Bridlington Cobles: A Tale of Work, Sport and Romance

A report on our meeting held on 27th November 2017

Augustinians know that there is no one better than Bro Fred Walkington MBE to tell us about Bridlington and its relationship with the sea. This time we learned about cobles and the people that used them for work, sport and even romance. Bro Fred enhanced the stories with an amazing collection of photographs.

Bro Fred said the coble design is known to date back to Elizabethan times and is remarkably similar to a Viking long ship. In 1838 there was no mention of Bridlington as a fishing station. Contemporary paintings show no cobles in the harbour. The sail powered fishing cobles were based closer to the fishing grounds at places such as Flamborough.

Documents Bro Fred has showed that cobles did frequent the harbour to carry provisions to ships at anchor in the bay and to assist ships entering and leaving the harbour. A more recent photograph showed the coble “My Judith” pulling at the bow of a coaster exiting the harbour. Cobles were also used to salvage valuable anchors and chains lost in the bay.

What can a Norwegian ship’s captain do when he wants to get married but can’t get home. Bro Fred reported that in 1931 the captain and his betrothed were married in a coble out of Bridlington in international waters by a Norwegian Priest. Amazingly a second Norwegian couple did the same and the spray was reported to be like confetti.

As tourism increased cobles were used to take visitors on trips. Broad steps were constructed to help passengers get in and out of the cobles.

In 1922 the Bridlington Business Men’s Association introduced a week long fishing competition to take place at the end of September. As Bro Fred showed, magnificent trophies and prizes were donated by the corporation and local businesses. Bro Fred’s father was a regular winner and Bro Fred’s wife Carol was wearing one of the medals won for all of us to see. Bro Fred’s Mother won the ladies cup in 1956. Many of the trophies are on display in the Bayle Museum.

Aquatic sports in the harbour were introduced in 1887. Bro Fred’s photographs showed what a range of novelty competitions this entailed and the very large crowds that the events attracted. The “deal plank” race could have been inspired by the Hawaiian Princes who introduced surfing to Britain right here in Bridlington.

Sadly, the harbour working and tourist boats are no longer cobles, but there is a growing interest in sailing cobles and new boats have been built.

The Prior Bro Garry Sunley asked Bro Martin Wallace to give the vote of thanks.  Bro Martin thanked the Bro Fred for introducing us to an amazing collection of pictures, stories and people.