Sal Cooke OBE spoke about the 71 year history of the Yorkshire Belle. By the end of her talk we could smell the sea, marvel at the scenery and wildlife, hear the music, and share with the Richardson family a pride in this polished and shipshape vessel, the finest on the east coast, and one of Bridlington’s real treasures. We could enthusiastically support Sal’s final toast, “Here’s to another 70 years.”
Sal began by looking at the history of tourism to Bridlington. From 1820 paddle steamers from Scarborough would visit and our sailing cobles were used for tourist trips in the summer seasons. There was money to be made from taking shooting parties to Bempton cliffs.
The sand bank, the “canch”, has deterred the use of larger vessels, but in 1922 Bridlington received its first dedicated trip boat, the “Girls Own”. Close in her wake followed the “Britannia”, the “May Morn”, the “Royal Jubilee”, and the “Princess Marina” all coupled to well known harbour families including the Pockley’s, Champlin’s, and Newby’s.
Sal showed pictures of our very own steamship, the “Yorkshireman” which arrived in 1928. This was a large tug rigged for the summer tourist trade. She was eventually sold for scrap in 1965. In 1938 the first “Yorkshire Belle” arrived. She only worked two seasons and was lost in the Humber in 1941 while on boom defence duties.
Sal mentioned some more recent vessels including the “Boys Own” which became the “Flamborian” skippered by the inimitable Trevor Silverwood.
The present day Yorkshire Belle was launched 71 years ago at Cook, Welton & Gemmell’s shipyard in Beverley. They once employed 700 people and could construct 7 ships at a time. By tradition ship ownership is divided into 64 shares and at launch Bride Hall Pockley owned all the Yorkshire Belle’s shares.
The Yorkshire Belle has since had 6 changes of ownership, new engines, and in 1989 some changes to the superstructure. Peter Richardson is now the sole owner and skipper, and has spent 39 years with her. Sal thinks she is the only vessel commissioned for one harbour which has spent all her working life in her home port, albeit with an occasional posting to work on the Humber.
Sal explained that music has always been associated with our sea trips. She mentioned Bobby Fisher, and gave particular praise to Jim Eldon, known as the “Bridlington Fiddler”. Sal played a sample of his busking style, a song about his time on the Yorkshire Belle.
Sal concluded by describing the wide variety of cruises now conducted, including the wildlife cruises to Bempton cliffs. She explained how at Bridlington nature tourism is taking over from the declining beach holiday market and has a growing international appeal.
The Prior Garry Sunley asked Bro Peter Quigley to give the vote of thanks. He thanked Sal for an entertaining evening which rekindled happy childhood memories.