For as long as we care to remember, the practice of Joffing (Jumping Off Structures around the harbour into the River Esk) has been a highly practiced and favored pastime of Whitby youngsters across the decades.
As soon as summer arrives and the temperatures increase, scores of Whitby youngsters can be seen swimming in the harbour and jumping off places like Tate Hill Pier, The Fish Pier, Whitby’s East Pier and even other quite dangerous places such as the swing bridge and even the end of the towns east and west pier lighthouses.
Images in the public domain show kids from as long ago as Victorian times swimming in the harbour, and pictures hung in various places show the towns children leaping from some quite dangerous places such as the old ice house (On the Wall In the Star Public House), and The towns East Pier (Tuby’s Fish And Chip Restaurant On Pier Road, Picture By Arunas Staponas). Perhaps the most famous image being of local lad William (Billy) Brown RIP, diving off the towns ice house as a lad back in the 1970’s
Quite clearly the practice is pretty dangerous and the consequences unthinkable if something goes wrong. From a personal perspective the dangers I see is the water not being deep enough in various places, and also the possibility of a child slipping and banging their heads on the way down. One very dangerous spot seems to be the towns fish pier where the local council have positioned a floating pontoon in front of the Pier. The Children actually run down the pier and dive over the pontoon. Clearly a slip or a trip whilst doing this could result in a very serious accident and potentially even death.
Not wanting to restrict the fun of local children should always be kept in mind, but so should ensuring their safety. Each year the local authorities including the council, schools and police try in vain to stop the practice of Joffing. Each year the practice continues. The way forward is unknown, non of us want to stop the children having fun, yet non of us want to see them get hurt either.
On a personal basis I doubt the authorities will ever stop the practice. Short of knocking down all the piers, what can be done ?? I’m sure if the ends of the piers were fenced off, the kids would only use the fences to dive off, making the practice even more dangerous. Perhaps risk limitation is the way forward ?? Perhaps the council should ensure the areas used are properly dredged and any pontoons in the way (Like the one at the end of the fish pier) removed.
This short article in no way is intended to Glorify or Vilify Joffing. It in no way is aimed to point the finger at the council and suggest they are trying to curtail the fun of local children. The article is simply a record of the situation as we currently see it. Quite what the way forward is, I don’t really know. With this in mind, your thoughts on the situation would be much welcomes in the comments section below, or on our Facebook Group here.
Joffing Gallery – Click To Enlarge