Three Score and Ten
DESCRIPTION: "Methinks I see some little craft spreading their sails a-lee, As down the Humber they do glide" to go fishing. But "Three score and ten, boys and men, were lost from Grimsby town" and many others from elsewhere in a great (February/October) storm
AUTHOR: Words: William Delf/Delph/Delft
EARLIEST DATE: 1889 (The Hull Times)
KEYWORDS: ship fishing wreck disaster storm
Feb 8-9, 1889 - the gale of 1889
FOUND IN: Britain(England(North))
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Palmer-OxfordBookOfSeaSongs 138, "Three Score and Ten" (1 text, 1 tune)
In Memoriam of the poor Fishermen who lost their lives in the Dreadful Gale from Grimsby and Hull, Feb. 8 & 9, 1889 (original broadside title)
NOTES [316 words]: Although well known in pop folk circles, this does not seem to be very well known in tradition; there are only about five field collections, mostly from Yorkshire (which is in the area in which the disaster was most strongly felt). The original poem by William Del.. (no one seems to be sure of the spelling) was supposed to raise money for the survivors, but the song as it's usually now sung has lost more than half of his original lyrics.
I have not managed to find a copy of the original broadside to see what it actually said. - RBW
"Elizabeth in Brighton" wrote with additional information about the song's origin:
The William Delf "poem" Three Score and Ten was apparently published in The Hull Times, 2 March 1889. The British Library may have it online via http://www.hullwebs.co.uk/content/k-victorian/newspapers/directory.htm but the link for 1889 to The Hull Arrow was unavailable  "undergoing maintenance" when I looked.
The storm affected fishing towns all along the east coast of England from Yarmouth (Norfolk), to Scarborough (Yorkshire) which includes Lincolnshire, the county in between. It probably affected fishing towns even further afield, Suffolk and Kent to the south and Durham and Northumberland to the north and perhaps Scotland (not a county!) too.
AuntieShanty quotes the newspaper article on her web site at https://www.auntieshanty.org/songs/three-score-and- ten/ as saying:
"As day after day passes and no tidings arrive of the missing Grimsby smacks, it is beginning to be realised that the gale of the 9th ult. will prove one of the most disastrous to the Grimsby fishing trade on record. altogether nearly a dozen fishing vessels, carrying between 60 and 70 hands, are missing.
Most of the vessels were provisioned for eight or nine days, and many of them have been out for over a month. Of the safety of seven of them all hope has now been abandoned."
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