On This Day: 9 December 1703

On this day in 1703, James Brome wrote from Newington by Hyth in Kent to Thomas Bowrey in London. His very human letter has resonance today.

The Great Storm two weeks earlier had affected the whole of the south of England and Brome, in Kent, experienced its devastating power. He knew that the Rising Sun was sitting in the Downs at the time. His son, William, was a mate on board. He had held off as long as he was able but was desperate for news.

Today, news of major events spread via social media with the same immediacy as the storm of 1703 and people’s thoughts are for their loved ones but they rarely need to wait weeks for reassuring news. For the majority, their reassurance comes within minutes when they are contacted by mobile ‘phone or a status update on social media.

Brome received the reassurance he wanted. None of the crew of the Rising Sun was harmed in the storm (although a crew member fell overboard and died later). In his letter, he says that he was a Clergyman of God and he believed the storm was the greatest national judgement there had been for many years. Had he spent the previous fortnight searching his own conscious and praying that God would not punish his sins by taking his son? Even today, we tend to blame ourselves when someone is harmed. We just phrase it as ‘I should have stopped them going’ rather than ‘I am being punished for my sins’.

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