The truly adventurous life of Reginald Firth

Reg Firth unveiling a new sign in his time as Whitby mayor
Reg Firth unveiling a new sign in his time as Whitby mayor

A former mayor and well-known Whitby personality has died at the age of 82.

Reginald Firth – or Reg as he was known – was best known for founding and running the Captain Cook Centre in Staithes.

As a pioneer driven by a passion to follow his dreams, his daughter Victoria Ford said Reg “turned his hand to anything”.

Reg and his wife Anne Firth moved from Scarborough to Whitby in 1978 so Reg could be closer to work as he ran angling parties for miners.

His boat career started when he bought ‘Marvalantha’ in Redcar and brought it to Whitby.

He then built ‘Emily G’ which he named after his grandmother.

Ironically, Reg never learnt to swim but was never afraid to go in the water.

Reg also got his children involved with his passion for the boats.

Victoria recalls: “We went fishing and whale watching and he used to say ‘look at these under the boat ‘and all I used to think is what if it comes up! Life as a Firth was never dull.”

With the boating business decline, Reg found the Primitive Methodist Chapel, in Staithes, and decided that he would convert it into the Captain Cook and Staithes Heritage Centre.

The couple sold their house in Whitby, in Larpool Lane, to purchase the chapel, bought a caravan in Hinderwell and spent the next seven years making the centre what it is today.

Anne said: “We took everything to pieces apart from the four outside walls as it’s a listed building.”

Mr and Mrs Firth devoted their lives to the centre, continually improving it and running it together.

Speaking in an article in the Yorkshire Post, Reg explained how his love with Cook started: “You can’t live in Whitby without hearing about James Cook. Every time I sailed out of the harbour, there he was, his statue looking down on us.”

Reg was also a member of the international Captain Cook Society which has over 500 members.

A man who led a rich and exciting life exceeded all expectations when he was born at just three pounds and 11 ounces.

He was born in Wakefield on April 26 1936 to Reginald and Lillian Firth.

His romance with Anne began by coincidence when they met on a boat to Denmark. The pair who were travelling separately, Reg with his cousin and Anne with her parents, never looked back and married in 1965 at Scarborough register office.

Throughout his life Reg had many jobs and projects which gave him far more knowledge than you would expect from your average man.

He was Whitby mayor from 1984-1985, a civilian expert in locating shells used in wartime practice, one of the first traffic wardens in Scarborough, shop owner and lorry driver.

Reg leaves behind his loving wife Anne, daughter Victoria and son Mark and three grandchildren.

Victoria said: “Thank you to the staff of ward 24 neurosciences who looked after him in James Cook hospital for the eight weeks before he died.”