Events 1869


29 January

The Tyne Life Brigades



About quarter to seven o'clock last night, North Shields was thrown a state of considerable alarm through the firing of the Borough Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade guns, at the Low Lights, and the report that a ship had come upon the rocks spread rapidly through the town. In a very short space of time, hundreds of people were seen running in the direction of the sea banks, and all sorts of inquiries were made respecting the said vessel—as whether she was steamer or a sailing vessel; but ultimately, to the mortification of not a few, it turned out that there was no vessel ashore, and that the guns had been fired in accordance with the directions of Captain Robertson, R.N., for the purpose testing the promptitude of the members of the Borough of Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade. The “false alarm," however, had the desired effect, for, in an incredibly short space of time, there was large muster of the brigade, ready for active duty. Afterwards the members assembled at the Brigade House, and proceeded with the apparatus on to the Spanish Battery, where the usual rocket practice was gone through, under the inspection of Captain Robertson. At the conclusion of the drill, the inspector addressed the corps, complimenting them on their high state of efficiency.

South Shields

Yesterday afternoon Captain Robertson R.N. inspected as representative of the Board of Trade the members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade at the Lawe South Shields.  There was a good muster, considering that for many of the men the hour was inconvenient one—half past two. Among others, in addition to Captain Robertson, there were present—Mr Archibald. Stevenson (treasurer of the South Shields Volunteer life Brigade); Mr J. F. Spence (secretary of the North Shields Life Brigade); Captain Elliot, R.N.; Mr S. Malcolm (secretary of the South Shields Volunteer life Brigade); Superintendent Stephens (River Police); Dr Stokoe, Captain L. Byrne (of the Coast Guard); Mr Lamb; and Messrs Wright, M'Queen, and Houlsby, captains in the Life Brigade. About forty members of the Life Brigade in all were present. The day was somewhat gusty, and offered more than once to rain. Appropriately enough for the occasion, huge masses of black clouds, with deep rifts, giving them the appearance of vast blocks of moving rocks, seeming to presage a gathering storm, drifted across the sky. The sea was not rough, but rather lay in sullen, leaden gloom, if conscious of the preparations being made for practicing the apparatus that had deprived it of some, and would deprive it of many victims in the time to come. The hardy, generous men, who without any thought of reward form our Volunteer Life Brigade soon brought out and erected the apparatus for the land side of the line. The rocket was fired, hitting its mark; the line attached; the hawser sent off; the breeches buoy despatched, and in a trice several men were conveyed from the supposed ship to the shore. The men of the brigade worked with a will, and seemingly put in as much spirit and life into the practice as if they were bringing a crew of shivering sea-beaten mariners the shore. After the practice was over, Captain Robertson and the members of the brigade proceeded to the watch-house, where the names of the members were called. Captain Robertson then said was much gratified with the attendance, and he was happy to be also able say that he was in every way well pleased with the practice he had just witnessed. Indeed he might say had never seen better firing of a rocket, and none so good, for a very long time. He was also glad to find the apparatus in such good working order. That he was able to address them as he did, was not only gratifying to him, but must also be very satisfactory to themselves. It was a noble thing to step forward as they did, without any selfish inducement, and to band themselves together to assist in saving the lives of those who, in tempestuous seas, were driven to their coast. It was a gratifying thing to know that by the rocket apparatus alone there were no less than about 700 lives saved annually. Than such a fact, what was more calculated to give confidence to our sailors to leave any port on our coasts to pursue their calling on the deep? They had now come to feel that, although they might be cast on almost any part of the coast of England, Ireland, or Scotland, they were comparatively safe, knowing that their brave life brigades and companies were ever ready and willing to exert themselves to the utmost to rescue them from danger. He was glad that the men of South Shields had formed themselves into a brigade, and that they did not exist as a mere company. Brigades were far more effective than companies. Their honour was all the greater from the fact that there were not many brigades in existence, although there were an enormous number of companies. When considered that they had their dally work to attend to, it was most gratifying to know that their attendance from time to time at their practice was so good. He had been told since his arrival in the district that they had received no money from the Board of Trade during the past twelve months. He could not assign any reason for the neglect; but he would tell them that he would report it in the proper quarter, and should see that the matter should be remedied. Three lusty cheers were then given for Captain Robertson, for Mr Archibald Stevenson, and for Mr Wilson, after which the members the Life Brigade and friends separated.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 30 January 1869



5 March

A severe gale, the lifeboat rescued the crew of a coble.
Gale on the North-East Coast
Crew of a Shields Coble in Danger

Last night, the North-East coast was visited by a severe gale from the north-east, accompanied with showers of rain. The sea rose rapidly, and soon it broke heavily on the bar, and along the coast. The tempestuous state of the weather showed the advisability of the Volunteer Life Brigade keeping a look out, in case of their services being required. Several of the Volunteers were on duty at the Brigade House on the south pier. About half-pas; seven o’clock, while Thomas Purvis, a pilot, one of the brigade, was walking on the pier, he heard cries of distress proceeding from some pilots in a coble, between the fish pier and the south pier. The alarm was immediately given and a rocket was fired for the mustering of the brigade. The men of the lifeboat were also signalled that their services were required. In a short time the lifeboat was launched, and its way down the Narrows. The storm at this time was at its height, and the sea was breaking heavily. The lifeboat proceeded on its way, and soon they came upon the pilots in distress. They were clinging to the coble, and the sea making a complete breach over them. The two men were got safely on board the lifeboat, and their coble brought into the harbour. It was exceedingly fortunate that the cries of the two pilots were heard, otherwise they might have experienced great difficulty in reaching the harbour in safety. The firing of the signal gun attracted large numbers of persons to the pier; but on learning that the pilots were in safety they returned to the town. The gale continued, and there was every appearance of a wild night at sea.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 6 March 1869

8 March

A substantial donation!,

Mr T. A. Wilson, on behalf of the Life Brigade, begs to acknowledge, with thanks, the receipt of a hundred weight of biscuits, from Walter Kennedy, Esq.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 8 March 1869

29 March

The Mary of Chester ran aground. The Brigade and lifeboats attended, but their services were not required.



4 May

The Brigade received £20 from the Shields Lifeboat Funds.

Donation to South Shields Life Brigade - - 10 0 0
Annual Subscription to South Shields Life Brigade 10 0 0

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 4 May 1869


11 June

Two salmon fishermen were taken to the Brigade House after a boating accident.

Another Boat Accident at South Shields
Narrow Escape of Two Lives

During the past few days a strong sea has been running on the north-east coast, and yesterday the whole of the Scotch herring boats, numbering nearly 200, were detained in Shields harbour in consequence of the bad weather. A moderate wind has been blowing from the NE. There was heavy sea on the bar yesterday, and to-day it continues to roll very high. Shortly before nine o'clock this morning, another boat accident, happily unattended with loss of life, occurred a little to the south of the south pier. It appears that two salmon fishermen, named Charles Watts and Ralph Robbins, belonging to South Shields, were fishing off the Herd Sands at the time above stated, when their boat was driven amongst the broken water, and instantly capsized. The accident was observed by some of the men employed at the pier works, who rendered every assistance they possibly could, ultimately succeeding in rescuing the men from their perilous position. In an exhausted condition, they were conveyed to the Life Brigade Watch House and were well cared for, the medical aid of Dr Stokoe being obtained. This is the second boat accident which has occurred this week at South Shields, under similar circumstances to the one detailed above. It is to be hoped that the fishermen will, in future, take a warning and not venture so near the broken water with their nets.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 11 June 1869

15 June

The Brigade rescued the crew of the Annie of Rye.

16 June

Later the same night as the wreck of the Annie, the Brigade were involved in incidents involving the Victor and the Ten Brothers.

25 June

A benefit concert was held at the Theatre Royal for the benefit of sufferers of the recent storm. Archibald Stevenson, Brigade Treasurer, organised the distribution of the funds raised by the concert.

The Late Storm—Benefit for the Sufferers in South Shields —As our readers are already aware, the herring fishermen belonging the ports of North and Sou Shields lost a very considerable amount of property during the late storm on the north-east coast, and immediate aid being of the utmost importance,  as the season for herring fishing is rapidly drawing to a close, Messrs Harris and Mellor, the respected lessees of the Theatre Royal, South Shields, gave an entertainment in that place of amusement, under the patronage of the Mayor (John Williamson, Esq.), for the benefit of the sufferers. There was an excellent attendance, the boxes, pit, and gallery being well patronized. A well-selected programme was provided for the occasion, including three light comedies and farces, with singing and recitations. The performances opened with "Perfection," in which Messrs Harris and Mellor, Miss Jane Cathcart, Mrs Milward, and Mr G. S. Thompson, a member of the North and South Shields Amateur Dramatic Society, took part. "The Rough Diamond" followed, the above artistes being assisted by Mr H. S. Fletcher, North Shields, also a member of the Dramatic Society. Mr Mellor sustained the character of "Cousin Joe" with great ability, and during the course of the piece he introduced clever puns in reference to the distribution of prizes by Mrs Dale to the successful competitors in the athletic sports at the Cricket field, Westoe, on Thursday. In "Box and Cox," Messrs Harris and Mellor kept the audience in continued laughter by their fine acting. During the course of evening Mrs Ditchburn sang “Ever of thee," which was well received, and called forth an encore. Mr J. Robson, North Shields, recited "The Charge of the Light Brigade," a piece in which he greatly excels. Mr G. S. Thompson also tendered a song, and the entertainment closed.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 26 June 1869

The proceeds of the performances at the South Shields theatre on the 25th ult., amounting to £20, have been handed to the treasurer of the South Shields Life Brigade to be applied for the benefit of the sufferers by the late storm.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 5 July 1869

THE RECENT BENEFIT AT THE SOUTH SHIELDS THEATRE, the request of Messrs Harris and Mellor, Lessees, the Widows of Fishermen, who were in the late Coble, and who belonged to and sailed from either North or South Shields, are requested to send to me, in Writing, the Names of their husbands, Number of Children, &c., &c., without delay. ARCHD. STEVENSON, Hon. Treasurer, South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 6 July 1869


1 July

A donation of medical supplies.

The committee of the South Shields Life Brigade acknowledge, with thanks, the receipt of six medical rubbers from Mr John Edgar, draper, Market Place, South Shields.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 1 July 1869

30 July

The Annual Meeting was held in the Watch House.

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade

THE ANNUAL MEETING will be held in the Watch House, South Pier, on Friday, 30th July, 1869, at 7 30 p.m.

By order,
S. MALCOLM, Honorary Secretary.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 27 July 1869

31 July

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade

The South Shields Life Brigade continues to prosper in the noble work which it has taken in hand. That this is not a mere matter of opinion, but one of fact, will best be shown by a perusal of the report read last night to the annual meeting of the members. It is record of which the Volunteers and the town at large may well feel proud while the cost at which the operations of the Brigade have been conducted is astonishingly small. An interesting feature of the arrangements is the establishment of a preaching station at the tidy little Watch House, in which Divine service is conducted on the Sunday evenings. The funds, however, are scarcely equal to the demand which is about to be made upon them for rendering the building thoroughly comfortable. It is a small matter contribute the requisite amount of money as compared with the sacrifices which have often to be made by the Volunteers under peculiarly trying circumstances, and from what is known of those generous and public-spirited gentlemen of the borough, who, by their readiness to respond to every call that is made upon their purses for deserving objects, are an example to the wealthy of the district, there need be apprehensions entertained as to the work being arrested for want of funds. But in such a case as this the port ought to show its appreciation of the labours of the Brigade by providing the necessary funds. Such a proceeding would no doubt be especially gratifying to the Volunteers, who, while they serve for good-will, may still be very much like the bulk of their fellow-men who labour for the public welfare, in desiring some manifestation of the approval with which their labours may happen to be regarded.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 31 July 1869


10 August

The Swimming Club Annual Regatta included a race for members of the Brigade and pilots.

South Shields Swimming Club
Annual Regatta

TWO PRIZES to be competed for by Members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade and Pilots of South Shields. Distance 200 yards. 1st Prize a Spy Glass-2nd Prize, Silver Cup; given by Mr S. Sutherland.
Competitors:—John Milburn, John Johnson. J. W. Purvis, Joseph Moffit, William Young, and Joseph Clark.

Moffit                                                               1

Wilson                                                               2

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 11 August 1869

11 August

A testimonial from the Royal Humane Society was presented to George Heron a member of the Brigade

The Royal Humane Society and the South Volunteer Life Brigade.—An adjourned meeting of the Life Brigade Committee was held last night the Brigade House, to present a testimonial from the Humane Society to George Heron, one of their members. Mr Archibald Stevenson, who was appointed chairman, made the presentation. The honour thus done to Mr Heron and the South Shields Life Brigade is due the representation Mr Waid, of the Pier Works, Dr Stokoe, and Mr Reed, agent of the society for this town. We append a copy of the testimonial:- “At meeting of the committee of the Royal Humane Society holden at their offices, 4 Trafalgar Square, 20th July, 1869, President W.Howes, Esq., (treasurer) in the chair, it was resolved unanimously that the testimonial of this committee inscribed on parchment be hereby presented to George Heron for his courage the 11th June, 1869, gone to the relief of Charles Watt and John Robins whose boat capsized in the sea at South Shields, and whose lives, with assistance, he saved, LAMBTON YOUNG, Secretary; W. HOWES, chairman”.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 12 August 1869

17 August

The services at the Watch House were proving popular.

A VOLUNTEER WANTED, to play the Harmonium, at the Sabbath Evening Service, in the Volunteer Life Brigade House, South Shields.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 17 August 1869


21 September

A donation to the Watch House library.

The committee of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade beg to acknowledge, with thanks, the donation of 8 vols, of books from Mr Jennings, Fowler Street, South Shields.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 21 September 1869

27 September

The monthly drill took place and some new additions to the Watch House were noted.

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade.— On Saturday afternoon, the members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade mustered at the west end of the South Pier, and were put through their drill by the chief officer, Mr Quick. A rocket was fired, and, at the first shot, went direct over the arm or crossbar erected to receive it. The distance was about 100 yards. After the tackle was duly fixed, several parties were drawn from end to end in the basket. The volunteers then returned to the South Pier, when about fifty answered to the call of the roll. During the past week, a handsome and useful iron stove has been added to the new watch-house. The stove possesses facilities for baking, boiling, and general cookery, in addition to being useful in cases of emergency for heating water for the restoration of shipwrecked mariners, and other purposes. A harmonium has also been introduced into the brigade watch-house, besides newspapers, drafts, dominoes, &c., in order to afford amusement to those who are “always ready" when duty calls.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 27 September 1869


8 October

Another addition to the Watch House library.

The committee of the Volunteer Life Brigade beg to acknowledge, with thanks, the donation of several valuable books from Henry Hewison, Market Place, South Shields.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 8 October 1869

16 October

The Brigade rescued the crew of the Sea Horse.

17 October

The Brigade was called out when the Friends was in difficulty in the harbour.

21 October

The “Gazette” mentioned an article about the Brigade in “The Word on the Waters.”

Just Published, Price Twopence,

THE October Number of THE WORD ON THE WATERS, a Record of Missionary Effort, containing an interesting Article on the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, with an Illustration. To be had at the Booksellers.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 21 October 1869

23 October 1869

"The Word on the Waters."—This a neatly-got serial devoted to recording the organized efforts of the society which seeks to send the Gospel amongst the merchant and man o'-war seamen, and the fishermen and boatmen of the country. The number for October possesses a special interest for this locality, containing, as it does, a paper on the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, and a frontispiece representing the watch-house of the storm watchers.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 23 October 1869

22 October

The Brigade brought a charge against one of the members.

Using Offensive Language at the South Pier

William Purvis, Pearson Street, was summoned for using offensive and insulting language at the South Pier, on Sunday morning last. Mr T, G. Mabane appeared in support of the charge and stated that he was instructed by the Committee of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade to prefer the charge against the defendant not to press for a heavy penalty, but simply to let defendant, and others frequenting the pier, know that unruly conduct cannot be allowed either in the Brigade or upon the Pier whilst the volunteers are on duty. He understood that defendant one of those who so bravely manned the lifeboat on Saturday night, and after the crews had been rescued, he, with others, proceeded to the Brigade House, where, after being there a short time he commenced using offensive language towards the members. The magistrates said, taking into account the noble act defendant performed, and the committee not pressing for a penalty, they would dismiss him upon payment of costs, but recommended him and all others not to use offensive language towards the volunteers, or they would inflict a penalty.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 22 October 1869

25 October

A new production of “The Mariner’s Compass” was staged and the Brigade performed.

Lessees  Messrs G. W. Harris & Mark Moss Mellor
The original Drama
With new Scenery, Machinery, and Effects.
Notice. —The Members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade have kindly supplied the whole of the Apparatus—Life Buoys, Rockets, Hawser, Safety Cradles, Life Lines, &c,—used for rescuing Sailors and Passengers from Shipwrecked Vessels, the Members themselves generously giving their services in attending to the working of the Apparatus, and the Drama will be presented in the most realistic manner.
Favourite Ballad . . Mdlle. JENNY DE BRENT
Concluding with
The Operatic Burlesque Extravaganza of

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 25 October 1869


8 November

A welcome addition to the rations was received.

The committee of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade acknowledge, with thanks, the receipt one cask of beef from Jas. E. Randle Esq., Ocean Road, South Shields.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 8 November 1869

13 November

The Brigade offered honorary membership for one guinea.  This proved to be a valuable source of income.

The Rev. T. H. Chester, M.A., vicar of St. Hilda's, has become honorary member, and an annual subscriber of one guinea to the funds of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 13 November. 1869

30 November

The Brigade was called out when the Squirrel was drifting on shore.  The rescue was undertaken by the lifeboat.


27 December

The Brigade responded to a brig which appeared to be in danger of being driven ashore.

Perilous Position of Shields Brig

Between five and six o'clock last night the brig Harmony ,of Shields, from Norway, while entering the Tyne, went too far to the south, and she appeared danger of being driven on the Fish Pier, rockets were fired from the South Shields brigade house. The signals, from some unexplained cause, were not, as is customary, responded to by the gun on the Spanish Battery. They were, however, observed by the lifeboat crews on duty at both sides of the river, and two or three lifeboats set off in search of the vessel announced by the signal to be in danger. On nearing the Harmony she was observed to be riding at anchor, and appeared to in no danger of drifting ashore, the lifeboats returned. The Harmony afterwards came unto the harbour.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 28 December 1869