1917 court: Fisherman fears rough sea will batter cobles

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At the Scarborough Police Court a case of great interest to local coblemen came up.

It was one in which William Lancaster, 35, Sandside, was summoned for having caused an obstruction on the Sandside by means of a coble on January 24th. He pleaded guilty.

The chief constable said he had taken the proceedings against the defendant not with a view to any punishment at all, but in order to make known to coble and boat owners in Scarborough that now, under the present conditions of total darkness which existed at night, it was quite impossible to allow boats to be placed on the Foreshore Road at night. In that particular case there was a high tide and the sea was rough, and the defendant was afraid his coble would be washed off the slipway. With assistance he dragged it up on to the roadway and left it there.

It was a black night, and there the coble was left. Had a military car come along the Marine Drive at a rapid rate, it would have run into this coble.

Defendant had said, quite truly, that it had been the custom, when there was a high tide, or rough sea, to drag the boats up and leave them there. Of course, in those days, when there were lights, there would be some means of seeing it. As it was there was no light on the coble, and there was no light on the road. Under present conditions such a thing could not be allowed, and he (the chief) had brought the proceedings to emphasise that fact, and to make it known to all down at the harbour that the roadway could not possibly be obstructed now, that it led to danger, and whatever the custom had been it must be stopped.

Replying to a question by the defendant, the chief said that PC Craggy saw the coble Martha at 8.30pm on the side of the road near the footpath, nearly opposite the Missions to Seamen’s Institute. The coble was taking up about six feet of the roadway. The constable made certain enquiries, but could not find defendant - perhaps he ought to have made more enquiries. The coble was removed at ten o’clock on the following morning.

Defendant: If he had gone into the Missions to Seamen’s Institute it could have been removed. It was put there at a quarter to five, and I could have got 20 men and cleared it away in ten minutes.

The chief: I quite agree, but that does not do away with the responsibility.

Defendant said that he acted unthinkingly. There was room for three motor cars to pass the cobles. The mayor asked, if, at high tide, it would be possible to put a coble in a place where it was not dangerous, and defendant replied: “Yes, but this was done unthinkingly.” He had he said, been cleaning the coble, and the tide was throwing heavy weights about.

The mayor (to the chief): Would it be within the regulations if a light was shown?

The chief: Not without my permission. He added that if defendant had gone to him he would have known of the obstruction, and it could have been placed elsewhere.

The mayor, after the magistrates had consulted, that in view of what the chief constable had said with regard to the matter that being the first case brought, the magistrates would dismiss it under the Probation of Offenders’ Act, but they wished it to be clearly understood that it was an offence and a dangerous proceeding, and one which might lead to serious consequences to leave boats about in that way where they caused an obstruction. If there should be any further case it would not be so leniently dealt with.

Lancaster asked where they were to put boats in a gale of wind, with the tide across the road? He had known them to be put in the back streets.

The mayor reminded him that he had said the boat could be put where there was no obstruction, and the chief said the vessels could be placed in positions where there would not be an obstruction.