The Young Mariners at Christmas

The Young Mariners were a society of Burnham men, some young, some not so young, employed on or beside the Crouch. The group formed in the latter part of the 19th century for social and charitable giving reasons and December/January was the traditional time for distributing the money raised during the year for the Young Mariners Aged and Poor Christmas Relief Fund. Along with many others from the boat building, fishing and yachting trades, the Stebbings played their part, and Thomas ‘Harry’ Stebbings was the Honorary Secretary for quite a number of years.

Carol singing was popular seasonal activity. The minutes of the Young Mariners meetings (available at the Essex County Records Office) annually record someone suggesting the group go carol singing. The proposals were always seconded enthusiastically and a date and place to meet would be agreed. Sometimes the minutes also record requests to ensure that the homes of certain people are visited and there is often a request for torches of one sort or another. The carol singing photos above are probably from the 1930’s.

Another regular event, started around 1889, was a dinner for the poor and elderly. This was prepared and served by the Young Mariners and their families, and entertainment would often be laid on as well. The two newspaper reports below give a flavour of these occasions.

From the Essex Standard, Saturday 27th January 1900

DINER TO AGED AND POOR – For the eleventh year in succession the young mariners of Burnham on Thursday, January 18th, entertained the aged and poor of Burnham to a bountiful tea. The repast was tastefully laid out in the Public Hall, and 110 guests were zealously waited on by the kind providers of the feast and their wives and sweethearts. The tea things removed the tables were plentifully supplied with desert, and the guests settled down to enjoy a musical entertainment, the programme for which had been provided by Miss Isabel Reynolds, A.R.A.M., the performers being Miss Reynolds, Miss Rose Reynolds, the Church Choir, Mrs. Gooding, Messrs. W. Bridge, Mark Hawkes, W. Sweeting, James Page, W. Thomas, A. Yardley, George Havers, A.W. Carter, &c. Mr. Jas Page presided. During the evening Mr. Thomas Cole, jun, the hon. sec. presented a financial statement that showed that this was a record year in the matter of subscriptions, over £32 having been collected. Close on £50 was distributed at Christmas, there was the tea to pay for, and they hoped to have a balance to bank for next year. On leaving each of the guests was presented with a quarter of a pound of tea and a pound of sugar. Those who were too infirm to walk were carried to and from the hall in the ‘bus.

From The Burnham-on-Crouch & Dengie Hundred Advertiser, Saturday 25th January 1908

A LOOK AROUND, By “A Native” – The work of the Young Mariners’ Aged and Poor Christmas Relief Fund never seems complete unless it is wound up with a tea to those for whose benefit it was instituted. The collection of money to distribute among the necessitous at Christmas is the chief object of the Fund, but unless there is a tea as well there seems something lacking. I was glad, therefore, when I heard it was not intended to leave the item out of this year’s programme.
The happy faces of the big party which assembled at the Public Hall on Wednesday evening showed that the aged people enjoy the gathering. It gives them an opportunity not only of partaking of a well-served meal, but also of enjoying a chat with their fellows in circumstances different from those which surround them in daily life; and listening to a good musical programme. Judging from Wednesday’s happy party the money is certainly well spent.
For nineteen years now the young mariners have been carrying out their praiseworthy work, and it was gratifying to hear that there is no diminution in the support they receive. The report read by the hon. sec. (Mr. Harry Stebbings) showed that both in the total amount collected, and in the number of subscribers, this year’s list showed an advance on last year. All my readers will re-echo the hope that was expressed at the meeting, that the work will go on from year to year until (as Mr. Gooding put it) that happy time comes when everybody in Burnham will be so well off as not to need a gift from the fund.

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