Events 1875

General picture of wrecks


14 January

A significant donation to the Brigade from outside of the area.

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade

The secretary acknowledges with thanks the receipt of £25 from William B. Gibbons Esq., Stratford-on Avon, as a donation to the funds of the Brigade, in appreciation of the services of the members at the recent wrecks.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 14 January 1875


12 February

Mr Malcolm later stated that the building of the lifeboat house blocked the view from the Watch House to the sea and necessitated the building of the tower.

At a meeting of the trustees the South Shields Lifeboat Fund, it was resolved to build a new lifeboat-house to the south of the South Pier, near to the Volunteer Brigade Watch-House. This is a much needed improvement.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette and Telegraph 12 February 1875

24 February

The Brigade were on duty as a result of the stormy weather.

The Weather on the Coast.—During the past few days the weather has been extremely cold and boisterous, the wind being principally an easterly direction. Last night the wind increased to gale, and there were frequent showers of hail and snow. The sea on the north-east coast ran very high, and several vessels put into the Tyne for shelter. The members of the volunteer life brigades on both sides of the harbour, as well the lifeboatmen and pilots were on the alert as usual, but fortunately their assistance was not required.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette and Telegraph 25 February 1875






13 July

Further evidence of support from the public for the Brigade.

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade

Last night, the members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade were entertained to tea, by the Rev. J. E. Cracknell, in the school room adjoining the Baptist Tabernacle, Laygate Lane. A large number of members accepted the invitation. After tea, a meeting was held in the Tabernacle, the Rev. J. E. Cracknell presiding. There were also present the Rev. P. H. Moore, Ald. Strachan, Captain S. Cottew, Messrs M. Cay, S. Malcolm, T. G. Mabane, T. A. Wilson, and others. After devotional exercises, the Chairman explained how the meeting had originated. He remarked that last winter, during the heavy storms on the coast, there were many persons who very deeply the position in which stamen were placed, and they sympathised very much with the efforts that were made by the Volunteer Life Brigade in saving those who were exposed to danger. On the morning after the Scylla came ashore he went down with the object of conversing with those who had been rescued, and he was much pleased with the manner in which he was received by several members of the brigade, who furthered his object in seeking an interview with the rescued seamen. It was from his sympathy with the noble work that conceived the idea, if spared to the summer, how much he should rejoice in giving an invitation to the members of the Volunteer Life Brigade. He named the circumstance to some friends, and they were quite happy to embrace the opportunity. They felt very much honoured at the presence of the members of the brigade, and were glad that so many had accepted their invitation. He concluded by reading a letter from the Rev. W. Hanson, who regretted being unable to be present, be having to be in London that day. The meeting was addressed by Ald. Strachan and others. During the evening the choir sang several favourite hymns.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette and Telegraph 14 July 1875

16 July

The Annual Meeting took place in the Watch House.




26 October

A significant contribution towards the building of the extension.

The committee of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade acknowledge with thanks the receipt of £5 from W. Lee, Esq., of Rochester, also a large quantity of polished plate glass from the Tyne Plate Glass Co., for glazing the extension to the watchhouse.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette and Telegraph 26th of October 1875


13 November

The re-opening of the extended Watch House was a major step forward for the Brigade.

The Sunday evening services, conducted in the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade House, on the Sooth Pier, will be resumed tomorrow night, when the Rev. R. M. Herdman, Association Secretary of Missions to Seamen, will officiate. Mr Herdman was formerly Scripture Reader on the Tyne, and is well known in this locality as a friend of the sea faring community, amongst whom he has laboured for several years past.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette and Telegraph 13 November 1875

The Life Brigade House South Shields

The watch house on the South Pier, belonging the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, has recently been enlarged and improved, and is now thoroughly adapted to the requirements of the members. The alterations consist in the lengthening of the building by about twenty feet and the erection of an observatory, from which a more extended view of the coast can be obtained than was previously the case. The observatory is at the of the south end of the house and is approached by a winding staircase from the newly built portion of the building. It is provided with a gauge for indicating the force of the wind, and will be used for the purpose of watching the approach of vessels during stormy weather. The alterations were designed by Mr S Malcolm, the hon. secretary of the brigade, and have been carried out by Mr Frazer while the painting was executed by Mr Garbut, The whole of the glass required for the observatory and the windows was the gift of the Tyne Plate Glass Company. The cost of the alterations will amount to £450. The Board Trade have given £150, and the remainder will have defrayed by voluntary subscriptions. Well-wishers of the Volunteer Life Brigade only need this hint elicit their sympathies for an object praiseworthy and humane.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette and Telegraph 25 November 1875

30 November

The Brigade stood by when the S.S. Alice went aground on the north side of the South Pier, but their services were not required.


28 December

The Watch House was reopened. To celebrate the occassion a supper took place and a "Brief Sketch of the History" was published to mark the event.


Last night the new brigade house and watch house on the South Pier was reopened after the enlargement. The event being celebrated by a supper, given to the brigade and a few friends by the officers in the Watch House, which, for the supper, was adorned with appropriate flags, wreaths, banner, devices and mottoes, and altogether presented in an animated scene. The alterations and additions to the old building consisted of an enlargement of the watch house to the extent of 18ft., and there has been added also a watch tower of octagonal shape 18ft in circumference, composed of varnished wood, and is lighted by eleven panes of plate glass, which are so constructed as to open, and so as to command an excellent view seawards. An anemeter is placed in this watch tower, presented by Mr Archibald Stevenson, and it is also intended to place in the watch tower a powerful telescope, so that in stormy weather its members on duty may observe vessels making for the harbour. The watch tower is approached from the outside by a spiral staircase, a useful addition to the construction. The total cost of the watch tower and the extension to the brigade house has been £400. The work has been carried out under the superintendence of the architect Mr S. Malcolm, hon. Secretary to the brigade, the contractor being Mr Frazer, builder, South Shields.  

The supper, which was served by Mr Todhunter of the Criterion Restaurant was numerously attended, over 100 sitting down. Ald. Glover presided, there being present also Mr J. C. Stevenson, M.P., who came into the room after supper, and was heartily applauded, Ald. J. F. Spence (North Shields), Messrs J.M. Moore, Town Clerk, J. Dickson, Collector of Customs, W. S. Weatherburn, Supt. Of Mercantile Marine Office; Capt. Gillie; Messrs S. Malcolm, secretary, R. Glover, London, John Robinson, Capt. Whitelaw, Messrs W. Hardy, Bo’ness, M Cay, W. Cay, T. G. Mabane, J.W. White, J. Blenkinsop (Newcastle), J. Ridley, Jos. Crisp, S. Hails, Collen, John Robinson Esq., J. Middleton, and W. Brockbanks.

The usual loyal toasts were proposed from the chair and duly honoured, after which:

The Chairman proposed “Army, Navy and Volunteers” coupled with the names of Major Stevenson and Mr Latter. He hoped they should never need their services, but if they did he was sure their efficiency in the borough of South Shields and in other places was such as to satisfy any one. They were a splendid body of men, and he had heard a lady say she had never seen a better dressed lot of men or better commanded than those of South Shields under Major Stevenson. (Applause), If war did occur, which he should be sorry for, he would promise them to take care of the wives and bairns, though he would go no further. (Laughter and applause)

Mr LATTER in responding for the navy, said he hoped the English Navy would always be efficient and accidents like the loss of the Vanguard, in which he was unfortunately present in the Iron Duke, would occur no more. He begged to thank them on behalf of the navy for the way in which they had received that toast. (Applause)
Major STEVENSON responding on behalf of the volunteers, said it seemed they were not satisfied with the response of the navy, but must perforce drag him out to say something also. It occurred to him that the great principles of this country were that the army, navy as well as the volunteers-and all the public services-were manned by volunteers-(hear, hear)-for it was no longer necessary to use absolute force to make men serve these two great departments of national defence, while as regards the volunteers strictly, so called, though they could not point to any deeds done in the past to justify the favourable mention they made of them on occasions like that, he felt sure that in case of emergency, the South Shields Volunteers would find themselves made of the same stuff as those who in times past contributed to the glory of the country. (Applause) Without wishing to trespass on any other gentleman who would probably talk on the subject of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, he felt sure that the same volunteer spirit would animate the people of the country in every department of the public service. He thought it was very fit that voluntary services should be more highly valued than them which were simply performed for pay and but he hoped the same spirit would animate regulars as well as volunteers. (Loud applause)

Mr MALCOLM was next called to read a statement of the history of the Brigade. After congratulating the members and welcoming the visitors he proceeded:- It is just ten years since the Brigade was established and I thought it not inappropriate to this occasion to give you a brief sketch of the history necessarily somewhat of a somewhat personal character to a great many of us, it is clothed in much more modest language than perhaps it deserves. In December 1865, a few gentlemen met together to talk over the desirability of having a Life Brigade at South Shields formed on the model of that at Tynemouth, which has the honour of being the first established in the country, our own being second. In January 1866, a petition was presented to the then Mayor (Mr Moffett) who called a public meeting to consider the matter. This was held in the Town Hall, Jan 15th, when resolutions favourable to the movement were passed. About 140 offered their services as brigadesmen, and their services were accepted by the Board of Trade on Jan 31st. The first rocket drill took place on Feb. 17th and in April we attended the first shipwreck winning our spurs and saving 7 people, including a woman and her baby, which incident forms the subject of the picture you see hanging on the wall. In November other 4 people were brought ashore; in 1867, 19 brought ashore, in 1868, 15 brought ashore; in 1869, 12 brought ashore; in 1870, 10 brought ashore; in 1871, 9 brought ashore, in 1873, 2 brought ashore, and in 1874, 10 brought ashore; making a total of 88 lives saved from 17 vessels. We have had to attend many more wrecks than these where the crews were saved chiefly by our gallant brethren the lifeboat men. The first winter was long and severe, and it was soon found necessary to have a shelter for the members. The public subscribed liberally, and a watch house was built, consisting of two-thirds of the present room and the porch outside. The next year it was resolved to provide accommodation for shipwrecked crews, instead of having to send them, often very much exhausted, into the town. Accordingly a room was added, containing bed berths, bath, clothing and other appliances for their comfort. This year a further extension has been made, namely, lengthening this room by 18 feet, and also adding a look-out above, from which we get a more extended range seaward, the two being connected by a circular staircase. I must express my personal thanks to the Board of Trade and those gentlemen who have so liberally subscribed to these alterations. Ten years bring many changes, and several of those who helped found this brigade – such as Mr Ingham, Mr Salmon, Mr Moffett, Mr Maxwell, Dr Stokoe and others- have all passed away, as well as many more who more closely identified themselves with us as working members. Such is a brief outline of the past decade, which includes many a stormy night, many a heartrending scene, and many a “God bless you my fine fellows,” from those who have been rescued from a watery grave.

The CHAIRMAN then proposed the health of the founder of the Life Brigade in North Shields -Ald. J. F. Spence-(Loud applause)-his friends and the friends of every man and woman in the Kingdom. (Loud applause). The toast was drunk with musical honours.

Ald. SPENCE, in reply, thanked the company heartily for the compliment, but said he hardly felt himself qualified to speak as to the little services he had been able to render in connection with the Life Brigade. He hoped the reporters would rather correct the idea that he was the founder of the Life Brigade at North Shields. It was true that he had a great deal to do with it in his position as secretary, which necessarily brought his name somewhat prominently forward-and perhaps give him more credit than was due to him. (Applause) He congratulated the brigade on their improved house, from which they would have the honour of going forth to do that which was the greatest honour which could be accorded to any man-save the lives of his fellow men. (Hear, hear and applause). The Army, Navy and Volunteers had been mentioned, though he was a Quaker and had peculiar ides on the subject, he supposed the position of England would never be what it was but for them; yet, without disparagement to the forces, he would rather be a member of the Life Brigade than of any other organisation in the country. (Applause). He looked back eleven or twelve years ago, and remembered the wreck of the Stanley, on the 24th December, 1864, when there were hundreds of people on the rocks endeavouring to assist to save life, but their efforts were futile. Why? Because the people on board did not know what to do, nor did they. He had heard it said that anybody could pull a rope, but that was not all, and he thought one great advantage of the Life Brigade was this-that every man when he came down to the pier knew his duty. (Hear, hear.) He was glad the member for South Shields was there that night, for this reason-there had been a great talk lately in Parliament and about the country, about the present system of saving life, and the apparatus; and he believed there were no men better qualified to give an opinion on the matter than the members of the Life Brigade at Tynemouth. There had been a talk of going back to the old mortar system, but all those suggestions he argued were retrograde. Mr Bell had invented a travelling block, which was a manifest advantage, and they had always found Mr Gray, the assistant secretary of the Board of Trade, do everything he possibly could do for the organisation which was commenced in 1864. He felt sure that, with an international system of life saving, the number of lives saved would be increased tenfold. This was the great difficulty they had to contend with, and if Mr Stevenson, who was present, could do anything in his place in Parliament towards the carrying out of a system of international life-saving apparatus, it would be an advantage, not only to the members of the Life Brigade, but to all the seafaring community. (Loud applause.)

J. C. STEVENSON, Esq., M.P. then rose to propose the toast of the evening, “Success to the South Shields Life Brigade.” It was a toast, he said, in which he was sure they would all heartily join. After the interesting and eloquent report which the secretary had presented to them, it would be quite unnecessary for him to enlarge upon its benefits or its history, and after the way in which the advantages of the lifeboat, the courage and humanity which animates the crew-to quote two words of the South Shields motto-had been so depicted by his friend on the right, Mr Spence, he felt it would be superfluous to attempt any further description of them. With respect to the international system of life-saving, suggested by Mr Spence, he could only say that he should be delighted to to carry out as far as he could these suggestions which he had made. (Applause.) He believed, however, that the Board of Trade required very little stirring up from them to in that respect; he believed that they were anxious to do all that could possibly be done to avert the dangers of shipwreck by lifeboats and life-saving apparatus, and the example set at the mouth of the Tyne had been followed by other districts around the coast. He thought they should have no difficulty in showing up foreign nations too in that respect, for they had a right to do it, seeking as they did not only to rescue the Englishmen wrecked on their shores, but the foreigners who they invited by the commerce to our land. (Applause) Another practical point of importance seemed to him the advice the Life Brigade could give the Board of Trade on the merits of so-called inventions for saving life at sea.    (Hear, hear.) Inventors no doubt often thought that the Board of Trade turned a deaf ear and hard heart to their benevolent suggestions; but he thought it was important that those suggestions should be practically tested by men competent to form an opinion, and he was glad to think that Mr Spence had no complaint to make against the Board of Trade in that respect. It was to be hoped that other nations would follow the example of England, and he was glad to see that the German Government, in the matter of the Deutschland, wrecked on the Kentish Rocks, were content that the disaster should be sifted by an English court of enquiry, and recognised England as the foremost nation in maritime affairs. (Hear, hear and applause.) In conclusion, he begged to propose the toast “Prosperity to the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade,” and coupled with it the name of the senior captain, Mr William Cay. (Loud applause.)

Captain CAY responded briefly, and said he hoped the Brigade would be ever ready to come to the rescue whenever required.

The remainder of the toast list was as follows:- The health of the Captain of the South Shields Life Brigade, Mr Ald. Glover, proposed by Mr Moore, and responded to by Ald. Glover; the health of Mr Archibald Stevenson, proposed by the Chairman, and replied to by Mr J. C. Stevenson;  and the health of Mr Thompson, of Newcastle, proposed by the Chairman. All these toasts were honoured musically.

The proceedings were brought to a close shortly after ten o’clock, by the singing of the national anthem in capital style.

During the evening Captain Whitelaw, Mr Middleton and Mr Chapman, sang some excellent songs.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette December 28 1875