Events 1876


7 January

The Annual Report states that the Brigade attended a Norwegian vessel stranded on the Herd Sand, but their services were not required. This was most likely to be the Danish vessel Tjilfe.

10 January

A donation from the Bishop of Durham to the building of the tower was mentioned by the Vicar of South Shields in his speech at Mr Straker’s annual dinner to aged seamen.

In speaking of Bishop he might be permitted to state that the other day he happened to casually mention that the Volunteer Life Brigade were trying to raise funds to build a new watch tower, when, without a moment’s hesitation, he said, “There’s £25 towards the encouragement of those who magnanimously risk their lives in trying to save the lives of others.” (Applause)

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 11 January 1876

14 January

A benefit performance of “Cinderella” was held in aid of the Brigade.

South Shields Amphitheatre. —Last night the proprietor of the above popular place of amusement gave a special performance in aid of the fund for the extension and improvement of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade Watch House. The pantomime of “Cinderella” was enacted in manner a which showed that careful training had been bestowed upon the juveniles, and which also reflected credit on the members of the company. The praiseworthy object of Mr Siddall’s benefit seemed to have met with the approbation of the public, there being a vary numerous attendance, several prominent members of the brigade being also present.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 15 January 1876

23 January

An article on Shields Museum includes a reference to “the first rocket fired by the South Shields Life Brigade, bearing date Feb. 17, 1867.”  The first drill was actually 17 Feb. 1866.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 23 January 1876





19 May

The Brigade gave a demonstration of the equipment for Mr Monkhouse of the Board of Trade.


Last night, an inspection of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade took place at the Recreation ground in the presence of Capt. Prowse, R.N., Inspector-General of Rocket Apparatus; Mr Monkhouse, Board of Trade, and numerous assemblage of ladies and gentlemen. Amongst those present were the Mayoress and Miss Broughton, Capt. Roche, R N., Inspecting Commander of Coastguard; Mr Latter, chief officer of coastguard; Ald. J. F. Spence, Joseph Spence, Miss Fail, Tynemouth; Messrs S. Malcolm, M. Cay, jun., J. Crisp, S. Cottew, A. Whitelaw, T. G. Mabane, G. R. Potts, W. Blain, J. Blain, Supt Stephens, River Tyne Police, and others. The drill was most satisfactory, and only seven and half minutes were occupied from the firing of the rocket to the landing the man from the mast. Several volunteers were brought from the mast in succession, and Mr Monkhouse had an aerial trip in the breeches buoy, after which the drill concluded. The volunteers then proceeded to the Watch House on the South Pier, where they were addressed in flattering terms by Mr Monkhouse, Capt. Prowse. and others.

Mr MONKHOUSE expressed his great pleasure at meeting the volunteers and seeing the rocket apparatus excellently and efficiently worked. The means thus provided for saving life from shipwreck were nearly as possible reaching perfection, and therefore they could bear comparison with any brigade that could possibly be formed. Of course they hoped that some day it might be possible to make some improvement so that the people on board ship might know what they had to do when the rocket line was thrown over their stranded vessel He was sure, whatever new inventions took place, there was plenty of intelligence to take hold of them, and plenty of willing hands to carry them out. (Applause)

Capt. PROWSE said he was glad to see the members of the brigade again, and he was also glad they had turned out in such large numbers with so short notice for drill This was not an inspection, but they had simply come down in consequence of an order from the Board of Trade in order that Mr Monkhouse might see fully into the working of the rocket apparatus. Referring to the brigade house, he said they must be satisfied it was perfect in every form and shape, and hoped a railing would be run round it to protect the outside. He was sorry their friend, Mr Ald. Glover, was not present. He met him in the streets, and he promised to come down, but he (Captain Prowse) was afraid he had been detained. They would, he was sure, have enjoyed his hearty remarks, as they had done at different times. Captain Prowse again thanked the members, and said he hoped before long meet them again. (Applause.)

Mr JOSEPH SPENCE said this was the first time he had had the pleasure of being in that house, and the first time he had seen the South Shields Life Brigade drill. He complimented the members on their persevering energy at several wrecks, when he had, from the Battery at Tynemouth, watched their actions with the greatest anxiety. Although this was the first time had had the pleasure of meeting them, he hoped it would not be the last, and they (the Tynemouth Brigade) would always be glad to see them the other side of the water. He had watched their drill that night with great interest, and they had certainly done it in an expeditious manner. He expressed admiration at seeing the members in uniform, and thought they had set the Tynemouth Brigade a good example. When in uniform they knew who were really members and who wore not. (Hear, hear, and applause.)

Ald. J. F. SPENCE said it was always a pleasure to him to come over there, and see what was going on with their Life Brigade. He could not say it was the first time he had been there he had not only come on stormy nights and seen their labours, but he had also come and enjoyed their hospitality, and heard many good songs sung in that house. He also alluded Ald. Glover’s absence, and said he hoped the time would far distant when they would lose his services as their chairman. It would be very hard indeed to find man to take his place, and he was sure the genial manner in which he conducted their meetings must be the admiration of everybody. He referred to the efficient working of the rocket apparatus, and said that as long as this was a kingdom life brigades would be carried on round our coasts. He believed the two brigades at the mouth of the Tyne were thoroughly established, and hoped that friendly feeling would always exist between them. (Applause.)

Mr MALCOLM, the Secretary, in the name of the South Shields Brigade, said they could not do less than return their thanks for the kind remarks which had been made. They were especially pleased to see Mr Monkhouse, of the Board of Trade. They were also glad to see Capt Prowse, who had been elevated in dignity and honours, and was now Inspector General of Rocket Apparatus round the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland. (Applause) He thought so much of the Tyne Brigades that before going to Ireland to-morrow (Saturday) he had called round there to see them on his way. They felt much obliged likewise to Messrs Spence for their flattering remarks; and, on his own behalf, was glad to see so many members muster on such short notice, (Applause.)

Mr T. A. WILSON seconded the proposition of a vote of thanks to the speakers.

Capt. ROCHE, R.N., in answer to calls, addressed a few complimentary remarks to the members.

Cheers were then given in a hearty manner for the speakers and for the ladies, and the interesting proceedings terminated.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 20 May 1876


30 June

The Brigade received a visit from Commander Pompen of the Brazilian Navy.

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade

At the request of the Board of Trade, a SPECIAL ROCKET DRILL will take place at the South Pier on Friday first, the 30th inst., at 7 p.m. in the presence of Commander Pompen of the Brazilian Navy.

A full muster of members is requested.

S. MALCOLM, Honorary Secretary

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 29 June 1876

This morning Commander Pompeu, of the Brazilian Navy, visited the Wellesley Ship, accompanied by Mr Malcolm, Secretary to the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, Dr Crease, surgeon of the ship, and Captain Cay. The Commander was shown over the vessel by Captain Pocock, who explained to him the system of training and discipline pursued on board. This evening Commander Pompeu will be present a special drill of the South Shields Life Brigade, at seven o'clock, having been sent to this country by the Brazilian Government to enquire into the system of saving life from shipwreck by means of the Rocket Apparatus, and report to them. South Shields is the first place the Commander has visited for this purpose, the Board of Trade recommending him here.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 30 June 1876


Last night, at the request of the Board of Trade, a special rocket drill, by the members of the above brigade, took place at the South Pier, South Shields, when Commander Pompeu, of the Brazilian Imperial Nary, was present. There was a strong muster of volunteers, and amongst those in attendance were Capt. Roche, R.N., Commander of Coastguard; Captains M. Cay, T. G. Mabane, S. Cottew, W. Cay, J. T. White, Mr S. Malcolm (secretary of the brigade), Messrs T. A. Wilson, G. R. Potts, J. Crisp, A. Whitelaw, T. Hails, Ald. Glover, Dr Crease, Ald. Dickinson (Jarrow), Mr J. Graham (Sunderland), Rev. E. L. Butcher, Mr G. S. Lyall, Mr T. Stephens, superintendent of River police, Mr T. Richardson, superintendent of borough police, and others. The weather being exceedingly fine, there was an unusually large concourse of spectators and much Interest was evinced in the performances of the brigade. The rocket apparatus having been taken to the Recreation Ground the working of the same was explained to Commander Pompeu, and the drill was then proceeded with. The volunteers went through their task in a manner which showed that they were well acquainted with their duties, and the time which elapsed between the firing the rocket and landing the first man was only seven and a half minutes. It should be stated that while this was on going the working of the various ropes and blocks was being examined by the commander, and time was consequently being lost After two or three men had been landed the visitor ventured himself into the breeches buoy, and was entertained to an aerial flight to and from the mast. A second rocket was afterwards fired in order to show Commander Pompeu the manner in which the apparatus could be worked in the event of the hawser being carried away. The drill being concluded, the members returned the watchhouse on the South Pier, where Mr Malcolm explained the object of Commander Pompeu’s visit. He was glad to say that the Brazilian Government was very liberal its ideas, and had resolved to adopt the rocket apparatus along their coast. This was an important announcement to the locality of the Tyne, and would be welcome to all Englishmen who had to go to the Brazils. Commander Pompeu had purchased a set of apparatus and sent them away from London a fortnight ago by a sailing vessel The Board of Trade requested their brigade to muster, in order to shew the Commander, the details of working the apparatus, and he would be expressing their thoughts when he said it was a great honour to them that they had been selected to explain to him the way in which the apparatus worked. (Hear, hear.) Commander Pompeu had specially remained in England to be present that evening, and when he got home he would endeavour to put into practice what had been explained to him here. He hoped they would soon hear of the Brazilian Government having not one apparatus, but hundreds along their extensive coast, in the event of ships of any country being cast ashore, as they were unfortunately sometimes. (Hear, hear.) Commander Pompeu, who was unable to make a speech in English, wished him to express his sincere thanks the members for having mustered in such large numbers, and to say that be felt highly gratified, and was going away with pleasant recollections of South Shields.—Three British cheers were then given for Commander Pompeu and the Brazilian Government, after which, by request of Commander Pompon, three cheers were given for the English Government and the Board of Trade.—Capt Roche, R.N., congratulated the members on the occasion which had brought them together, and said he should be happy to express to the Board of Trade officially the pleasant way in which they had conducted themselves that evening for the benefit of the Brazilian Government—Ald. Glover, after a few felicitous observations, proposed a hearty vote of thanks to Commander Pompeu for his presence that night This compliment having been given in English style the Commander bowed his acknowledgment The proceedings then terminated.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 1 July 1876

27 July

The Annual Meeting took place.





12 November

Damage to the Piers

The north-east coast was yesterday visited by a heavy gale from the south-east, accompanied by frequent showers of rain. The sea rapidly rose, and broke along the coast with great force, while clouds of white spray were thrown over the piers at the mouth of the Tyne. A large fleet of vessels ran for the harbour during the day, and happily all of them got in in safety. After nightfall, the gale still raged unabated, and the sea continued ran very high. The members of the Volunteer Life Brigades at South Shields and Tynemouth were mustered in strong force in their respective watch-houses, and the lifeboat crews were also on the alert, in case their assistance should be required. Upwards of a hundred sailing vessels and screw-steamers entered the river, several of which put in for shelter, and some had put back. The vessels reported heavy weather at sea.

13 November

Monday Forenoon

The storm continues with unabated fury, and there seems no prospect of change in the state of the weather. During the night a great amount of damage has been done to both the North and South Piers at the mouth of the Tyne by the heavy seas which are ever and anon breaking high over them. About two hundred feet of the gearing at the extreme end of Tynemouth Pier has been washed away; and on the South Pier, such has been the force of the waves that some thirty yards’ length of railway has been torn up, and the metals carried over the side. One of the railway plates is broken through in a remarkable manner, as though it had been cut by machinery, and others are twisted in a variety of ways. Since daybreak several vessels have crossed Shields bar and entered the Tyne safety, their progress being eagerly watched by many persons. Among the arrivals are the screw-steamer Aristocrat, of North Shields, from overseas a brig, named the Patriot, with foretopmast all gone, and damage to stern; a schooner, with foretopmast knocked over; and a foreign galiot. Several other vessels were making for the harbour about noon, and as yet no shipping casualties have occurred at Shields. The Life Brigade men and the members of the various lifeboat crews are keeping vigilant look out to be in readiness should their assistance be required. The necessity for a hand rail along the north side of the South Pier is yearly becoming more felt, and the members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade affirm that it would unsafe to take their apparatus to the end of the pier should a vessel unfortunately be stranded there.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 13 November 1876


4 December

The Storm and the Life Brigade

To the Editor of the Shields Gazette & Daily Telegraph.

Sir, —On hearing the account of the foundering of the screw-steamer Prince on our bar, and also that no lookout had been kept in the Brigade House on Saturday night, during the heavy gale. I felt almost dumfounded. That the Coastguard did not think it necessary to give the signal for the Brigade to muster may be one way of getting over the matter; but. Sir, after the gale that had been raging all day, and an increasing sea, which had recently spent its fury by 12 o'clock, it does seem strange that the members of the Brigade did not muster. I would be the last in the world to try and throw any discredit on our noble Brigade, for when at their work they do it fearlessly and well. Yet lam afraid. Sir. whatever may be said, they will feel that had they been at their post there would have been possibility of having seen this steamer in time to have rescued some of the poor fellows whose cries would be heartrending. It no pleasant thing for the men travelling from Cullercoats to Tynemouth, and after arriving there find the watchhouse not open. It would be much better if the watchhouse was thrown open whenever there is an appearance stormy weather, rather than have the reflections of a night like Saturday night; and it will be well if those who have the management of the affair see that in future the house is open. I have been there myself. Sir. when the only persona astir were the coxswain of thy lifeboat and two or three more. It is sadly too long put in an appearance after the guns have fired, and this would have been the case on the special occasions I happened to pay a visit at midnight. It is also said that it was reported by a schooner to the Custom House boat that a steamer had gone down on the bar. and that the latter informed those on board H.M. ship Castor, but they would not fire because the guns at the battery must fire first. It does seem a hard-and-fast line in case of life and death, that if the battery men do not see a ship go down and her crew perishing, and that H.M. ship Castor's men know such to be the case, they must keep the mouths of their guns quiet. It will be as well if the seafaring population would look into this matter, there is no saying how soon this winter such affair may occur again, and unless some other arrangement be come to between H.M. ship Castor and the battery in such like emergencies as to the firing of the guns, it may be a blot on our port. In conclusion, Sir, I would just like to point out the folly of those aiding launching the lifeboat in persistently shouting and pulling without knowing what they are doing. I am quite aware everybody seems to be anxious to lend a helping hand, but it proves that “over many cooks spoil the broth.” Last night, I felt sorry for Gilbert, the coxswain of the lifeboat; he almost shouted himself hoarse. But so many were giving orders, things were brought to a standstill, and a complete muddle was made of the launching of the lifeboat. It would not be just to blame the constables for not keeping order, they were fully engaged in keeping the people clear of the rocket gear, and did their part in a highly commendable manner; but perhaps some of these strong fellows, who think they can do everything, will just allow the coxswain to give his orders, and they see that they are fulfilled, and things will go much smoother with all parties.

Yours truly,

Sailor’s Son

Dec. 4,1876.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 6 December 1876

6 December

The Town Council considered the provision of a handrail on the South Pier.

A Rail for the South Pier

Mr MABANE said, before they proceeded to the business of Council, he begged move that the standing orders be suspended, in order that he might move resolution to fortify him (the Mayor) and his brother Commissioners to the necessity of a rail being placed upon the north side of the South Pier. He, therefore, moved that the standing orders be suspended for the time being,

Mr BOWMAN seconded the motion, which was carried.

Mr MABANE then moved the following resolution, namely, “That this Council, appreciating the valuable services rendered at the South Pier by the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade in cases of shipwreck, would respectfully draw the attention of the River Tyne Commissioners to the great necessity of a railing being immediately placed upon the north side of the pier as a protection to the members of the brigade while engaged in their praiseworthy efforts to save life, as also to the public generally. That the Mayor be requested to present this resolution to the next meeting of the Commissioners, and that the South Shields representatives, with the member for the borough, be asked to support him.” He was afraid he had drawn the resolution in perhaps too egotistical terms, insomuch as he was himself a member of the Volunteer Life Brigade, but the time had arrived when something must be done for the protection of those in perfect safety, as well to assist in the safety of those in very great danger. No person who would give themselves the trouble to go to the pier in a gale of wind anywhere from south-east to north-east would dispute that was simply impossible to pass down further than what they called the jetty, where a boat generally hangs. He could speak personally from his experience that, in any case of shipwreck happening at the pier, it would be impossible for the brigade to give that assistance they were willing and anxious to do. He remembered on the night the Henry Cooke came ashore the sea was running parallel with the parapet, and they would easily understand the dangers undergone by the brigade on that occasion. The attention of the members was then drawn to the fact that had the wind been a point more to the south-east it would have been impossible for them to have performed their operations. It was absolutely necessary that there should be a rail placed on the north side of the pier commencing at the Brigade House easterly. Already this winter they had had occasion to be present at the Brigade House on duty, and he must say if any vessel had stranded in the neighbourhood of the gears at the end of the South Pier it would have been impossible for any human being to go to render assistance, inasmuch as the sea was making a clean breach over them. He trusted that the Council and the Commissioners might adopt the resolution and that in a short time there would be a good deal more safety than they had at present. The brigade were willing to run any amount of ordinary risk, but for the sake of few pounds protection might be afforded.

Ald. STRACHAN in seconding the resolution said he could concur in all that Mr Mabane had said, but thought the resolution might also include the safety of the general public.

Mr MABANE: It does, sir.

Ald. STRACHAN said it was sufficient to ask the Commissioners to place the rail on the north side of the pier, and trusted that the Council, under the able representation the Mayor, supported by the member for borough, would have their request acceded to by the Commissioners.

Mr EDGAR supported the motion, and remarked that a boy had been washed from the pier on Monday night. He went amongst the rocks, and thus saved his life.

The MAYOR said it would give him very great pleasure indeed to make their representation to the Commissioners; and if they were supported by Mr Stevenson, the member for the borough, and the other Commissioners representing that town, he felt sure it would be carried. At any rate, they would do their best to get it carried, and nothing should be wanting on his part, and he could speak for the other representatives, they would do the same thing.

The motion was then put and carried unanimously.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 7 December 1876

The Storm and the Life Brigade

To the Editor of the Shields Gazette and Daily Telegraph

Sir, —Your impression of this evening contains a letter from “A Sailor’s Son,” which brings a serious charge against the watchfulness of the Volunteer Life Brigades at this port. The facts are simply these: — First, that the height of the sea Saturday last, before dark, did not justify the hoisting the flag, or the Brigade would have mustered; secondly, that near midnight, when the gale was increasing, with blinding showers of rain and sleet, vessels attempting or crossing the bar could not be seen from the Spanish Battery.

Respecting the unfortunate Prince. The vessels that passed her closely upon the bar say she had no lights. If so, then how could she have been seen from the shore or assistance given to be of avail in saving any of her crew. It is probable that, had a lifeboat been alongside that sinking ship, few of her crew would have been saved, as her destruction had been the work of a few minutes. Undoubtedly, she had run upon a sea, broached to, and the succeeding waves had filled her. Her loss is appalling, but the spirit animating the brigade is fully known and the patient watchings, which night after night are spontaneously given in this humane work, is a sufficient guarantee that no efforts or pains are spared to guard the dangers besetting the path of the sailor in entering our harbour. Respecting the danger gun or signals, I trust the time will shortly come when they can be employed and used to denote the nature and locality the danger distress is occurring in; also when the peril ceased. This subject cannot be gone thoroughly into in this letter, but I know it will receive every consideration by those whom duty it is to think it out. The launching of the lifeboat was a miserable failure, and many of the Life Brigade would, as the “Son of a Sailor” did, sympathise with her coxswain and crew at not getting her afloat. These boats cannot afford to lose a single opportunity of putting in an appearance at a wreck: hence any help that is tendered should be received and spoken of with gratitude and respect.

Yours faithfully,


Front Street, Tynemouth, Dec. 6 1876

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 8 December 1876

The Storm and the Life Brigade

To the Editor of the Shields Gazette & Daily Telegraph,

Sir, —l observe a letter from “A Sailor's Son" last night, commenting on Mr Bruce’s letter of the 7th inst. I quite agree with “A Sailor's Son" in what he says about it, and I do think that when the Life Brigade proclaims to the public much about their watching at nights, they ought to keep a good look out. for surely when the sea breaks athwart the bar at six o'clock night, it is quite time the brigade was looking out, and the weather getting worse all the time. Then again he says the vessel that saw the ill-fated Prince go down saw no lights. How could he see them when he was astern the Prince, for his own words say that the Prince was ahead of them on the bar. and after the Prince went down they had to do all they could to keep clear of her. I do feel quite sure no steamer would take the bar without having his lights up; but the lights are not to seen astern of a vessel, and if the brigade had been looking out as they profess to do, they would have seen the lights disappear. Then the guns should have been fired, and the lifeboat pulled down to the scene of the disaster, and there is no doubt, some poor fellow would have been picked up. The evidence at the inquest goes on to say that one of the fellows was quite warm when he was picked up, and had even had his arm over a plank that had floated him ashore. How long some of the poor fellows had fought with the waves no one knows, with what heart they clung to the hope that the lifeboat was making to their rescue. Hoping there will be a better look out stormy nights for the future, and remarking that there is an old saying which declares that “it is never too late to mend,’’

I am. Sir. yours truly.


South Shields. Dec. 8.1876.

To the Editor of the Shields Gazette and Daily Telegraph.

Sir, — “Sailor’s Son” replies to my  letter of yesterday. I am also the son and grandson of a sailor, and my sympathies fully embrace the subject. Upon consideration I find it unwise replying to a masked correspondent. It is ungenerous- perhaps unmanly-sitting behind a paper screen to stigmatise and complain of those whose benevolence and goodness prompt them to mitigate the dangers of those at sae. I should have been glad to have replied, but refrain.

Yours truly,


Tynemouth, Dec. 8, 1876.

To the Editor of the Shields Gazette & Daily Telegraph.

SIR. — l have read two letters in your paper from “Sailor’s Son.”  I had expected some of our officers would have answered his ignorant assertions as regards the Life Brigade, but they have not done so. I beg to inform “Sailor’s Son” that if he will give his real name and address, I will let him know some facts about last Saturday night, which will perhaps startle him not little.

I am, Sir.

Yours truly,


20 Prudhoe Terrace, Tynemouth

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 9 December 1876

The Storm and the Life Brigade

To the Editor of the Shields Gazette & Daily Telegraph,

SIR, — l feel deep regret at the sacrifice of life at our harbour mouth by the loss of the steamship Prince. The South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade neither saw her nor her lights. It has been stated in your paper by some one that there was no look-out. That not true. I arrived our Brigade House, after a hard day’s work, at half -past nine o’clock in the evening, and found the house open. There were three coastguards on duty. Deputy-Captain B. Birch and few members of the Brigade were also there; among them men, to their credit be it spoken, who ought to have been in their comfortable home after a hard day’s work. I cannot say too much in favour of our coastguard and brigadesmen on that awful night, for there never was a better look out kept. There were four men outside the house, as well as a man in the tower. Several vessels came in without lights, so it is no use saying they would not come in without lights. Four of our members went down the South Pier as far as the iron gate, and stayed there until they were obliged to retreat on account of the sea. They returned wet through, and their places were taken by other four members. I must say I never saw. since the formation of the life Brigade, a better look-out. both by coastguards and members of the brigade. If any one disputes this statement of facts, they may come and see the roll book, which is open. We are true to our motto— “Always Ready.”

One the Central Committee.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 11 December 1876

The Storm and the Life Brigade

To the Editor of the Shields Gazette & Daily Telegraph.

SIR, —Without doubt the attention of the Life Brigade has been called to this subject now. And I feel convinced every attention will be paid to the opening of the house on the appearance of stormy weather in future. “A Sailor's Son” knows too well the character of Mr Jos, Spence and his brother, as well as that of Mr Morrison, to think the matter will be overlooked after what has been said. The faces of the above gentlemen, also those of Mr Jas. Gilbert. Mr Anderson, Mr Whitelaw and a few others, seem most familiar to those who visit Brigade House at midnight, and no doubt those gentlemen feel as sorry as anyone that the Brigade House was not open. They have every credit paid them by the press for their work of humanity and love, and I am sure they cannot grumble having attention drawn to any defect through the same channel. I consider. Sir. to take any more of your valuable space would be a waste of time, further than saying a few parting words to Mr Geo. Bruce and his brother in-brigade. Mr Glover. The former gentleman, in his first letter, said, “This subject cannot be gone thoroughly into in this letter, &c.," after which. Sir, we fully expected something startling, as I had committed a “serious charge” in speaking, or daring to speak, of the brigade in any other terms than that used in both his letters. However, he finds he has nothing to stand on after a little “consideration” and thinks he better wind up by informing “Sailor's Son” that his grandfather, as well as his father, followed the calling of a sailor. Of course they have not bequeathed or endowed him with any of the foresight appertaining to that class, or he would have known what was brewing on Saturday. He complains, “It is ungenerous—perhaps unmanly silting behind a paper screen to stigmatise and complain. &c." Now this Is one way of getting out of the dilemma, but. Sir, if “Sailor’s Son’’ had had nothing more to depend on than a paper screen my friend could easily have blown it down. But facts are stubborn things to deal with, and after Mr Bruce has read “W. M’s” letter, I hope he will clearly see his rocket has missed its mark, and a little more attention to the brigade will have the desired effect of making his aim in future more accurate. Now, Sir, for the lesser luminary, Mr Glover, with his “ignorant assertions.” A better example of presumption I never remember to have seen in print, and it will no doubt add to the amusement his friends in the brigade, especially the officers whom he thinks are behind in their duty not replying to “A Sailor’s Son.” that if I would give my real name and address, he will let me know some facts about Saturday night, which will perhaps startle him not a little. I can assure you. Sir, this would be the last gentleman in the world I should have thought of applying to for startling facts, and there is doubt but your reporter will confer a boon on the public by applying to the gentleman, whose address will be pretty well known now since he has got it inserted in your widely circulated paper. Sufficient has now been said on this subject, and the only duty those gentlemen have left me to perform is to thank you for your valuable space.

Yours truly.


Source: Shields Daily Gazette 12 December 1876

14 December

The Tyne Commissioners discussed the request for a railing on the Pier.

The Piers- Proposed Railing on the South Pier

The Piers Committee reported that they had considered a resolution from South Shields Town Council, pointing out the necessity of a railing being immediately placed upon the north aide of the South Pier, as a protection to the members of the Volunteer Life Brigade, while engaged in their efforts to save life, and also as a protection to the public generally. The committee recommended the Commissioners to comply with the request the of South Shields Town Council and that the engineer be instructed accordingly.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 15 December 1876


The Brigade was on standby when the Russell struck the pier, but their services were not required.

18 December

The weather continued stormy during yesterday, and the sea was still very rough. There was a look out kept by the members of the Volunteer Life Brigades at Tynemouth and South Shields, but fortunately their services were not required.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 19 December 1876

19 December

The Proposed Hand-Rail for the South Pier

The Mayor and several members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade met Mr Messant, engineer to the Commissioners, on the South Pier yesterday, in reference the rail that is about to be erected. It was decided to run the rail from the jetty at a distance of about seven feet from the north edge of the Pier.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 20 December 1876

19 December

Gale on the North-East Coast

The opening words of our telegram, yesterday, from the Meteorological Office, “pressure continues to fall everywhere,” will have prepared our readers for the gale from the South-East, which burst over the North-East Coast, at a very early hour this morning. Since the last gale, there has been no settled weather, and high winds, heavy seas, and excessive rain falls have been experienced. Some of the recent tides, too, have been exceptionally high in the Tyne, so that, altogether the present gale may be said to be but a continuation of the last in which the unfortunate steamer Prince foundered at the very mouth of Shields harbour. Last night the wind had died away to a calm, but the sea was still very rough, and it was evident that some sixty or a hundred miles away in the North Sea a very violent storm must have been raging. This morning, at daybreak, the storm had increased a violent gale, accompanied by blinding and continuous torrents of rain. From the North and South Piers the scene was, as usual, one of the most awful grandeur. Over each pier, huge cataracts of white angry foam were dashing tumultuously, and all along the horizon the dark lurid clouds were set off by a belt of white sea. All along the shore the sand was driven up by the force the wind in heavy showers, which rendered access to the Brigade House on the South Pier a matter of no little difficulty. Stray fragments of the last wreck the Russell, were being dashed against the Pier, and added to the gloom and grandeur of the scene. At all the out-look stations, groups of were anxiously gazing sea ward, and sheltered behind some convenient beacon, looking out for the approach of any vessel that might endeavour to cross the bar. But to the time of writing only two or three screw-steamers had made this attempt, and those had gained the harbour in safety. ln both Brigade Houses the members were on the alert, and a very eager watch was set. The life-boat crews were also in readiness on both sides of the river, with the boats prepared for launching, if necessary. The general threatening altitude of the weather during the past fortnight has prevented many sailing vessels from leaving the Tyne, consequently the harbour and docks are crowded with every variety of craft. The necessary precautions have been taken for securing the vessels to their moorings, and, so far they have continued to ride out the gale in safety. During the temporary lull of yesterday, and notwithstanding that the drum was still hoisted, and that the barometer was still rapidly falling, a large fleet of screw-steamers left the Tyne, among them being a number of coasting colliers. As yet none of them have put back, but, owing to severe gale which has prevailed during this morning, the greatest anxiety is felt for their safety. The range from the sea this forenoon is more felt than it has been since the commencement of the storm, and it reaches a good distance up the river. The ferries and steamtug, which are the only vessels to be seen plying are being tossed about as though they were at sea. Owing to the severity of the weather the streets in North and South Shields presented a dreary and deserted appearance, few people caring to stir out of doors who could possibly avoid doing so. In the low parts of the town many of the dilapidated houses have suffered considerably owing to the heavy rains, large accumulations of water having flooded their lower stories. Up to the time of going to press, 2 p.m., no casualties, either at the entrance to the harbour or on the shore, had bet reported, but there was no appearance of any abatement in the storm.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 20 December 1876

21 December

This has proved to be one of the most signicant and tragic events in the history of the Brigade. Details of individual vessels can be found in the "Wrecks" section (Tyne, Fenella, Claremont), but the following article gives a full account of the incident.

Terrific Gale

Three Screw Steamers Ashore

On the South Pier

Loss of the Steamer Tyne with all Hands

Appalling Scenes

In all the history of wreck and disaster to which Shields is unhappily subjected, it has perhaps never had a night of such fatal and awful occurrences as was last nights witnessed. No pen can adequately describe the events which it is our painful duty to record. Those alone who were on the spot can fully realise the agony and solemnity of the scene. All yesterday a fierce gale from the south-east raged with unabated fury, rushing on the piers with angry mountains of sea, and lining the shore with one long belt of foam. The rain was continuous and blinding, and the grey dull sky overhanging the whole scene made the seaward prospect a very gloomy and depressing one. During the day a few vessels came into port, making the bar successfully; but the greatest anxiety was felt for several vessels that were known to have left London for Shields, and that would probably arrive last night. Towards midnight the wind abated slightly in violence, but the sea was running very high over the bar. All day yesterday, and through the night the most vigilant watch was kept at both the brigade houses, and at every place along the shore, that everything human foresight could devise was done to avert disaster. About two minutes to two o’clock in the morning the look-out man at the Brigade House on the South Pier reported a vessel. She was observed to be making very heavy weather, her masthead light going well down to one side. Suddenly she was seen to waver in her course; a heavy wash seemed to strike her bar, and instead of the red light, she showed green, plainly indicating that she had been turned completely round by force the waves. The men watching her notified that she did not recover so rapidly as might have been expected, and a few of them at once ran down the pier. The vessel by this time had got down to the south of the pier, and was coming on to the Herd Sand to the south; upon seeing this the brigade men signalled immediately to Tynemouth, and proceeded to get the rocket apparatus and gear down the pier. In the very act of doing so they were called by their mates on the pier, and rushing down with a promptness that cannot be too highly lauded got the van and the rocket apparatus right abreast of the vessel as soon as the first guns were fired from the battery and answered by the guns of the Castor. The whole section of the brigade in this emergency was admirable, as may be seen from the fact that before the last gun of the Castor had fired the first rocket was prepared to be shot. The first rocket line fell fairly amidships of the vessel, but hung on to the stays, where it could not be reached. A second line was fired which fell abaft the mainmast; but at last a line was secured and a hawser drawn on board. By this time, it became known that the vessel was the Claremont, of Newcastle, commanded by Captain Worth. She was from Hull and bound for the Tyne, in ballast. At three o’clock when communication had been effected, the pilots were then launching the Wm. Wouldhave lifeboat at the south side of the pier with the view of getting the crew off by that means. The brigade men were indefatigable in their endeavours, and the delay seemed to be on board, or owing to the terrific sea that was running. Shortly after three o’clock, the wife and child of the second engineer, Mr Harvey, were safely brought ashore by means of the apparatus; the poor woman and her little boy being much frightened. Then two by two the crew consisting of 20 hands, were all landed safely on the pier and taken to the Brigade House, where they were kindly treated. It appears that the Claremont left Hull about eight on Tuesday night, and when off the Flamborough Head she was overtaken by the gale, and ran before it until about noon yesterday, when off the Tyne, the tremendous gale making her labour. When the wind went down the master attempted to enter the Tyne, and when in the fair way for the harbour a succession of heavy seas struck her on the starboard bow and rendered her unmanageable. The helm was hard a port to clear the pier end, but as she would not answer, and was in great danger of striking the end of the pier, Captain Worth put the helm hard a starboard to run her on the beach, when she was seen by the brigade. The Claremont is 700 tons register, and belongs to Mr Wilson, Lovaine Place, Newcastle, the son of the owner being chief engineer. She is almost a new vessel, and is 5 years old, classed at Liverpool Lloyds. Her original crew is 24, but she had only 19 hands on board at the time of the wreck, besides the two passengers before stated. So happily ended the first calamity; but while all this was in progress the sea seemed to be increasing in violence, though the wind had somewhat died. Between 5 and 6 o’clock, a light was descried on the horizon to the far south. It was steadily watched as the other had been. And preparations for equal promptitude were made. The light approached and another screw-steamer was seen to be making for the harbour. All appeared well with her till, on rounding the pier a terrific sea caught her, and twisted her out of her course, and she struck with a tremendous crash upon the end of the pier. This proved to be the screw-steamer Tyne, Captain Lawlan, of North Shields. Once again the signal guns boomed out the startling, and in this case it proved fatal, tidings, for not a single soul of all her hands but perished in that awful sea. The vessel seemed to be very deep in the water, and appeared to be in a sinking condition. It was evident that she would soon go down. The most active attempts at rescue that ever mortal men could achieve were at once endeavoured, but nothing could avert such an appalling fatality. Rocket after rocket was fired, while the ship settled down before the very eyes of the brigadesmen who were striving with heart and soul to save the crew. The crew took to the rigging at once, and again and again the lines were fired to them. At this time the guns had brought a vast crowd to the piers, and this somewhat impeded the action of the brigadesmen, but nevertheless they continued to fire rocket lines over the fast sinking ship. It was about half-past seven now, and a faint grey glimmer of the coming day enabled those on the pier to see the outline of the vessel’s rigging with the poor fellows clinging to it. Their cries were simply heartrending, and no words can give the faintest idea of those fearful shrieks of doomed men. The waves ran half-mast high over the vessel, and one by one they were washed off. At last the continued seas smashed away the funnel, and next the stays and the mainmast gave way. Still the poor fellows clung desperately to the rigging, and all the time piercing cries for help and of despair made every heart on the pier sad. Nothing could be done; no lifeboat could live for a single moment in such a sea; and while the brigadesmen tried their hardest and their ultimate, the Tyne went down, and every one of the crew were engulfed into the awful sea. Above the howling of the wind and waves could be heard the cries of drowning men, but only for a few seconds and then all sounds ceased and all eyes were turned to another approaching calamity. Almost before the Tyne had gone down a third screw-steamer was seen making for the harbour. As she came into the south pier it was seen that she was running dead on to the wreck that had occurred only a few minutes before. She had been dashed out of her course by another fearful sea and had struck the end of the pier, while a second one had swung her off again. Those on shore shouted with all their might for her to keep clear of the wreck, the captain of the ship must have understood their warnings and seen the danger at once, for with splendid seamanship he sent the vessel into a safe place by the south of the pier, narrowly missing the stern of the Tyne. He cleared it however by a few feet, and the vessel was stranded just a few feet astern of the first vessel. This last vessel turned out to be the steamer Fenella, Capt. Stewart, from London. The lines were at once thrown to the ship, but the captain and crew, thinking the vessel lay in a safe place chose to remain on board. Just at this time the body of Captain Lawlan was washed ashore and conveyed to the Brigade House, where every effort was made to restore animation; but Dr Crease who was present, examined the body and pronounced it to be lifeless. The head and face of the captain were was fearfully bruised and battered by the violence of the waves and presented a shocking appearance. Captain Lawlan was a man held in deep respect in South Shields, and much sorrow is felt at his loss. An accident happened to one of the river policemen, named John Barnett, during the night, who was assisting the Brigade men. He fell over the rocks and broke his leg. Two of the brigadesmen were also slightly injured.

Further details reach us of the harrowing scenes attending the sinking of the Tyne. Not only were men clinging to her rigging, but several poor fellows were seen clinging to the funnel, till the heat of it burned their fingers, and they had to drop off. Six or seven clinging to the mainmast, which first of all went by the board, the sea swallowing them up instantly. The foremast next went overboard, but none of the men were upon this. On the mainmast two poor fellows were hanging on as the Fenella came by, and it was piteous to hear the cry they gave to the captain to throw a rope to them, it must have been equally piteous to the captain to be powerless to do anything for them. But so it was. After dexterously clearing the stern of the wreck, the Fenella put full steam ahead, and ran far up into the sand. The lifeboat was tried to be launched, but the sea was so heavy that any attempt to get it out would have been worse than madness.

Source: Shields Gazette 21 December 1876

On the afternoon of the 21 December, the Brigade rescued five members of the crew of the Blenheim, after she had crashed inro the Pier and broken in two

24 December

The Brigade fired several lines across the Herman Sauber, but could not effect communicetion and the crew was rescued by the lifeboat.

25 December

The Brigade was called out when the Marys of Whitby went aground on the Herd Sand, but her crew was rescued by the lifeboat.

26 December

The Brigade received a letter of thanks from the Board of Trade for their gallantry.

 The following is a copy of a letter received by Mr S. Malcolm, secretary to the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade

Board of Trade, Whitehall Gardens
23.d Dec., 1876.

Sir, —The Board Trade have read with interest and admiration an account of the exertions and services of the Volunteer Rocket Brigades Tynemouth and South Shields during the recent gale. The Board are expecting from you in due course your usual official reports; but the President has instructed me at once to convey to the officers and men of the brigade, through you, his thanks on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, for the promptitude with which they assembled for duty, and for the gallant manner in which they have performed it.

I am Sir,
Your obedient servant

Thomas Grey,

The Secretary,
South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade,
South Shields

Source: Shields Gazette 26 December 1876

Hand-Rail on the South Pier

To the Editor of the Shields Gazette & Daily Telegraph.

SIR, —A hand rail has long been wanted on the South Pier as a protection for the public as well as the Life Brigade, and now that the Commissioners have recognised the necessity and ordered the work to be done, all that remains is to fix it in the right place. A few days ago I noticed paragraph in your paper to the effect that the proposed rail was fixed seven feet from the north edge of the Pier. I suppose there must be some good reason for this decision, but until I know that reason, I shall look upon it as a mistake. To place the rail in such a position would be no protection to the public, who would be compelled to walk on the north side of it, while it would impede rather than assist the movements of the Life Brigade, who require the full width of the pier to work their apparatus. I would suggest that the rail be fixed one foot from the north edge, which will afford security alike to our brave Brigade, and those who use the pier promenade. —Yours truly,


2 Scafield Terrace. South Shields, 25th. Dec. 1876

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 27 December 1876

26 December

The weather on the coast yesterday was very cold, with slight showers of hail falling at intervals during the early part of the day. The sea fell very considerably, and a number of vessels were accordingly able to leave the port. Although the barometer had for some hours been rising briskly, it was falling again last night, and there was a stiff southerly breeze prevailing in the evening. During that portion of the evening the members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade were at their post, but the state of the weather did not seem such as to necessitate their remaining on duty very late.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 27 December 1876