Three Score and Ten

William [Delf], 1889 | Roud 16873, Ballad Index PaSe138, TYG 5

Lyrics:

Methinks I see a host of craft
Spreading their sails alee
Down the Humber they do glide
All bound for the Northern Sea
Methinks I see on each small craft
A crew with hearts so brave
Going out to earn their daily bread
Upon the restless wave

And it’s three score and ten
Boys and men were lost from Grimsby town
From Yarmouth down to Scarborough
Many hundreds more were drowned
Our herring craft, our trawlers
Our fishing smacks, as well
They long to fight that bitter night
And battle with the swell

Methinks I see them yet again
As they leave this land behind
Casting their nets into the sea
Those herring shoals to find
Methinks I see them yet again
They’re all on board all right
With their nets rolled up and their decks cleaned off
And the side lights burning bright

And it’s three score and ten
Boys and men were lost from Grimsby town
From Yarmouth down to Scarborough
Many hundreds more were drowned
Our herring craft, our trawlers
Our fishing smacks, as well
They long to fight that bitter night
And battle with the swell

Me thinks I’ve heard the captain say
“Me lads we’ll shorten sail”
With the sky to all appearances
Looks like an approaching gale
Methinks I see them yet again
The midnight hour is past
The little craft a-battling there
Against the icy blast

And it’s three score and ten
Boys and men were lost from Grimsby town
From Yarmouth down to Scarborough
Many hundreds more were drowned
Our herring craft, our trawlers
Our fishing smacks, as well
They long to fight that bitter night
And battle with the swell

October’s night ’twas such a fright
‘Twas never seen before
There were mast and yards and broken spars
Come washed up on the shore
There was many a heart in sorrow,
There was any a heart so brave
There was many a fine and hearty lad
Who found their watery grave

And it’s three score and ten
Boys and men were lost from Grimsby town
From Yarmouth down to Scarborough
Many hundreds more were drowned
Our herring craft, our trawlers
Our fishing smacks, as well
They long to fight that bitter night
And battle with the swell

Featured On:
Songs of the Lakes, Rivers, and Seas

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About the Song:

“Three Score and Ten”, or “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), is a poem written by William Del** (no one is entirely sure how his name was spelled) and a traditional melody. It tells the story of smacksmen from Grimsby and Hull that died in the gale of 1889. William wrote this song to raise money for the survivors. He was born in Wangford, Suffolk in 1851. According to The Hull Times on March 2nd, 1889, the ships that sank were The Sea Searcher (trawl smack, 5 men), The John Wintringham (11 men), The Eton (iron steam trawl smack, 8 men), The British Workman (cod smack, 7 men), The Sir Frederick Roberts (trawl smack, 5 men), The Kitten (trawl smack, 5 men), and The Harold (trawl smack, 5 men).

In 1957, the song was collected by J. Pearson of Filey who had preserved the song in the repertoire of the Filey Fishermen’s Choir, which Pearson was a member of. Over the years, six of its original verses had been lost, but it picked up a melody, a chorus, and an additional verse. Some of the lost verses were about other fishing and lifeboat disasters at Hull, Withernsea, Filey, and Southport.