Transcribed from Eastern Daily Press, Wed. 7th May
The tiny hamlet of Horsey, on the Norfolk coast,
some twelve miles north of Yarmouth, was yesterday at one swoop bereft of three breadwinners, and the village was
almost silenced by consternation at the disaster which was caused by the remorseless sea. This tragic happening, as
far as could be ascertained by our Yarmouth correspondent, was witnessed by but a single person, and three good men
went to their death within eighty yards of the beach without it being possible for a hand to be raised to save
them. All three were fishermen, all competent men, one a skipper, and no more capable crew could have been got
together, and yet in an instant their boat was filled by a wave and then capsized.
The men, smothered with the nets and gear, had no opportunity to save themselves,
even had they been strong swimmers, and three homes are now mourning their dead.
The victims were John PEGGS, aged about 50, married; Frederick JOHNSON, 45, no
family; and James BRADY, 25, who leaves a widow and two children.
Two bodies have been washed ashore, that of JOHNSON at Bushes Gap, Waxham, and that
of PEGGS, at Harvey's Gap, Waxham. They have been placed side by side, and now await the Coroner's inquiry into the
circumstances attending their tragically sudden deaths. (BRADY's body was later washed ashore at Walcot Gap)
Horsey, to those unfamiliar with the Norfolk seaboard, would appear one of the most
desolate stretches of coast. Beyond the boulder-strewn beach rises the long line of serrated sandhills that are the
sole protection to the low-lying agricultural lands behind from the inroads of the sea. To reach Horsey Gap, one
has to leave the road from Yarmouth, cross for some hundred yards or more a more or less sodden, marshy waste, then
climb the sandhills, and through the Gap descend to the beach. Late in the afternoon, several hundred yards north
of Horsey Gap, our correspondent came upon the grim evidence of the disaster in the hauled-up boat, now practically
ruined. Beside it, her owner, George PEGGS, brother of the unfortunate man John PEGGS, one of the three drowned,
told the harrowing story of the disaster, with a sob in his voice. There was only one house within sight, and a
gaunt coastguardsmen's lookout was just visible in the opposite direction, perched on spidery legs on the crest of
the sandhills. The sea was thundering on the shore in breaking masses of surf, driven by a heavy south-east wind,
and for all else the scene was as wild and desolate as could well be imagined.
George PEGGS said that the boat in which the deceased men went out was formerly a
ship's lifeboat that had never been given a name, and which had been worked from the beach for several years past.
It is 22 1/2 feet long and of 7 ft. beam, and therefore roomy. Three men would certainly appear to be a small crew
for so stout and spacious a craft that to the eye of a landsman looked more capable of accomodating a score hands,
but PEGGS said they were all good men and could easily manage her. They put off in fine weather for mackerel about
6.30pm on Monday, the boat being launched from her usual station about a hundred yards north of the coastguard
lookout. The method is to shoot the nets, and then hang on to them till morning, when they are hauled, and the boat
then returns to the shore with her catch. She was expected in about 7 o'clock on Tuesday morning and George PEGGS
was on the look-out for her on the beach.
Between 8 and 9am yesterday, he saw her making for the beach. The men were rowing, as
the boat was not fitted with mast or sail. There is a bank off the beach, and PEGGS thinks she crossed this safely,
but when 80 yards off the shore calamity overtook her. He saw her running for the beach, and thinks she got ahead
of a sea. Next moment her bow went down, "dived" was his expressive description, and then the wave swamped her. He
at once realised the men were helpless, and knew he could do nothing to aid them. He started to run for the
nearest house, but he had scarcely started when the boat "turned turtle", and came keel uppermost. He knew that the
unfortunate men were doomed, as they were underneath the upturned craft, and could only make vain struggles amid
the raffle of gear and nets inside till death mercifully ended their agonies.
Three-quarters of an hour later the boat, battered and crushed by the waves, was
tossed up with coils of nets hanging about her sides, but no signs of her unfortunate crew. Later in the day two of
the bodies were washed ashore, and it was found that the watch of one of them had stopped at half-past eight. There
were no boats nearby that could render help at the time, and none on the beach to launch to the aid of the drowned
men, though it is doubtful if one could have been of the smallest assistance.
Four boats were also out from the neighbouring village of Palling at the time,
but the sea had become too heavy for them to put in, and they laid off until the lifeboat came out to them, and
they went north to Cromer, where they found refuge after a hard struggle to hold their own.
No trouble had ever been experienced with this boat before. John PEGGS had once
previously been in a boat that capsized, but was fortunately picked up. BRADY's fate is especially hard, for he was
a young man in early manhood who, only six weeks ago, passed his examination at Yarmouth Custom House, where he
qualified as skipper, and had engaged to proceed shortly on the Scotch herring voyage in one of the steam drifters
of the Bloomfield fleet from Yarmouth. All the drowned men had been fishing on the North Sea, and were therefore
skilful boat-handlers who could be trusted anywhere, but against an untoward combination of wind and sea, their
efforts were unavailing.
Some of the nets have been salved and were being placed on the beach as they came
ashore last evening.