In the early 1800’s Filey was one of the largest fishing ports on the East Coast.     Filey was such a busy port that it exported dried fish to Portugal, in particular Skate  Wings. They were dried it is said ‘to the consistency of bone’ to preserve them.                

In 1806 a small group of Methodists formed in Filey but it seems were not very popular. Filey was renown at this time for “swearing. gambling, drunkenness, cock-fighting, fishing on Sunday and other heinous crimes” Attempts were made to convert this town but those trying to spread the Gospel by preaching in the streets, often found themselves pelted with the dried Skate Wings prepared for export. They must have received some pretty serious injuries from this.

                In 1823 at a meeting of the Primitive Methodists Society in Bridlington the subject of Filey was discussed. It was almost decided that, as Filey was a hopeless cause, it would be impossible to establish a Primitive Methodist Society there and attempts were going to be abandoned when a preacher, John Oxtoby who had been born near Pocklington, spoke up. He asked for a final opportunity at attempting to convert the people of Filey. He was granted this chance.

                Needless to say he was very successful and in the words of Canon Cooper of Filey, the town was “turned upside down”. It soon became known for the uprightness of its inhabitants rather than being a fishing place of great notoriety.

                                The Fishermen of Filey became staunch Primitive Methodists and started going out around Yorkshire and the north of England spreading the Gospel in song. This was the start of the Fishermen’s Choir. 

                Primitive Methodism became so popular in Filey that in 1865 it was decided that a new building was needed large enough to cope with the numbers of people now involved. This heralded the building of the Ebenezer Chapel on Union Street, capable of accommodating 900 people. Fund raising began the following year and the foundation stone was laid in July, 1870. This of course became home for the bands of Filey Fishermen who were going out around the country spreading the Gospel.

                 The Filey Fishermen continued their good works apart from an enforced break during  the war years.

                 In 1960, Frank Hanson  decided to get together a choir of fishermen to sing at the Harvest of the Sea. He approached all the boats fishing out of Filey to provide men from their crews for this choir. This temporary choir in fact continued and was the start of the choir as we know it now.

                 We still have one active member was there that first day in 1960. James (Jim) Haxby.  He is the great grandson of  Matthew Haxby   born September 15th, 1834 and died May 31st, 1902. He was a preacher for 35yrs, Lead Singer for 40yrs, and class leader for 30yrs. In addition he conducted the fishermen when they went out singing. His son Matthew and grandson James also went out singing with the fishermen. Jim and his late brother Dick are the fourth generation of Haxby fishermen spreading the Gospel in song continuing a tradition dating back almost to the days of John Oxtoby.

                 The Filey Fishermen’s Choir is proud to continue the work started by John Oxtoby in 1823 and  hopes to be able to do so for many years to come







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