Weird Norfolk: Could seaside town’s brutal Yow Yows be the cries of drowned fishermen?

Norwich-based forecaster Weatherquest said the countys coast will bear the brunt of the bad weather,

Norwich-based forecaster Weatherquest said the countys coast will bear the brunt of the bad weather, particularly in the east. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

In Sheringham, there is a special name for the severe squalls which sometimes besiege the coast in this corner of Norfolk: the sudden strong winds which cause brief but violent storms are known as Yow Yows – and those Yow Yows are said to be linked to the captain of an old, drowned ship.

It is said that just beyond the cliffs at the North Norfolk town, on an archetypal dark and stormy night many years ago, a ship got into trouble as it sailed close to the safety of Sheringham.

As the captain's lungs began to fill with water, he cursed the fisherman of Lower Sheringham who could have, but didn't, sail out to save him from a watery death, very probably because they intended to salvage and sell his cargo.

Today, fishermen have reported hearing cries for help from the sea on calm days while they are on their boats. Assuming that someone is in distress and needs their immediate help, they – unlike their ancestors – sail to help and reach the spot where the voice can be heard.

It is at this point that the mischief begins: as they reach the source of the sound, it swiftly moves to another area of the sea and when they reach that, the same thing happens, over and over again.

This is, they say, a warning which they would be foolish to ignore. The cries from the sea are a call to return to shore and safety as quickly as possible before the Yow Yows strike and they are caught in the eye of the storm.

There are slightly different version of this story that claim that it was not just one man who the fishermen ignored on that long-since-past dark night, it was a whole ship of unfortunate mariners whose final resting place is now on the seabed just outside Sheringham.

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Others claim that the Yow Yows is actually the sound heard by fishermen and is the cry of the drowned men, which is followed by the storm.

It could be that the story of the Yow Yows is linked to another ghostly tale which rattles around the town of Sheringham, that of the 12 drowned sailors who washed up on the beach after their ship was lost at sea and who were unceremoniously thrown into a ditch without Christian burial and covered with a heap of stones between a gap on the cliffs on the very edge of Sheringham's boundary.

Anyone foolish enough to walk where the unfortunate 19th century sailors found their final resting place on a dark and stormy night would be rewarded by hearing the eerie sound of shingle dropping slowly, pebble by pebble, on to a larger stone, possibly the gravestone the sailors were never allowed to have. While the sound in itself is not hugely unpleasant, it is a portent of doom for anyone that hears it – a fine reason to avoid the edge of cliffs at the dead of night when the weather is against you.

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