Hurry, boys, hurry! Clear away the snow.
Steady, horses, steady! There’s many miles to tow.
Hurry, boys, hurry! We’ll pray along the way,
As we drag the Whitby lifeboat o’er the hill to Robin Hood’s Bay.
In the middle of winter, the Visitor set to sail;
The weather it grew colder, the wind became a gale.
At sea the waves grew higher, the rain it turned to hail,
And then a fearsome blizzard turned all the hillside pale.
On the eighteenth day of January in year 1881,
Coxswain Henry Freeman felt dark clouds block the sun.
That night the news it reached him, a brig ashore had run.
He called out for his crewmen for their job had just begun.
The storm was blowing a gale now, the seas were grown too high;
The lifeboat men they made a vow to save the ship they’d try.
No local boat could safely sail or everyman would die,
So from Whitby overland, me boys, the lifeboat, heave her high!
Said Coxswain Henry Freeman, ‘Wake them from their sleep!
Bring horses and bring brave men, the snow is seven feet deep!’
Two-hundred men cleared the way ahead, eighteen horses earned their keep,
Whilst from the Bay the village men by the road the snow did heap.
Six miles that lifeboat they did tow, (too far for hearts not true.)
Over hills in driving snow, it took them hours but two.
Down to the Bay the boat did go, whilst the raging storm it blew.
Into battle with their briny foe went Coxswain and his crew.
The lifeboat fought the snowy wave, the crew they passed the test,
And every soul that they did save gave thanks for being blessed.
Not for one a watery grave, but home and grateful rest,
And for Coxswain and for crew so brave - a legend of the best.
Chorus, then final chorus
Hurry, boys, hurry! We’ve cleared away the snow.
Steady, horses, steady! To your stables you may go.
Hurry, boys, hurry! Tell your children of the day,
That we dragged the Whitby lifeboat o’er the hill to Robin Hood’s Bay.
(repeat last 2 lines)
© Wendy Arrowsmith/Arrowsmith Music 2007
This is a contemporary song about Yorkshire.
The plaque which stands at the top of Robin Hood’s Bay, commemorating this event says that the rescue was on January 18th 1881. Coxswain Henry Freeman had been the sole survivor of a previous Whitby Lifeboat disaster in 1861. There is a website in place giving an account of Whitby lifeboats for over one hundred years, including details of this rescue and with a photograph of Henry Freeman. www.whitby-yorkshire.co.uk/lifeboat/lifeboats A re-enactment of the rescue took place in August 1999. It has also been captured by the Whitby based artist, John Freeman, in paintings called The Pull and The Rescue. www.johnfreemanstudio.co.uk/The_Pull/jfthepull.html
This song was written by Wendy Arrowsmith. www.wendyarrowsmith.com
It is now gaining widespread popularity, not least from Wendy’s own singing, but can be heard in North Yorkshire folk clubs and at folk festivals in the UK. Wendy won Saltburn Folk Festival Songwriting Competition in 2007 with this song and released it on her CD Now Then? in the same year.
See also 121 Freeman’s Waistcoat for another song on Henry Freeman.