Primitive Methodism in Scarborough
Mr Smith next spoke of labouring with John Oxtoby, known as parying Johnny, at Filey. Early in 1823 Johnny Oxtoby was staying at Bridlington. The quarterly meeting considered the advisibility, or otherwise, of giving up Filey. The want of success led the majority to give up all hope. An appeal was made to Oxtoby, "Come John tell us what you think about it," he exclaimed emphatically, "Think! Why I think the Lord has a great work to do at Filey, and if you send me I will go and live upon potatoes and salt, and lie on a board if necessary, before it shall be given up."
The meeting decided that he should go to Filey, and give the place one more trial before it was given up. John set out on his journey, a person who knew him asked where he was going, "To Filey," was the reply, "Where the Lord is ganning to revive His work. Under a hedge near Muston Mill, he fell on his knees to pray. He pleaded loud, and the miller heard him in astonishment say, "Thou munna make a meal o' me! Thou munna mak a feal o' me! I told them at Bridlington that Thou was ganning to revive thy work, and Thou must deah so, or I shall never be able to show my face among them again, and then what will the people say about praying and believing?"
After wrestling in payer, he was assured that God would save 30 souls at his mission, and he rose exclaiming "It is done, Lord! It is done! Filey is taken! Filey is taken!" Fresh from the seat of mercy he entered, singing in the streets, "Turn to the lord and seek salvation, etc." A crowd of fishermen and others came to listen. Divine power attended his address. Hardened sinners wept, and strong men trembled, he continued his labours for some time; visiting from house to house, during the day, and held meetings at night."
"The revival at Filey was followed by most blessed results. Previous to Oxtoby's visit, sabbath breaking was general, shameless, the people would "skean their bait," cart their fishing things down to the sands, and prepare for fishing all Sunday long. the new converts were pained at this and abandoned Sunday fishing and all other wordly labour on that day. In most cases the owners and men were unwilling to give up Sunday fishing, but one day the owner of a small yawl belonging to Whitby, offered to lend her to Thomas Cowling, of Filey.
He accepted the offer, and at once gave up fishing on the Lord's day. Then three young men, William, John and George Jenkinson purchased a boat of their own, and called her "Three Brothers." They were subject to general derision; the people said they "could not make a living," and they would "soon come to nought." One Sunday, two Scarborough boats caught two and a half lasts each (about 50,000 herrings). The anti-sabbatarians challenged the brothers to get half as much; the challenge was aceepted in firm faith that God would defend the right.
On Monday the brothers sailed, returning on Wednesday the little yawl arrived with three last, again on Thursday the brothers arrived with five last; in all 11 last, or 110,000 herrings. When the other boat returned, it was found they toiled hard and taken nothing. From that time Sunday fishing was doomed, the worldly wise saw that it paid to honour God and keep his commandments.
"...James Wyrill, one of the first fruits of the early church, and a diligent superintendent of the first Sunday School at Scarborough. His name brings back one of my earliest recollections of a storm on this coast, on the morning of Saturday, February 24th, 1844, This was the most terrific storm I have ever witnessed. Five yawls belonging to this port were out fishing. The first to return was the yawl owned and commanded by James Wyrill. While she was making for our harbour, and within voice of his wife and thousands of people on the piers, and by the foreshore, a tremendous wave rose and rolled like a mountain breaking over the yawl, filling her and sinking both her and all hands into a watery grave.
The body of James Wyrill was recovered on the second day of July following, having been 129 days in the sea. He was interred in St. Marys Church yard, Scarborough. More than 800 persons attended the funeral. The stone that marks the spot has a representation of the yawl and the surging wave carved thereon; the second yawl was the "Jerome", owned by the late Jerome Vassali, of Scarborough, and manned by a crew from Filey. She was sailing along, when in the South Bay, immediately opposite my birthplace, she was struck by the fury of the sea and was turned bottom up, all hands found a watery grave, and the vessel shattered to a total wreck.
...The third yawl came near the spot where the first was lost, and was sunk by a similar wave, but providentially she rose again. Her boat on deck was full of water; the weary crew managed to launch it into the sea, and run their vessel on the sands, where the foreshore road now runs at a spot opposite the building now in use as refreshment rooms, in connection with the Grand Hotel, the deliverance of this yawl, and the saving of the lives of all on board is believed to be in answer to prayer.
The father and mother of one of the crew spent the whole night in alternate prayer and reading the word of God. The answer was vessel and all safe, and nothing but the small boat lost. To God belongs the praise, all glory to His name. Two other yawls were out at sea commanded by William Wyrill and Henry Wyrill. They were burnt off, and remained at sea many days, but returned in safety after the storm. Much exhausted by cold and hunger, their provisions having been consumed long before they arrived in Port.
Source From a leaflet in a green bound pamphlet in the Scarborough History Room in Scarborough Library.