Bridlington’s Great Gale memorial service

The Great Gale memorial at Priory Church.

The Great Gale memorial at Priory Church.

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PRIORY Church will be the setting for the annual Great Gale Memorial Service this weekend.

Joined by members and friends of the RNLI, Sunday’s service will commemorate the Bridlington Great Gale disaster of 10th February 1871, when raging seas caused 30 ships to be wrecked, including the Bridlington Lifeboat, and the loss of 70 lives.

Led by the Rev Dave Chislett of St Mark’s, West Hill, the service includes a review of the lifeboat year and, afterwards, a short act of remembrance and dedication at the Great Gale Memorial in the Priory Churchyard.

The Priory Choir will sing ‘They that go down to the sea in ships’ by Sumsion and lead the congregation in the favourite seafarers’ hymns ‘Will your anchor hold’ and ‘Eternal Father, strong to save’.

The Bridlington Lifeboat crew will remember those who were lost in one of the east coast’s worst tragedies.

At the north side of Bridlington’s Priory church under a large tree are three gravestones standing almost shoulder to shoulder. The head stones bear the names of David Purdon, 38, Robert Pickering, 34, and James Watson, 43.

All gave their lives along with three other lifeboat crew trying to rescue the crew of the brig Delta of Whitby during the Great Gale of 1871. During the storm over 20 colliers and merchant vessels were blown towards the shore by hurricane force winds.

The national lifeboat Harbinger, as it was known at that 
time, was propelled by the use of oars and had gone out several times saving many lives but due to the dreadful conditions many of the crew suffered from exhaustion and some with bleeding hands.

After seeing crew being lifted out of the boat unable even to walk David Purdon, who was also the builder of the Harbinger, took a place in the boat along with his assistant James Watson.

The Harbinger made its way though the heavy breaking seas to get along side The Delta.

As they lay alongside the vessel trying to get the crew of the Delta on to the lifeboat it was hit by a large breaking sea which capsized the lifeboat with loss of six of its crew.

The lifeboat crew and all those lost are rememberd on a monument also at the Priory.

After the service, Bridlington’s lifeboat crew will lay a wreath 
after the morning service and pay tribute to their valiant but not forgotten predecessors.

The service begins at 10.30am and, as with all Priory events, everyone is warmly welcome.