenetrable fog and the like held no fears for Abe Rogers.

One day on the moor a figure approached that Abe recognised instantly from her haggard outline and malevolent appearance. It was Old Kathy, the Ruswarp witch. Much feared in the area, it was said that a mere glimpse of her countenance could render one bewitched. No one dare cross the threshold of her cottage, and when she went walking wise folk kept their distance.

For a long forgotten and unrecorded reason a fierce dispute arose between them. Tempers flared and vicious words were exchanged. The witch suddenly drew a sharp knife from the copious folds of her clothing and angrily lunged at Abe. By no means a young man, the peddler nevertheless put up a spirited resistance and managed to wrestle the dagger wielding crone to the ground.

Struggling on the ground with the peddler astride her trying to wrest the knife from her bony grip, the hag began feverishly reciting a spell in some ancient language lost to time, screaming half formed words of hellish provenence into the misty moorland air.

As Abe watched, the fog ominously congealed into an army of weird unearthly creatures surrounding the two antagonists completely. Encouraged by Kathy's hysterical screams, the legion of demons closed in on Abe. A lesser man would have fled to the nearest village hostelry and drunk away the memory, perhaps convincing himself it was all a fanciful illusion, but not Abe the peddler. He stood his ground as the fiends approached. Reaching into his pack, he took a pinch of some unknown substance and cast it into the air.

Immediately a whirlwind began flinging grit and sand at the prostrate Kathy and her hellborn battallion of wraiths. As his persecutors fought against the freakish tornado, Abe grabbed his pack and made his getaway across the moor until Kathy's terrible screams faded into the distance and the drifting mists.

Although the villagers of Ruswarp remained in mortal dread of Kathy, whenever he was in the vicinity Abe always called on the old woman, walking straight into her cottage as bold as brass. As far as the meeting on the moors goes, no one will ever know the truth of that day.

Old Kathy (sometimes called Kattie or Katy) lived from 1775 until 1823. She is the only witch from North Yorkshire to have her individual likeness preserved. The doll was made over a century ago and formed part of schoolmaster John Hall's collection of visual aids for giving local history lessons.

The doll is still on display in Whitby Museum, Pannett Park.

Monday 23 November 2009


From the Whitby Times of Friday 5th of November 1869, 140 years ago to the month. A popular performance by Professor Overton, the three-headed man, at Castleton Temperance Hall.

Wednesday 18 November 2009


Although concrete might at first seem to be a wholly impractical and rather cumbersome material to use in shipbuilding, in fact it makes a lot more sense than you might think. For boats over 25 feet long its often the cheapest and easiest material to employ. It doesn't need a weatherproof coating and it won't rust. Also a 30ft, 8 ton displacement vessel made of wood or concrete will weigh the same.

The Creteblock at Whitehall Shipyard in the 1940s

During ther First World War steel stocks were low. The British Admiralty ordered some support vessels to be made of concrete. Two were built at Whitehall Shipyard in Whitby, but by the time they were completed in 1919 the war was over.
The wreck of The Creteblock on Whitby Scar is a familiar sight to anyone who has walked along the rocks to Saltwick Bay at low tide. In fact this vessel was not one of those from The Whitehall Shipyard. The Creteblock was built in Essex. She was too late to see active war service and was used as a tug before being sold to a Teesside shipyard.

Brought to Whitby in the 1930s she remained there, a decaying hulk until 1947. She was towed out to sea to be scuttled but abandoned before deep water could be reached. She now lies battered and broken, crewed only by barnacles, limpets and mussels in her final resting place beneath Whitby's imposing cliffs..

Monday 9 November 2009


All known living things are divided into five major groups, known as Kingdoms. Monera and Protista contain tiny, primitive organisms such as the various types of bacteria and other microbes. Animals and Plants are well known to us and relatively easy to identify.

The remaining Kingdom is Fungi. Unlike plants, Fungi cannot produce their own food by photosynthesis. Instead they absorb nutrients from their surroundings. They do not need the sun and they thrive in dark, damp places. Hence the black mould around your bath, the white coat of fluff on that orange that's been in the fruit bowl too long, and nasty, itchy Athlete's Foot.

Nevertheless a short Autumn walk in an area of woodland such as that around Falling Foss can yield beautiful examples of Fungi. The old deciduous trees around the waterfall (largely oak, birch and ash etc.) provide ample sustenance, whether alive or dead and decaying. Also the leaf litter that blankets the forest floor in Autumn hides many interesting surprises if you take time to look.

The Beefsteak Fungus Piptoporus betulinus

The Common Puffball Lycoperdon perlatum

The Birch Bracket Fungus Ganoderma applanatum

The Cep Boletus edulis

Thursday 29 October 2009


On the Sabbath morning of 13 July, at about six o'clock, the beautiful suspension bridge, erected by Colonel James Wilson MP was thrown down. In cosequence of the heavy and continued rains in the latter part of the week, the river Esk was swollen to a greater height than it has attained for many years.

These words describe the disastrous floods of 1828 which not only swept away this bridge, but many others along the Esk valley. Because of the topography of the valley, particularly it's trough like shape and the various dales ( Westerdale, Danbydale, Glaisdale etc.) which feed into it, the water level is prone to quickly rise and equally quickly subside.

Ruswarp Bridge destroyed by floods in 1828

This postcard shows a photograph of Ruswarp Bridge sometime before the floods of 1930, when on 23rd of July the waters rose to 5ft 2in in the upper room of The Bridge Inn. This bridge was also washed away during that terrible downpour when approximately 80 million tons of water were fed into the Esk valley in less than three days.

Ruswarp Bridge prior to 1930
This of course is the imposing and reassuringly sturdy looking iron bridge spanning the Esk at Ruswarp today. Reputedly made from iron supplied by the same company that supplied the iron for the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The postcards are from the collection of Mark Lines.

Additional information from Ruswarp, A Brief History by Alan Whitworth,(Culva House Publications 2004)

The bridge during the 1930 floods

Wednesday 28 October 2009


depth of autumn
a few leaves on the tree

autumn leaves
the girls talk about

2x haiku by john tiong chunghoo

photos: pannett park 28:10:09

Tuesday 27 October 2009


In April builders renovating a house in Henrietta Street were working on the ceiling above the fireplace when a long deceased cat unceremoniously fell on them.

A relic of the time when it was considered wise to brick a live cat within the walls or chimney of a newly built dwelling to ward off witches and their familiars.

The practice was probably especially necessary in Whitby, because as late as the census of 1816 seven women gave their occupation as sorceress or fortune teller.

Builders have come across these wizened amulets all over the country. The Red Cat Hotel in Norfolk takes it's name from one of these mummified felines. Examples can also be seen in museums such as Portland in Dorset and Keswick in Cumbria.

Despite the belief that these superstitions are rooted deep in the past, Stuart Brown, the property renovator from Sleights who discovered the cat in Tim Deacon's cottage on Henrietta Street, walled the leathery furless body back where it was found. It remains there today steadfastly continuing it's work as a supernatural guardian.

Friday 16 October 2009


A fine sight this cold, blustery afternoon as the QM2 sailed close to Whitby, sounding her horn. Captain, Bernard Warner, brought the liner within sight of the town as a mark of respect for his friend Roy Weatherill, a lifeboatman from Whitby who passed away in June. A large crowd of spectators on the cliff tops watched her sail northwards towards Edinburgh. Camera flashes could be seen onboard. The haunting deep wail of the ship's horn was just audible over the wind and wave noise.

Wednesday 14 October 2009


The Council have started taking away the beach huts today before the autumn storms do.

Sunday 27 September 2009


The colourful life of Duleep Singh reads like a pulp romantic tragedy. The Maharajah of Lahore was born into fabulous wealth in 1838 when Britain was involved in a fierce struggle for Punjab.

In 1849 his mother was imprisoned, Punjab was annexed by Britain and the 11 year old Maharajah was deposed.

He came to England in 1854 and became a great favourite of Queen Victoria. He lived through his teens and into his twenties in Scotland, where he was known as 'The Black Prince of Perthshire'. He enjoyed game shooting and became well known for hosting lavish receptions and entertainments.

In 1860 he returned to India to rescue his mother from political exile in Nepal. Four years later, after the pair had become regulars on the society scene, she suddenly died. He returned to India to cremate her and arrived back in England with Bamba Muller, a girl from a Cairo mission school who became his wife.

They lived in Elveden, Surrey. Duleep Singh transformed the run-down estate into a modern, thriving game preserve. The house became a semi-oriental palace with huge paintings, grand sculptures and cases of jewels reminding visitors of his former status.

Even so he became dissolute, took mistresses, fathered illegitimate children and used up his generous allowance forcing him to beg for more from the Queen. With a sense of burning injustice, he returned to India in 1886 to place himself as the lawful sovereign of the Sikh people. Unfortunately he was arrested at Aden and returned to Europe.

After a miserable few years in Moscow he came to beg official pardon from the Queen. Duleep Singh was now a broken man. In 1893 the Maharajah of Lahore, who placed the fabled Koh-I-Noor diamond in the hand of Queen Victoria, died of an epileptic fit in a lonely hotel room in Paris, penniless and shattered.


For four years, between 1859 and 1853, the Maharajah rented Mulgrave Castle from the Marquis of Normanby who was then the British Ambassador in Florence. He was often seen hawking on the moors in full Indian regalia accompanied by English gamekeepers in scarlet uniforms.

The Maharajah had a road between Sandsend and Whitby constructed following in part the line of the current route. It considerably shortened the distance by road between Mulgrave Castle and Whitby. Indeed the toll booth still remains, and tolls were being collected until 1925.

Unfortunately the legend that Duleep Singh had the road built because his elephants objected to walking along the beach cannot be verified. There is no evidence that elephants ever resided at Mulgrave.

Indeed there is no evidence that elephants don't like sand between their toes, as this photograph clearly shows. Probably taken in the early 1900s, after the death of Duleep Singh, these two seem quite happy on the sands below the battery. They were probably from a visiting circus.


This pony and trap was seen on Whitby beach last weekend enjoying a trot along the sands in the afternoon sun.

Nice to see the old traditional forms of transport being kept alive. This picture shows Mr and Mrs J. Tinsley and their son William at Low Farndale around 1905.

Tuesday 22 September 2009


Here's an old postcard showing Ruswarp High Street minus traffic.
The old Post Office was on the left and has closed down, probably to be converted into accommodation. Rowing down the Esk is thirsty work so the Post Office was always handy for an ice pop before walking back to Whitby over the fields.

Saturday 19 September 2009


In A Glossary of Yorkshire Words and Phrases Collected in Whitby and the Neighbourhood of 1855, the following word crops up and helps to explain a local place name.

Upgang viaduct fell into disuse after 1958 when trains ceased running from Loftus to Whitby. Passenger numbers dwindled significantly after the war and the cost of maintaining the line, particularly the five poorly built viaducts, became prohibitive. They were at Staithes, Sandsend, East Row, Newholme Beck and Upgang.

The structure was 86 feet high at its furthest point from the ground and about 300 feet long. It contained approximately 200 tons of steel. Demolition of the pillars was made difficult because they were filled with concrete, an estimated 12 tons in each. The workmen had to cut through the concrete base of the pillars, and then pull them over.

All salvaged material was cut into 4ft.6in. by 2ft.6in. pieces before being despatched as scrap. It is thought a large proportion of it went into making sea defences.

Friday 4 September 2009


Not really a moth actually, but the caterpillar of a moth.

This fat fellow in the hairy jersey is the larva of the Buff Tip moth. I found this one crawling over the yard, probably looking for a suitable bit of earth in which to pupate.

The caterpillars feed in colonies and can often strip every leaf from a branch of their favourite trees. They're particularly partial to oak, birch and sallow, but will eat almost any leaves if need be. The adult moth will emerge next June, but they are rarely seen except when attracted to a light.


In 1891 Seely and Co. published William Chambers Lefroy's 'The Ruined abbeys of Yorkshire.'

Whitby Abbey is the last one featured, so its quite a scroll through to get there, a bit like climbing up the 199 steps. The illustrations are by A. Brunet-Debaines and H. Toussaint and are uniformly beautiful. Lefroy's prose paint evocative pictures of Yorkshire's past with a keen sense of rhythm and poetry.

You can actually read this book without leaving the blog. One click on the + sign makes it large enough to read. Whitby Abbey is on page 272.

Thursday 27 August 2009


The German U-boat UB41 was built in Hamburg at the shipyard of Blohm and Voss. She was launched on May 6th 1916, and sank 8 ships during her naval career. The last time she was seen above the waves was on October 5th 1917 by the SS Melbourne in the seas off Scarborough, under the command of Oberleutnant Max Ploen.

It was always assumed that she fell victim to a mine off Scarborough, but in 2003 she was found 30 miles away from where she was thought to lie. Nearby lies UB75. Both wrecks are considered war graves, as 58 submariners went down with the vessels.

They were discovered by divers Carl Racey and Andrew Jackson, who were unable to tell whether they'd struck mines or suffered internal explosions.

According to Andrew "The early submariners of WW1 were true pioneers of submarine warfare. These vessels were hard mistresses to crew and officers alike, often referred to as Iron Coffins or Sisters of Sorrow."

Here's a video of the wreck of UB41.

See more local wrecks at the Subseatv YouTube page.

Thanks to Mark Lines for information about this fascinating subject.

Monday 24 August 2009


Here's an interesting one,because there is of course a village by this name up on the moors. Could this be a clue to the origin of that name?

Once again A Glossary of Yorkshire Words and Phrases Collected in Whitby and the Neighbourhood of 1855 was the source.

This is Stape Silver Band, formed in 1884 and still going strong. They entered local competitions in the early 1900s and won many prizes including the 'Jingling Johnny', presented to the band at the first Douthwaite Dale competition. This strange looking trophy now resides in the Castle Museum, York.

Friday 21 August 2009


It's the peak of Whitby's summer season and the 169th historic Regatta starts tomorrow. For many local families the Regatta has always been a much anticipated and enjoyable event. The above photograph, from the turn of the last century, shows huge crowds of spectators watching the rowing events in the harbour. Sadly, some of the unique atmosphere has diminished in recent years, not helped by the loss of the Greasy Pole and the banning of large decorated Floats scattering 'dangerous' sweets into the crowds. However, enough still remains to make this a great 'carnival on land and sea'.

Sunday 16 August 2009


Many of the terms included in A Glossary of Yorkshire Words and Phrases Collected in Whitby and the Neighbourhood of 1855 have sadly become forgotten. In an attempt to reincarnate some of our local expressions, each week one of the juicier ones will be highlighted here on OUT ON YE!

Here's the first selection. I hope you'll attempt to use it in context at some time during the week. If you do, please leave a comment explaining how it went.

Monday 10 August 2009


In the biggest influx for decades, millions of Painted Lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui) have flown into Britain from the north African deserts.

The last major invasion was in 1996, but was nowhere near as large. It is thought that heavy winter rains in Morocco during February triggered the germination of the caterpillars' food plants. Large numbers were seen in Spain in April. A few weeks later they had made it to France.
By September they'll be gone back to the hot, distant land of their mothers.

Thanks to Barbara Godfrey for the photographs, which were taken on 09/08/09 near the Abbey.