Years ago, Oysters weren’t a delicacy of the rich, in fact they were thought of as more a poor man’s food and a lot of the working class on the coast depended on oysters for a meal. And that was no different in Whitby.
Gadgy Clarke, or more commonly know around the town as ‘the Oyster Man’ used to do his rounds around public houses to sell oysters to the customers inside. He would walk around the streets crying “Oysters alive-oh!” as he struggled to carry a large oyster back on his head.
One November evening, as was usual, the Oyster Man made his way into the Golden Lion public house. This evening the mysterious John Smith was drinking with his crew of reprobates. You see, no one knew where John called home as he would disappear for weeks on end but he always returned to Whitby. It was discussed in whispers where he would go some said he was a highway man, or a smuggler, and others think he was a millionaire who had sold his soul to the Devil. But no one knew for sure, all what people knew is that he was bad news and should be kept away from. He rode around town on one of many horses and madly cackle as he did so.
That night Gadgy was welcomed into the Golden Lion, and made his way over to Smith’s table. John began making fun of the Oyster Man and his oysters, he went to leave (annoyed at the insults) but muttered some slandering words about Smith. Smith heard the insults and stood to defend himself, he was a big strong man, unlike Gadgy, John grabbed the sack of oysters and threw them into the fire and was about to do the same to the frightened Oyster Man when the Oyster Man pulled out a knife (his only line of defence) and stabbed John Smith, fatally wounding him.
The Oyster Man was never convicted of any crime, it was thought to be self-defence, but Gadgy never forgave himself and a year later he died, some said it was because of the grief and guilt he felt.
On cold November nights, Gadgy’s ghost has been seen walking from pub to pub with his oyster sack, still crying out “Oysters alive-oh!”, though the old Oyster Man avoids the Golden Lion – maybe he’s hiding from the vengeful ghost of John Smith? Nobody knows.
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