Events 1871

engraving of a rescue


12 January

There was a long campaign to improve the safety of the brigadesmen.

The South Pier

Mr DALE moved that the Piers Committee consider the desirability of putting up an iron railing on the harbour side of the South Pier. He said he saw that during the recent gales great danger was run by the gallant men who formed the Life Brigade when they went along the South Pier, and the men had complained of the great danger owing to the side of the pier next to the harbour being unprotected.

Ald HARLE seconded the motion, which was agreed to.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 13 January 1871

22 January

The Maize went aground on the south side of the South Pier. The Brigade rescued the crew and the lifeboat rescued the captain, who had initially refused to leave his vessel.


11 February

Unfortunately, the failure of crews to understand how to use the apparatus continued to be a major cause of loss of life from shipwreck.

Rocket Apparatus

To the Editor of the North and South Shields Gazette

Sir, —Certainly, after the melancholy experience yesterday, some steps will be taken by the proper authorities to have our merchant seamen thoroughly instructed in the use of the Rocket Apparatus. Is it not necessary for the captain and seamen of a ship to have a proper knowledge of the mode of working it, as it is for them to know how to navigate their vessel? If proper steps be not taken at once that this should be done, we shall, no doubt, hear of further disasters through this culpable neglect. Four poor fellows were lost yesterday at Tynemouth, in consequence of not knowing how to use the apparatus, and it is only a few weeks since a vessel was lost on our south pier end, in which only one man out of a crew nine hands was competent to handle it; such a state of matters is a disgrace to our mercantile navy, and should not be permitted to exist.

Yours, &c.,
Capt. 2nd Division, South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 11 February 1871

Seamen and the Rocket Apparatus

To the Editor of the Shields Gazette and Daily Telegraph,

SIR, —I was glad to see the letter from Nicholas Riddle on the subject of loss of life at the mouth of the harbour Friday last. The opinion he expresses is that of every one who takes any interest the subject, and I think there is little doubt that, had Captain Lewis, of the Jabez, thoroughly understood the use of the apparatus, his life and the lives of his crew would have been saved. Had the few precious minutes which were spent in hauling the seaward part of the rocket line on board been spent in hauling the rocket line, with whip and block attached, from the shore to the ship instead, and communication been established, which might have been done in three or four minutes at most, the work would have gone on rapidly, and the saving of the crew would have been almost certain. I believe it now the custom (but only a very recent one) for the examiners in seamanship and navigation to see that all captains and mates, before receiving their certificates, understand the simple rules as to the use of the apparatus, in the event of their vessels stranding. But I would go much further than this—and it has been urged on the Board of Trade for some three or four years now—that every vessel which goes to sea should have fixed up in some conspicuous place the instructions which are contained in every official log book; but as coasting vessels do not carry an official log, it has been suggested to have these directions painted on a piece of tin (which might be done for a few pence), and compel every vessel which sails out of a British port to have one of these nailed to her mast, or in some other equally conspicuous place, so that every man on board might be able to learn what to do in such an emergency. You published a letter some time ago, when a somewhat similar case occurred, drawing attention to this subject; and I do hope that something will be done shortly to remedy this defect, which I consider is a disgrace to us as nation. Large sums of money are spent annually in endeavouring to save lives from shipwreck, and many brave men lost their lives every year in their endeavours to carry on the good work. It does seem to me a sin that some simple and effectual means is not tried to instil the needful information into every man, woman, and child who sets foot on the deck of a vessel. The difference, to those who have to work the apparatus on shore in a storm, between dealing with men who don't know how to act and dealing with those who are thoroughly up to the work, is marvellous, and the chance of saving life is 1,000 to 1. l am sorry to say it, but there are hundreds of sailors who have not the slightest idea what to do when the rocket line is fired over their stranded vessel. Out of the six vessels wrecked last Friday, we know that two of the crews were in this predicament; and had the lifeboat been unable to reach the second, should have had a repetition the Jabez tragedy. As secretary of the Tynemouth Brigade, I wrote to the Board of Trade on Friday night, once more drawing their serious attention to the fact that four out six of the crew of the Jabez lost their lives for want of knowledge how to use the apparatus. I fear this is a long letter, but the importance of the subject must be my excuse.

I am,
Yours most respectfully,


Honorary Secretary Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade.

P.S.—I enclose a copy of the instructions, of which a large supply is kept at the Shipping Office, and quantities are given away to sailors when signing articles.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 14 February 1871

25 February

No account of the incident has been found.

A Brave Action Rewarded

On Saturday afternoon, at the Brigade House on the South Pier, an honorary testimonial of the Royal Humane Society was presented the Mayor of South Shields (Mr J. M. Moore) to Wm. Carr, in recognition of his bravery having, on the 23rd of September, 1870, saved the life of John Walters, who was in danger of drowning at the Mill Dam. There was a full attendance of the members the Volunteer Life Brigade who had previously gone through their monthly rocket drill at the Lawe, and there were also present Mr J, White, the Rev. Mr Moore, the Rev. Mr Roberts, and Mr Price, together with several ladies. The Mayor, in making the presentation, said that it was the second time within the short period of three months that he had been asked by the Royal Humane Society to attend that building, and, in as public manner possible present, in their name, testimonials for bravery to men of South Shields who had proved themselves true members of their society. He believed the circumstances under which Wm. Carr saved the life of John Walters were no less praiseworthy those in the other case, having, without hesitation, and at the risk of his own life, gone into the water to save Walters, who was in extreme danger of drowning at the Mill Dam. The Royal Humane Society had had their attention attracted to the matter, and they thought it was their duty to recognise the services of Carr, and make him a member of their body by presenting him with a testimonial. After some further remarks the Mayor presented the testimonial to Carr, expressing the great pleasure he felt in doing so. Carr, in acknowledging the testimonial, said his thanks were specially due to the gentlemen who had, assisted him during the time he had been unable to work from injuries received in saving Walters. Mr J. C. Stevenson had been very kind to him, and he wished to return his thanks to that gentleman. He had not been able to do any work for five months, but could not regret having saved the life of a fellow creature, (Applause.) On the motion of Mr Mabane, seconded by Mr Malcolm, a vote of thanks was accorded the Mayor, which terminated the proceedings.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 27 February 1871



25 April

The concert is further evidence of public support for the Brigade.

Concert at South Shields —Last night, the members of the North-Eastern Foundry Glee Club, by permission of the patron of the Club, (W. Black, Esq.), gave a Concert in the Theatre Royal, South Shields, in aid of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade. There was a large attendance in all parts of the house, and especially in the pit and boxes, which were crowded. This is the second Concert which the Club has given in public, and the great improvement which last night's performances showed upon those of the previous year reflects considerable credit both upon the members themselves, and upon their conductor, Mr W. Mason, to whose care and skill the proficiency the Club has already attained is chiefly attributable. The Concert was in every way a decided success; and that it was fully appreciated by the audience was shown by the hearty applause which was bestowed on the performers. The first part of the programme consisted of a "Pastoral Operatta", in three acts, entitled the "Merrie Men of Sherwood Forrest," in which the characters were represented as follows: —Robin Hood (Mr M. C. Blythe); Marian (Miss Mary Garthwaite); Little John (Mr J. Wynyard); Will Scarlett (Mr J. Docher);Friar Tuck (Mr T. Lamb) ; the Miller's Son (Mr R. Bradley); the Palmer, and the Sheriff of Nottingham (Mr Moar). In this Operetta several songs were given very creditably, of which those of Miss Garthwaite and Mr Moar deserve special mention. The choruses were rendered in a very effective manner, and in several instances were encored. The second part of the programme consisted of a general selection of songs, duets, and choruses. Miss Athey, who possesses a sweet voice, sang " Ring on sweet Angelus," with considerable taste and skill, and she received an enthusiastic encore. A duet by Miss Redpath and Miss Garthwaite was also encored. The concert terminated with National songs of France and Germany, and "God Save the Queen" by the whole assemblage. At the conclusion, Mr Mabane, on behalf the Life Brigade, proposed a vote of thanks to the performers and to the ladies and gentlemen who had attended the Concert. The Mayor (Mr. J. M. Moore), who, with the Mayoress, gave his patronage to the occasion, having been specially mentioned in the vote of thanks, acknowledged the compliment, the Concert then terminated.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 26 April 1871

29 April

At their meeting on 28 March 1871, the Committee decided to have the outside of the Watch House painted.



Tenders are required for PAINTING the OUTSIDE of the WATCH HOUSE on the South Pier. Particulars on application to

S. MALCOLM, Honorary Secretary.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 29 April 1871


1 May

Joseph Scott was the only survivor of a boating accident in the harbour which resulted in the loss of the lives of James Clarke and McKay Pope.

I DESIRE to thank, most sincerely, Mr George Heron and Mr G. A. Birch, of the South Volunteer Life Brigade, who risked their own lives in rescuing me from Drowning on Monday After noon, and also Spectators for their kind sympathy.

Joseph Scott

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 3 May 1871

3 May

The Glee Club Concert produced a substantial donation to the Brigade.

The committee and members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade acknowledge, with thanks, the sum of £34 11s 7d, being the nett proceeds from the concert recently given in the Theatre Royal, by the North Eastern Foundry Glee Club.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 3 May 1871


29 June

Another example of the Brigade providing assistance to members of the public.

NARROW ESCAPE PROM DROWNING AT SOUTH SHlELDS— Yesterday afternoon, a young man earned Keady, living in South Shields, had an exceedingly narrow escape from drowning. Keady was bathing off the South beach somewhere between the pier and Trow Rocks, when he swam too far out to sea and was observed to be struggling. Benjamin Birch, one of the captains of the Life Brigade, immediately procured a lifebelt and proceeded to the water's edge for the purpose of going in to save Keady, when he saw that he had been already rescued by a coble. Keady, when taken from the water, was conveyed, apparently lifeless, to the Brigade House, where he was attended by Dr Legat, who fortunately happened to be upon the spot at the time. After great exertions, he was brought round and was afterwards taken home.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 30 June 1871


SIR, —Would you allow me, through the medium of your valuable paper to express my thanks to the men who rescued me from Drowning on Thursday last, and also the members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, for their prompt and kind treatment to me, with all other friends that rendered me any assistance. I may also state that I am not much the worse, but I hope great deal wiser for my ducking. Yours respectfully,

18 Wellington Street, South Shields.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 1 July 1871


13 July

The Annual Meeting took place in the Watch House.


THE ANNUAL MEETING will be held in the WATCH HOUSE, on Thursday, the 13th inst,. at 7.30 p.m.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 11 July 1871


30 August

The Swimming Club Annual Regatta took place in the harbour.

PRIZES to be competed for members the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade and pilots of South Shields. 1st Prize, Silver Tea Pot. 2nd Prize, Silver Pint, both given by A. Stevenson, Esq. Distance 300 yards.

Competitors—George Grieves, J. W. Purvis, Joseph Moffit, Ralph Harrison, - Clark.

Moffit            1
Grieves         2

The competitors in this race at once went away at full speed, Grieves and Moffit being ahead before the others. It was soon evident that the race lay between these two. Grieves, unfortunately for his chance of the first prize, turned on his back after he had accomplished about half the distance. This lost him the race, as Moffit thereby gained a supremacy of which Grieves was unable to deprieve him. Moffit came in a winner by 10 yards, Grieves being second.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 31 August 1871

30 August

Mr Blaikie, who died suddenly on 30 August, had moved to South Shields Custom House in 1857 and became the Collector of Customs when the port became independent in 1865.

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade.

MEMBERS who wish to attend the FUNERAL the late Mr BLAIKIE Collector of Customs, are requested to meet at Wellington Terrace, To-Morrow Afternoon, at 3 o'clock. Belts to be worn.

S. MALCOLM, Honorary Secretary

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 1 September 1871


15 Septmber

The annual inspection took place.

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade

MEMBERS are requested to take Notice that Captain ROBERTSON,R.N Surveyor-General to the Board of Trade, will INSPECT the BRIGADE TO-NIGHT (FRIDAY) at  Six o'Clock punctually.


Honorary Secretary

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 15 September 1871

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade

Last evening, the members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, who numbered between 40 and 50, were inspected by Captain Robertson, R.N., Surveyor-General to the Board of Trade, on the drill-ground at the Lawe. The men were under the command of Captains W. Cay, Liddle, Wood and M. Cay. After the inspection Capt. Robertson addressed a few complimentary words to the men at the Brigade House, South Pier. There was a large attendance of the public. Capt. Robertson inspects the Tynemouth Brigade this afternoon at four.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 16 September 1871

23 September

The beginning of a period of stormy weather during which the brigade was on look-out.

GALE ON THE NORTH-EAST COAST.— On Saturday night and yesterday the weather was very stormy on the north-east coast, rain falling heavily. A strong wind blew from the NE, and the sea at the mouth of the Tyne was exceedingly rough. The Volunteer Life Brigades and Lifeboatmen were on the look-out.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 25 September 1871

The Gale on the Coast

Yesterday, while sea was still running high from the effects of the strong north-easter of Saturday night, the wind again rose, accompanied by heavy showers of rain. Only six vessels sailed from the Tyne during the day, and it was feared that those going southward would encounter very trying weather. Last night was extremely dark and boisterous, squalls of wind from the southeast, alternated with showers of rain, and the sea was so rough that it was thought any vessels attempting to enter the Tyne would have a task before them. About five o'clock this morning, as day began to break, the watchers in the Life Brigade House on the South Pier, perceived a large brig which had been apparently making for the harbour, in rather dangerous proximity to the shore on the south side. At that time, it seemed as if nothing could prevent her coming ashore, but fortunately just at the critical moment the wind veered round, and drove her out to sea again. A steam-tug soon afterwards left to offer her services, and this forenoon the tug was to be seen at a distance of several miles, making for the Tyne with the brig in tow. A large screw-steamer also came so close inshore to endanger her safety, but she too managed to run clear and get away again. During the night the wind changed to the north-east, and this morning it is gradually going round to north-north-east. The sea is still running very high. At the Wear, the night passed over without any casualty to shipping. There was a strong fresh in the river this morning.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 28 September 1871


2 October

The Ann of London went aground on the north side of the South Pier.The Brigade attended the incident, but the crew were rescued by the lifeboat.



3 December

The Frisia went aground at the end of the South Pier and sank before a rescue attempt could be made by the Brigade.