Events 1880

Duke of Edinburgh's visit



16 February

The Thomas and Elizabeth went ashore near the South Pier. Despite the efforts of the Brigade, all of the crew were lost.


13 March

Further concerns are expressed about the safety of brigadesmen on the Pier.

The members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade are very anxious that the iron railing on the north side of the South Pier should be extended the whole length of the pier, but more particularly from the gates (where it ceases) eastward. At present the highest and most dangerous part is unprotected. If a vessel was to be unfortunately wrecked on either side beyond the gates, and it was necessary to work the rocket apparatus on a dark night the volunteers would run great risk. We are told holes are all drilled in the stonework, and that the railings are on hand. Would it not, therefore, be better and safer that they be erected at once? We shall be glad to hear that the matter has received the attention it deserves.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 13 March 1880


13 April

The Brigade was supportive of the Mariners Widow and Orphans Fund.  At their committee meeting on 25 November 1879, the Committee decided that a donation from the Amateur Dramatic Society should go solely to the Fund, forgoing their share.

The hon. secretary, Mr J. Robinson, asks us to acknowledge the receipt of 25s from the members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, as a donation towards the Mariners Widows and Orphans' Fund.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 13 April 1880


28 May

The tender from Messrs Garbutt & Jamieson was accepted and the Committee was “highly satisfied” with the work.


TENDERS are required for PAINTING the Life Brigade Watch House and Exercising Mast, South Pier. Particulars on application to

S. MALCOLM, Honorary Secretary.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 28 May 1880



17 July

This shows further evidence of local support for the Brigade.

A capital way of soliciting subscriptions to local charities and other benevolent institutions has this week been commenced at the South Shields Shipping Office. In the discharging department six brass plates have been inserted in the counter to receive contributions on behalf of the following institutions:—Tyne Shipwrecked Mariners Widows and Orphans' Fund, Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners' Royal Benevolent Society, South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, Ingham Infirmary, South Shields Missions to Seamen, Town and River Missions, South Shields; Seamen’s Orphanage Asylum, Snaresbrook and Dreadnought Hospital, Greenwich.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 17 July 1880

23 July

The Annual Meeting took place.

SOUTH SHIELDS VOLUNTEER LIFE BRIGADE. THE ANNUAL MEETING will be held in the Watch House TO-MORROW NIGHT, July 23rd, at half-past Seven o'clock.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.


23 August

This donation was reported by the Secretary to the Committee Meeting held on 21 August.

The honorary secretary the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade begs to acknowledge the receipt of eight volumes of handsomely bound books from Mrs Perry, of Harton, for the use of the members in the watch-house.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 23 August 1880

24 August

The Brigade received £400 which was invested with the River Tyne Commissioners for seven years.

Bequests to Local Charities

On the 9th inst., Mr Harrison Gregson, formerly of South Shields died at Cheltenham in his 81st year. The deceased gentleman, who was a brother of Alderman Gregson, of Newcastle, has by his will left the following legacies, all free of duty to charitable institutions in his native town:—lngham Infirmary, South Shields £1, 000, South Shields Life Brigade and Tyne Lifeboat Fund (in equal proportions), £850, South Shields Loyal Standard Association £650; and the Shipwrecked Mariners' Benevolent Society, South Shields, £300.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 24 August 1880

27 August

The Eagle went ashore on 9 December 1870.

The greater portion of the residents of South Shields will remember the stranding of the screw-steamer Eagle on the north side of the South Pier, nearly opposite the Life Brigade Watch House, on stormy winter morning several years ago. The wreck lay exposed for a considerable time, and at low water it was frequently boarded by persons whose curiosity induced them to have a look round the vessel. Gradually, however, the vessel settled down, and ultimately she became quite embedded in the sand, and not vestige of her has been seen for some years until the present week. The wreck is now being raised, and a quantity of iron has been placed upon the side of the pier directly opposite the spot where the vessel struck. I understand that the Eagle was the first screw-steamer loaded with coals at Tyne Dock. She was a collier trading between the Tyne and the Thames, and at the time of the casualty was putting back to Shields harbour for shelter from the storm.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 27 August 1880



22 October

The Olympe Kuyper went aground on the Herd Sands. The Brigade attended, but their services were not needed.

28 October

A severe gale resulted in five vessels being in distress. The Brigade made effective communication with the Harry Clem, but the crew did not understand how to work the apparatus and eventually used their own boat to come ashore. The crew of the Isis were rescued by the Brigade. Five spectators on the Pier were drowned and this led to considerable discussion about the attendance of the public during wrecks.


Monday, November 1, 1880
The Dregs of the Storm

This is the fourth day since the hurricane, and the events of the fatal Thursday are still the topic which most closely engages the thoughts of people on the North-East Coast. Yesterday, crowds of people on both sides of the entrance the Tyne gathered to see what could be seen of the dregs of the storm. All round a coast line strewn with wreck the same spectacle was witnessed and the same course was followed. There was a suggestive stillness when compared with the worst hours of the storm, but it was in the brightness more than in any calm that the contrast lay. Although westerly wind blew with considerable force there was a heavy swell in the sea, and all round as far as the eye could reach waves of great weight were rolling shorewards. In their progress against the wind the spray was driven backwards, and each advancing billow had a great white mane flowing from its crest. On the south side of the river the Harry Clem lay high and dry when the tide was back, a gaunt unpleasing spectacle against the deep blue sky. A fish out of water is usually referred to as the most striking illustration of incongruity. A ship out of water, with a sail or two set, is surely its equal. The sands where the vessel lay were crowded with people who with one accord seemed to find pleasure and interest in gazing at the stranded ship. Away in the background stretched the fatal sheet of water in which the five persons perished on Thursday night. It lay unaffected by the rise or fall of the tides, ruffled only by the western wind or by adventurous youths piloting themselves on its breast. Few people ventured far out on the pier. The rise of the waves at high water was extremely uncertain, and there was danger on the usual Sunday promenade. On the north side at high water a more striking scene was witnessed. The seas were dashing up against the pier with even greater force than during the height of the hurricane. They seemed to roll from north-easterly direction, and to find in the hollow of the curve of the breakwater a hostile meeting place. When they struck they rose into the air a solid wall of white water and ran along for hundreds of yards roaring like thunder, great cataracts of brine. As soon as the water rose above the parapet it was met by the wind which prevented it at once toppling over. Hence it rose till it obscured cloud and sky for the time and chased pedestrians if there were a malicious enjoyment in the sport. The river was crowded with out-going vessels, which, impelled by the favouring wind, soon formed mere specks on the far horizon, gliding away into the mystery of distance, smoke and sail alike vanishing over the blue. As the tide receded the excitement decreased, and the crowds from the river towns that flocked down later in the afternoon saw only battered grass, broken palings, and the remains of blackened foam clinging in unfrequented corners as proof of the turmoil that had been. This morning brought fresh news of disaster. It is now known that the trawler Nation's Hope, of North Shields, has perished. There was little hope of her safety on Saturday; there is now none. Thus, an additional loss of six lives has been added to the tale of the dead belonging to the Tyne. It was believed on Saturday that the losses at sea had been confined to small sailing vessels. It is now feared that the screw-steamer Elemore, of Sunderland, has gone down with all hands, somewhere south of the Tees. The fear is, indeed, a certainty, for the name-board of the vessel has been washed up at Redcar with other evidence of identity. The inquests opened on Saturday at South Shields point to the sad close of all public duties with reference to the dead. Except, as a matter of form, little has been learned in either of the two cases that was not known before. It seems to us that a most unnecessary fuss is being made over the circumstance of people crowding down at South Shields to witness wrecks. Two reasons are urged why some special measures of restriction should be adopted in order to keep the curious at home, the first, the safety their own lives; the second, to prevent interference with the men of the Life Brigade. As to this last, all that is needed is for the Brigade themselves to delegate several of their number to keep the crowd back from where they are working. Twenty men with a rope can do it. The suggestion that policemen should be sent to guard the pier is absurd and unnecessary. If the Volunteer Life Brigade find that their members present are not sufficient to form a guard let them call for volunteers from the crowd they will find plenty. We had rather not see the police in this matter at all. It is usual at Tynemouth for the commander of the troops there to send a party of twelve or twenty men to keep the crowd from obstructing the volunteers. We cannot get soldiers here, but rather than fall back upon the police we should recommend self-help by means of volunteers. It is much better than any official aid. As to the safety of the life of the spectators they may be left look after that themselves. Such an accident as that of Thursday night might not occur gain in a hundred years, and even if it did, it is not likely that it could be officially foreseen.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 1 November 1880

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade

We print letter to-day from the Secretory of the South Shields Volunteer Life every word of which we endorse. The public we are certain, need only to be reminded of their duty towards the gallant body organised for the rescue of life on our shore. It is perfectly natural that in the excitement of such a storm as that of last week spectators should lose their heads, ad unthinkingly interfere with the work the Brigade. Now that the inconvenience has been pointed out, we trust the crowd will take upon themselves the privilege of protecting the Brigade in the discharge their duty when the misfortunes of storm-tossed mariners next call them to the beach. But, as Mr Malcolm very truly says," no amount of writing will prevent the risk of crowding when a wreck is on shore. Although the curious are put upon their honour, something more is needed to give honour force. This was foreseen in the first Brigade established, and, as was pointed out in our history of the rise of the Life Brigades, yesterday, a rule was adopted which provides for the appointment of a number of men to protect those engaged with the rocket. The South Shields men will have to face the question in this practical form, and we have no doubt that the increased protection which it will afford, and the increased consideration from people generally which Malcolm's appeal is certain to produce, will prevent any room for complaint in the future. The South Shields Brigade has a record of rescues behind it which places in the foremost of rank such institutions—a rank which it is certain to maintain for so long there are stormy seas there will be brave men amongst us ‘always ready ' to face them when there is need.

To the South Shields Life Brigade and the Public

To the Editor the Shields Daily Gazette

Sir, —Now that the excitement in conn action with the recent storm has somewhat subsided, I trust you will give me space for few remarks especially as to the crowding of the public on the pier and the sands at shipwrecks. Under the exciting circumstances no amount of writing will prevent this. People will be attracted thither from a variety of causes, but it must occur to all sensible persons, after a moment's reflection, that the efforts of the Life Brigade should not be impeded those who, from impulsive curiosity, press upon them to see what being done.

In the case of saving the crew of the Isis, October 23, when the apparatus had to be worked the surf, the onlookers did not give room even to run the whipline on the dry sand, but came themselves to the water's edge and beyond. Every time a poor fellow was landed from the wreck there was a regular stampede over the brigadesmen and gear to see what he was like. At the wreck of the Harry Clem, at 8 p.m. the same day, a denser crowd collected, trampling over the ropes that were laid on the sand, and surrounding the rocket cart in such numbers that some of the members could with difficulty find it. Two rockets were thrown on board, but one of the crew told me none of their number knew what to do with the lines. They launched their boat, which a sea half filled, and managed to drift ashore in safety. This was an intense relief to us, for had their lives depended upon our efforts, we could have done very little for them, the gear being such a hopeless mass of entanglement from the cause above-mentioned. When life and death are trembling in the balance, when every moment is precious, and when every nerve is being strained by the rocket party to bring their efforts to successful issue, 'the public should be the last to give any possible cause for failure. The melancholy sequel to all this as seen in the five unfortunate spectators who should have been at their own firesides instead of being brought lifeless to the Brigade House is a lesson which, I trust, all concerned will take to heart. From what I know the number of victims might easily have been hundred.
In addition to the Coastguard, the Board of Trade some time ago invested two of the brigade officers with powers under the Merchant Shipping Act to deal with persons impeding or in any way interfering with the working of the rocket apparatus at wrecks. The offending parties are liable to a penalty of £50. My object in writing is to give this matter publicity, so that spectators at any future wrecks may know the responsibility they incur. I trust, however, that the "powers that be" may never have cause to put their authority to the test, but that the feelings of our common humanity will be sufficient to cause one and all to do nothing to jeopardize the lives of our fellow-creatures who, alas, are so often cast upon our shore,—l remain, yours faithfully,

S. Malcolm,
Honorary Secretary,
South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade,

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 6 November 1880

8 November

The Brigade attended the Bertha after she grounded at the east end of the South Pier, but their services were not required. Joseph Marshall, a local pilot, was killed during the incident.

The Recent Drowning of a Shields Pilot. –Between five and six o’clock  last evening, Robert Brierley, the policeman at the South Pier, South Shields, picked up the body of a man on the north side of the pier, a little to the eastward of the Volunteer Life Brigade Watch House. It was taken to the mortuary at the Old Workhouse, where it was afterwards identified as that of Joseph Marshall, a pilot, who on the occasion of the stranding of the schooner Bertha, at the end of the South Pier on the 8th inst. The body was then removed to the late residence of the deceased in Blumer Terrace.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 16 November 1880

16 November

The visit by the Duke of Edinburgh was a major event for the Brigade.

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade

SPECIAL MEETING of the Members will be held the Watch House on Saturday 13inst. at 6 p.m. Bring Guernseys and Caps.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec;

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 11 November 1880

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade

MEMBERS will muster in the Watch House, at 11 3O a.m. prompt, TO MORROW, Nov. 16th, for INSPECTION by H.R.H. the DUKE of EDINBURGH. Wear Guernseys, Caps, and dark Trousers

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 15 November 1880


This retrospective article emphasises the number of wrecks which occurred during the year.

The Year in South Shields

At the close the year it may be interesting to re-call to mind some of the principal public events that have taken place in South Shields during the past twelve months. There have not been many occurrences of a sensational nature. The only things of this kind, indeed, have been wrecks upon the beach, which, unfortunately, have resulted in the loss of more than thirty lives. The first of these fatal occurrences was the wreck of the brig Thomas and Elizabeth, of Sunderland, which took place on the 16th of February, during strong south-east gale. The crew of six men were all drowned. The loss of the steam trawlers, with the whole of their crews, and several other shipwrecks, on the 28th of October, was the most exciting scene of the year in this respect. During that terrible storm the number of lives lost, including the five spectators who perished on the sands was 24. This was followed shortly afterwards by the drowning of South Shields pilot at the end of the South Pier. Upon each occasion the members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade were at their post of duty, and, by their aid, many persons were rescued from a watery grave.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 28 December 1880