Weather gods willing, Snark will arrive in Whitby on 6 July 2022 at the end of the 4th leg of our Round Britain Jubilee Cruise. We will be following in the wake of many famous mariners such as Captain Cook and the much less illustrious brothers Isaac and Robert Marshall, my putative ancestors, both master mariners sailing out of Whitby in the mid 19thc. They were all sailing on Whitby 'cats' or colliers, like Cook's Endeavour. These traded around the North Sea coast, from Norway to Belgium and Edinburgh to London, exporting Yorkshire coal to fuel the Victorian social revolution.
Whitby was still a thriving port when the Russian freighter Dimitry was wrecked on a nearby beach in 1885.
Frank Meadow Sutcliffe, the photographer recorded the aftermath of this tragedy along with many other aspects of Whitby life including photos of Billy Boys, cobles, fisher girls and old salty sea dogs (to be seen in Whitby Museum).
Now at the same time as Sutcliffe was recording life in Whitby, Bram Stoker was tour manager for the melodramatic actor Henry Irving. After a particularly hectic and stressful tour of the theatres of Northern England, Bram decided to take a break in Whitby, suggested by Henry, who had once run a circus in the town!
Bram will certainly have seen Sutcliffe's photos and visited the famous Abbey ruins and cliff top church. He clearly heard all about the wreck of the 'Dimitry' which was carrying a cargo of silver sand just like the ship 'Demeter' in his novel Dracula. The fictional ship was also wrecked at Whitby, bringing with it the melodramatic and demonic antihero; some suggest modelled on Irving's flamboyant personality.
He will have met the fish wives and their daughters, searching the rocky shoreline for whelks for bate or carrying the long lines to their father's cobles and maybe even going out with them into the North Sea in search of cod. A target for Dracula's nocturnal ravages? He will have heard of the disaster of the lifeboat loosing all but one of the crew, the salty dog above. He was only saved because he was the one wearing one of the new fangled cork life jackets.
And he will have seen the jet mourning jewellery for sale in the local shops, a speciality of Whitby and district and the origin of Whitby's connection to death and the gothic. Wind fast forward a century and thanks to Bram's novel, steam punk and goth are the order of the day, the town even houses a Vampire museum!
We will be embarking our next group of passengers at the Fish Quay in Whitby for the Northumbrian leg of our cruise. More abbeys, castles and puffins to come.