Events 1885


3 January

The Brigade placed regular drill notices throughout 1885.

The South Shields Lift Brigade will drill the pier, at p.m. to-day.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 3 January 1885

12 January

The brigade was on standby as the result of a violent storm.

The Storm

We have during the past forty hours experienced about the worst spell of wintry weather which has fallen on the north-east coast this season. On Saturday afternoon, a somewhat heavy south-westerly gale began to blow, and increased in force. After dusk the wind was exceedingly gusty and the atmosphere extremely cold, making matters most uncomfortable for the Saturday night market. The storm continued, and the wind gradually worked round to the northwards; and on Sunday morning early settled down to a thorough NNE gale, with rain and hail. The barometer, which had fallen very low on Saturday night, rose very rapidly yesterday as the storm developed. During the day there were frequent and violent squalls, with driving rain—the wind shifting to NE as they passed over. Between ten and twelve o'clock last night, the wind increased to almost a hurricane. During the night heavy falls of snow gave place to the rain showers. Although the wind lulled after daybreak, it is still strong, and more snow is threatened. Owing to the northerly quarter of the wind, the sea did not break heavily along the coast, but it was running very high in the offing. Several vessels bound south have left the harbour.


 Sunday morning broke amidst very boisterous weather. Rain fell, and at brief intervals squalls of wind, accompanied by blinding showers of hail and snow, prevailed. The sea made rapidly and much broken water was seen between the Piers. At high tide the sight was one of much grandeur. Huge seas broke with great rapidity over the piers, and the foam rose into mid-air. For several hours the North pier end was completely enveloped in foam. During the pelting showers the north pier was totally obscured. At Tynemouth Brigade House a look-out was observed. Shortly after nine o'clock, a Norwegian craft, in tow of the steam tug Friends, entered the harbour, and a light steamer an hour afterwards passed up, the river. About noon, two Tyne tugs, having in tow a large barque supposed timber laden, and bound for the Tyne, were seen making for harbour. For several hours they laboured heavily, but made little or no headway against the head wind and sea. The task, it was quite evident, was too much for them, and eventually the vessel was cast off. On board the barque were a South Shields pilot, and four foy-boatmen belonging to the Tyne. Two foy-boats towed at the stem of the vessel broke adrift and were seen to swamp. During the greater part of the day, about a dozen tugs dodged about between the piers on the look-out for arrivals.



The violence of the gale yesterday compelled a turn out of the Life Brigade, who continued at their posts until all danger was past. The brigade house has a most cheerful and pleasant aspect, having been decorated for the holidays by Coastguardsman Ashton. Between noon and midnight a number of screw-steamers arrived, and the appearance of more than one of them testified to the violence of the storm. About noon a large Scandinavian barque was seen in the offing in tow of a couple of tugs, but owing to the force of the wind and sea the vessels made no headway, and, having for hours attempted to gain the entrance, the towlines were at last slipped, the tugs made for the harbour and the barque stood out to sea. A sunken foy boat was observed at her stem, and it is hoped that the two men who must have been her occupants are safely on board. During the early hours of this morning, the wind fell off considerably and snow fell to the depth of two or three inches. The sky is overcast, and snow is falling. The sea is high, and a strong swell runs in the river.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 12 January 1885

13 January 1885

The Gale
Serious Damage to Shipping
A Fishing Fleet at Sea

The gale on the north-east coast continued throughout yesterday and last night with great severity. The sea was very heavy and the hail showers at times very terrific. The screw-steamer Holmside, from London, arrived in the Tyne yesterday morning, and Capt. Scarfe reported having experienced the full force of the gale. The wind was dead against the vessel, and she was twenty-two hours in steaming from Whitby, a distance of little over forty miles. After the arrival of this and another steamer no other vessel was seen during the day. The gate on the South Pier has been damaged, and a quantity of heavy stones have also been dislodged from the North Pier end. Some of the timber staging has been washed ashore. This latter was first thought to be from the wreck of some vessel. A somewhat serious mishap took place in the harbour. A number of vessels got adrift by the force of the wind from No. 9 tier, and did considerable damage. Mr Bruce, Harbour Master, and Supt. Farmer, of the River Police, with their assistants, were soon in attendance, and the vessels were as quickly as possible remoored. No news has yet been heard of the timber-laden barque, with pilot and foyboatmen, which was cast off by the tugs on Sunday morning. A wherry belonging to Mr Baker, of North Shields, was found sunk at Howdon Dock yesterday morning. The craft appeared to have been resting on a large chain, which eventually holed her bottom, and caused her to fill with water and sink. Damage to vessels in harbour is reported from the Wear and Whitby. At Scarboro' much havoc was caused, and anxiety is felt for the herring fleet, which is sea.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 13 January 1885

14 January

The Gale and Snowstorm

The north-east storm still prevails, but the force of the wind has considerably abated and the squalls are not so continuous. The downfall, mostly sleet and snow, however, is much heavier, and during the night and this morning there has been a deal of snow, which has made footing very disagreeable. The sea is more easterly, and still very heavy. Only few vessels are moving. Yesterday, the Aspatria, a large steamer, partly laden, is reported to have had a narrow escape. It was observed by those on the look-out at the South Pier that the steering gear aft got out of order when the vessel was abreast of the Collingwood Monument at Tynemouth, and she appeared likely to drive over to the Herd Sand on the south side of the harbour. Other gear on the bridge was quickly got into use, and the steamer was soon underway again. The occurrence was observed by the crew of the tug Governor, which was in the Narrows, and she steamed to the Aspatria. Her services, however, were not required, and the Aspatria got into the river under her own steam. The incident caused much excitement amongst the spectators on the piers. The weather in other parts of the country is still exceedingly stormy, and heavy falls of snow are generally reported.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 14 January 1885


7 February

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade. —This afternoon, the members of the above drill on the sands, at the South Pier, at 4 p.m.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 7 February 1885

24 February 1885

Ald. Glover had been a supporter of the Brigade and presided over several annual suppers.

Death of Ald. Terrot Glover J.P.

The death of Ald. Terrot Glover, J.P., at the ripe old age of 83 years, took place this morning, before nine o'clock, at his residence, Sea View Terrace, South Shields. Deceased, as most readers are well aware, had been confined to the house all through the winter, and had been gradually sinking for several weeks past, his demise looked for at any moment. Deceased gentleman was a member of the first Council of the Borough, being elected for the South Shields Ward on November 13th1850, to fill the  vacancies caused by the election of Aldermen— his successful companions in that election being  Mr Matt. Aisbett and R. J. John Mays.  He was early elected magistrate for the Borough, and was Mayor in 1857. He was elected to the Tyne Commission in 1859, and was succeed by Mr Robinson in 1875. We may mention that the last appearance of the venerable Alderman in the Council Chamber was at the annual meeting in November last. He persisted at great personal inconvenience in being present at the election of Mayor; and having been driven down to the Hall in a cab, was assisted upstairs by several members, his appearance being received with loud cheers. After the principal business of the day was over he left again amidst a similar ovation. Amongst the many portraits in oil of South Shields celebrities which adorn the walls of the Council Chamber, is one of the deceased Alderman. It is an excellent work, and the most striking likeness of any in the room. This was presented to the Council by Ald. Williamson. Since the formation of that excellent institution, the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, Ald. Glover took a most parental interest its welfare. He encouraged the brigade in every way, and was most popular amongst its members. The Alderman's presence in the chair at the annual suppers, and his inevitable song "There is nae luck, &c," for many years in succession, will always remain fresh and bright the annals of the Brigade. We believe the last occasion on which he presided over a Brigade House festive evening was three years ago, and on that occasion the members took the horse from his conveyance, and pulled it along the pier and up to his house.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 24 February 1885

28 February

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade Ambulance Corps

The second annual dinner of the members composing the above small, but efficient, band took place at the Golden Lion Hotel, King Street, last night, when a most excellent repast was provided by Mr Thos. Lauderdale, the genial host. Captain Watkins, of Gateshead, occupied the chair, and Mr G. R. Potts the vice-chair. Amongst the company present were Surgeon- Major Hutton, Dr J. R. Crease, Mr Walter Ross, T.D. Marshall, G. Grey, W. Buckland, P. Wood, R. S. Buckland, J. Wheatley, &c. After the removal of the cloth the usual loyal and patriotic, toasts were given from the chair, Surgeon Hutton responding to that of the Army and Navy, and Lieut. Ogilvie, 5th D.R.V., for the Volunteers.— The Chairman next, in few eulogistic remarks, proposed the “ St. John Ambulance Association," coupling with it the name of Dr Hutton. In responding, the gallant Surgeon referred to the progress of the Association since he last visited the town. A large number of new centres had been inaugurated, with a corresponding increase in the number of students He next referred to the efforts being made in Northumberland for support - to the University Extension Scheme from the Miners' Fund. If the movement succeeded he claimed that the St. John Association should have a share, as their teaching was one which would be of great benefit to the miners. Before resuming his seat he read a letter from Major-General Duncan, at present Egypt, on the state of the hospital and ambulance service in that country, which he stated was working in a most satisfactory manner. To cheer the inmates he hoped all who possibly could would send them out a few newspapers for use in the hospitals. — The toast of "The Volunteer Life Brigade” was responded to by Deputy-Captain G. R. Potts and Mr G, Grey " Our Guests," by Dr Hutton and Dr Crease; that of "The Chairman," brought the toast list to a close. Songs were contributed by several of the company, and a most pleasant evening was spent, Mr Oliver presiding at the piano.—The examination of the classes which have been held in the town during the past winter takes place in the Ocean Road Board School, -this afternoon and evening.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 28 February 1885


7 March

Volunteer Life Brigade,—The members of the above will drill to-night at 6 p.m., on the Sands, South Pier. This morning, Admiral Hoskins, and other officers, made an inspection of the coastguard and buildings.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 7 March 1885



2 May

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade. —The customary monthly drill will take place at the South Shields Pier this evening at six o'clock.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 2 May 1885


6 June

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade. —The usual monthly drill will take place this evening, at six o'clock, at the Pier.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 6 June 1885

The need to take down the end of the Brigade House is not mentioned in the Brigade’s recoreds.

25 June

The Mammoth Crane at South Shields Pier

The Tyne Commissioners’ new crane, built at their yard at the South Pier, is now in course of removal to the end of the Pier, where it will at once be put in operation. This ponderous mass of machinery, weighing about four hundred tons, is almost an exact copy of the crane on Tynemouth Pier. The only difference in fact being structural alterations at the base to suit the formation of the South Pier. The construction of the crane was completed some time since, and the machine has been waiting whilst the old-fashioned staging was removed from the Pier End. To enable the crane to be brought out of the yard, the end of the Life Brigade House had to be taken down. This, however, will be repaired almost immediately. It was an interesting sight to see the crane slowly moving along the exceedingly broad railway set in cement on the pier to carry it. A stout chain cable was carried a head, and made fast to the pier masonry, and the engine of the crane was set winding away at the cable, thus propelling the giant.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 22 June 1885

The South Pier Crane.—The Mammoth Crane built by the Tyne Commission, which we reported as having been taken along the South Pier yesterday, was successfully moved as far as the bend of the Pier. Here a slight mishap put stop to further progress for a while. The curve is sharp, and the rails not being tied by sleepers, but only set in cement, were bulged out of gauge by the crane wheels. Powerful lilting jacks will be employed under the frame work, and the rails repaired. The delay in the journey to the pier end not expected to be long.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 26 June 1885


2 July

The Annual Meeting took place.


THE ANNUAL MEETING will be held in the Watch House TO-MORROW (Friday), at 7:30 p.m.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 2 July 1885

4 July

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade. -The usual monthly drill of this brigade will take place this evening at six o'clock.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 4 July 1885

31 July


The usual monthly drill of the members of the South Shields Life Brigade will take place on Saturday evening at 6 o'clock, at the South pier. Arrangements have been made for the ministers attending the Wesley Conference at Newcastle, to be present. A full muster of the members of the Brigade is anticipated.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 31 July 1885



5 September South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade.—The customary monthly drill of this brigade will be held the South Pier at 6 o'clock this evening.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 5 September 1885


2 October

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade. —The usual drill will take place to-morrow evening at 6 p.m.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 2 October 1885

14 October

Another severe gale resulted in the Brigade being on standby.

South Shields

Although the fury of the gale is now almost spent, there is still a heavy sea running. During last night the storm raged with terrific force, accompanied with, rain and hail. There were no vessels in sight since daybreak yesterday till this morning, save two steamers (which left the Tyne early proceeded south) and a schooner. The latter came from windward and endeavoured to make the Tyne entrance, but getting too far to leeward, had to give up the attempt and proceed before the gale to the south. Just before high water yesterday evening which was about 5 20, the scene from the mouth of the Tyne was one of wild grandeur. The Tynemouth Pier was enveloped from end to end in broken water, which rose to a great height. The North Pier, owing to the direction of the wind, feels the full force of the gale, the newly made masonry at the end is reported to have suffered extensively, and, in addition, several the huge stones have been carried away bodily. The two mammoth cranes have been drawn back a considerable distance, but the water frequently leaps far above them. At the shore end of the South Pier the heap of sand carried along by the wind and piled up the roadway, has largely increased, if it had not been for several seas which came up to the masonry and washed some tons of it away, the road would in all probability have been blocked. There was strong master of Brigadesmen on duty in the Watch House at the South Pier, and at the various lifeboat stations everything was readiness for an emergency. The wind has veered round and the storm has considerably abated and several vessels have arrived in the Tyne, giving evidence of the fury of the gale.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 14 October 1885

17 October

Shipping Disasters - The Late Gale
South Shields – A Steamer in Danger

The north-easterly gale which broke away yesterday morning, decreased in strength during the day, and, last evening, wind and sea had greatly subsided. There were indications, however, that it had not spent its force, and the nasty sea running, combined with the thick mist dimming the leading lights, made the entrance to the Tyne an uneasy one. The night did not pass without an incident which might have ended in making the gale memorable in the locality for, at least, one wreck. At exactly ten minutes past seven, the guns from the Spanish Battery and Castor boomed forth their monotonous message. Instantly there was a rush from houses and streets to the pier, and in a short time every place from which the seaward view could had—albeit there was nothing more than the view, only the foam Black Middens and the bar shewing through the mist—was fully occupied. As may be supposed, there was good master of Life Brigadesmen, Captains Cottew, and Cay, and Deputy-Captains Whitelaw and Wood being in attendance. The apparatus was had in readiness, and a search expedition went to the end of the pier, but no vessel needing assistance could found. Among the crowd, all sorts of stories were afloat, and it was some time before the reason for the alarm was known. It appeared, from the statements of watchers that a steamer was noticed the north of the south pier, where her lights seemed stationary. In little while, she got further south. Here again her lights appeared stationary, and to confirm the suspicion that she had got into difficulties, a flare-up light was burnt aboard. The coastguard immediately signalled, and the guns were fired. No further service was however required; the vessel turned about and steamed quickly seawards. It is satisfactory to know that had any real accident occurred, the life-brigade and life-boatmen were fully prepared for any emergency; happily nothing more than the preparation to meet disaster was required of them. Some plan, however, should, if possible, be devised to prevent in future calls for the aid of the brigade, the throng of curious spectators on the pier. Only unnecessary difficulties can result, when the brigadesmen are hampered in their lifesaving efforts.

The gale has passed over; the wind and sea are calm, and the seaward outlook more promising. A large number of vessels have entered the Tyne during the night, but a still greater number of steamers, storm-stayed for the last day or two, are taking their departure. On the river there is great activity and considerable skill has to be used in the navigation of in-coming and sailing vessels to avoid a collision in the crowded state of the channel.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 17 October 1885

24 October 1885

Another storm causes difficulties in the harbour. Two members of the Brigade were involved in the rescue of a boy washed off the Pier. The incident results in a number of comments

The Storm
Narrow Escape of a Steamer at South Shields
A Sad Accident at the Pier

This afternoon, about half-past two o'clock, in a strong squall of wind and rain, the signal guns alarmed the whole neighbourhood. Immediately there was a treading of many feet to the South Pier, where, in a few minutes, thousands of people repeated the scene of 8 days ago—gained the pier to find that their errand had been bootless, and that only steamer riding in the safe waters of the narrows was to be seen. It appears that the screw-steamer Firdene was entering the river when it was noticed that she had got rather too far to the southward. Those on the look out at Tynemouth, possibly imagining that a stranding was to be momentarily expected, gave the signal, and the guns were fired The steamer, however, never got beyond the possibility of a touch on the pier; she was brought safely to the channel, and entered safely. The life brigade were down in force, and two lifeboats were launched.

Lad Drowned

A sad accident, caused in great measure by the crush of spectators on the pier, occurred while crowds were watching an incoming schooner, the Maggie A. Two lads, the one about fourteen years of age, the second, somewhat younger, were washed over the pier into the water. A heavy surf was running, but it did not deter the gallant attempt being made to rescue the unfortunate lads. Mr J. H. Wood, a member of the Brigade, and Mr J. R. Dixon, of Newcastle, sprung into the sea, and each caught one of the drowning lads. A line was thrown, but the people ashore foolishly attempted to draw the rescuers and their charges up the jetty instead of to the pier side. The consequence that Mr Wood, bearing the older lad, and exhausted by his brave efforts to keep himself and the boy afloat, could not stand the strain, and was obliged to let go the poor fellow. Mr Swainston attempted to get hold of the drowning lad, but was unsuccessful. The little fellow rescued was taken by kindly hands to the Brigade-house, and had wants attended to.

The Maggie A, a light schooner, was watched with some anxiety as she entered the Tyne this afternoon. She got rather far to the southward, but, being well handled, made a safe entrance.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 24 October 1885

Severe Storm and Loss of Life
Exciting Scenes

The storm on the east coast of England on Saturday will be long remembered, not only in connection with its fatal consequences, but also for the exciting scenes and narrow escapes witnessed at the mouth of the Tyne. The arrivals during the morning were very heavy, and many of the vessels were swept by heavy seas crossing the bar. There was soon a muster of brigadesmen at the Watch Houses, and the lifeboatmen were in readiness to put off to the succour of any crew that might be overtaken by the perils of shipwreck. All went well, however, until about half-past two o'clock in the afternoon, when the alarm guns were fired, announcing that a vessel was danger at the south side the harbour. There was instantly a rush of thousands of persons towards the piers and other places of vantage on both sides of the river. The vessel proved to be the s.s. Firdene, of Newcastle, which had been driven out of her course when between the piers, through being caught by the flood tide. She drifted dangerously towards the South Pier, but by clever management got into the harbour safely. The South Pier was crowded along its entire length, except the eastern extremity, from which spectators were perforce excluded by the continuous seas breaking high over the structure. As it afterwards proved, the crowd had ventured too far, and an exceptionally heavy sea broke amongst them, knocking several persons down and carrying two boys into the sea. The same sea struck the rocket van with great force, breaking a plate-glass window into atoms. The coastguardsman (W. Collins) who was on duty in the van, was struck the left hand by one of the splinters, and had the forefinger badly lacerated. Immediate efforts were put forth to rescue the lads who had been washed off the pier, but unfortunately only one was brought ashore. Mr John H. Wood, a member of the Life Brigade, and Mr J. R. Dixon, of Newcastle, gallantly jumped into the raging sea, and each managed to lay hold of one the drowning boys. Mr G. R. Palmer and Walter Ross, also brigadesmen, got buoys and lines from the rocket van, and threw them to Wood and Dixon, who were struggling with their charges. Both men succeeded in grasping the ropes, and the people on shore attempted to haul them up to a jetty which projects from the pier at the place where the accident occurred, instead of drawing them in towards the side of the pier. Dixon managed to retain his hold with one hand, and was brought safely up with a little fellow under his arm, but Wood, who was wearing a pair of heavy sea boots, was thoroughly exhausted and quite unable to hang on. Notwithstanding his heroic efforts, the little fellow slipped from his grasp, and was carried away. At this, Mr J. W. Swaniston, a butcher, carrying on business in Ocean Road, South Shields, and known locally as a strong swimmer, put on a life-belt and leaped into the sea, amid the cheers of the excited onlookers. He swam about for some time, and seeing a dark object in the water made for it. This, however, proved to be only the boy's hat. Nothing more was seen of the boy himself, and the body has not yet been recovered, although a diligent search has been made. The rescued boy, whose name is Robert Robson, son of a steamboatman, living in West Keppell Street, South Shields, and a man named Henry Nicholson, house painter, residing Ocean Road, South Shields, who was knocked down by the same sea and severely stunned, were taken to the Brigade Watch House, and provided with dry clothing, etc. The name of the drowned boy has not yet transpired, but it is stated that a youth belonging to Tyne Dock is missing. Shortly afterwards the barque Eastern Star, when on the bar was "pooped" by a heavy sea, which swept her from stern to stem. The towline snapped, and, of the two men at the wheel, one was washed overboard. A lifebuoy was thrown to him, but he failed to secure it, and was drowned before other assistance could be rendered. The name of the deceased was Robert Brewis.

Source: Edinburgh Evening News 26 October 1885

26 October

The Storm

The gale of Saturday was one of the sharpest and most severe of the series of storms that have visited the north-east coast during the past fortnight. On Saturday about noon the bad weather of the previous few days cumulated in a hurricane of wind. The sea rose to a great height, and it was a majestic sight to many to watch the mighty waves as they threw their foaming crests over the solid masonry of the Piers, or dashed against, and overtopped the cliffs to the south of Shields beach. A spectacle not to be viewed without anxiety was the appearance of a ship in the offing, wrestling with the troublous waters, battling hard with wind and wave and tide as she entered the boiling waters at the bar, now perhaps drifting into the very jaws of danger, and anon, responsive to seamanlike tactics, running a straight course into shelter. A feature of the storm was its shortness. With the fall of night the wind gradually sank, and through rifts in the clouds, the moonlight shone on the quietning waters. Yesterday, the storm had entirely passed, and during the whole of the day the sea was calm as the sky overhead. With the evening there was a return of wet weather, but the storm was dead.


The weather off the Tyne has greatly moderated. Since Saturday at dusk, the wind has remained quiet and the sea has fallen, gradually. The storm experienced on Saturday proved one of the fierciest and was certainly the most disastrous, felt on the coast this winter. At flood tide in the afternoon the wind blew with unabated fury, and the storm was at its height. The sight at the harbour's mouth was fearfully grand, and additional excitement was lent to the scene by the appearance of an unusually large number of ships in the offing, apparently making for the Tyne. About two o'clock steamer whilst entering the harbour got in difficulty, and was carried dangerously near the south shore. It seemed for a moment inevitable that she would strand, and the alarm guns were immediately sounded. By skilful management, however, the vessel’s head was got round and she was steered up the harbour in safety. The streets of the town were alive with persons as soon as the guns were heard and the bank tops were crowded in a miraculously short time. The vessel's movements were intently watched and much excitement was manifested. The out-look from the Corporation Fish Quay was a somewhat strange and fearful one. The tide was about at its height and only at very brief intervals were it possible to catch a glimpse of the piers over the crests of the huge seas. The whole seemed one terrible stretch of turbulent water as far as the eye could reach. Vessels continued to make the Tyne for refuge and many suffered severe “dusting" passing over the bar. About four o'clock, a barque, with not a stitch of canvas, was sighted making for the Tyne. She laboured heavily, and every now again disappeared out sight as she lay in the cavity of the sea. The vessel was the Eastern Star, of Liverpool, and was in tow of steam tug. Her approach toward the harbour furnished considerable excitement from the vast crowd of persons who watched her progress from the north side of the river. The barque to all appearance was waterlogged and huge seas broke over her with comparative ease, and fearful frequency. Her passage across the bar was a terrible one. Every now and again her decks were swept by seas and one more cruel and powerful than the rest severed her completely from the tug. She lay in the trough of the sea entirely at the mercy of the waves and nothing seemed more probable than that of a shipwreck would ensue. A considerable length of hawser, fortunately, was left with the barque and hung over her bows. The vessel, by this means, was enabled to keep a straight course and gradually but surely she was carried safely through the breakers. The steam tug Friends ventured some considerable distance across the heavy sea and passed a line on board the distressed vessel and assisted her into the harbour safety. It was subsequently reported by the captain of the barque that one of the crew, an A. B. named N. Brewer, whilst standing at the wheel was washed overboard and drowned. The vessel had just passed within the piers when a huge sea leaped on board entirely enveloping the unfortunate fellow who was steering and another shipmate, and carried them into the turbulent waters. Brewen was borne beyond all chance of rescue and sank almost immediately, in the gaze of his fellow shipmate. A buoy was thrown to the other seaman who had struggled to the surface of the water, and who fortunately was in closer proximity to the vessel. He grasped tenaciously the buoy and was hauled on board. The wind slackened considerably at five o'clock, and there was soon an apparent improvement in the sea.

A Brave Steamboatman

Much comment is passing in steamboat circles on the brave and gallant conduct of Captain Legge, of the tug Friends, which went down the harbour to the assistance of the Eastern Star, and passed a hawser at great risk.

South Shields

About half-past two, on Saturday afternoon, in a strong squall of wind and rain, the signal guns alarmed the whole neighbourhood. Immediately there was a treading of many feet to the South Pier, where, in a few minutes, thousands of people repeated the scene of ten days ago—gained the pier to find that their errand had been bootless, and that only a steamer riding in the safe waters of the narrows was to be seen. It appears that the screw-steamer Firdene was entering the river when it was noticed that she had got rather too far to the southward. Those on the look out at Tynemouth, possibly imagining that a stranding was to be momentarily expected, gave the signal, and the guns were fired. The steamer, however, never got beyond the possibility of touch on the pier; she was brought safely to the channel, and entered safely. The life brigade at South Shields was mustered in strong force, and were fully prepared for hard work, but, happily, their services were not required. We must, however, repeat what has been often said before that the task of saving life is rendered a matter of enormous difficulty when masses of men, women and children, hamper every effort and hinder the best endeavours. This remark was made only a week ago; it is sad that the dangers into which crowds run themselves should have received a shocking emphasis on Saturday.

Boys Washed Overboard – A Rescue and a Failure

The behaviour of the people on the pier was sometimes of a most rash character. Numbers ventured along the furthest reaches of the structure, where the waters swept in huge columns from one side of the pier to the other. A great many were congregated near the jetty, and here, owing to the high tide, the waves ran up the southern slope and fell in drenching showers. One such wave, larger than its predecessors swept into the crowd with such violence that some people were thrown to the ground—one man having his head severely cut, and going off afterwards into a fit—while three little lads were carried down into the surf. One of them, however, lodged among the stones; the others fell into deep water, and in a moment were struggling with the cruel waves for life. A scene of great excitement prevailed; but, difficult though the task to rescue the drowning boys might appear, it not prevent two young men making the gallant attempt. Mr Wood, a member of our life brigade, and Mr J.R. Dixon, of Newcastle, sprang into the water, swam to the boys, and caught them just as exhaustion was overcoming their struggles. A line was then thrown, but the people ashore foolishly attempted to draw the rescuers and their charges up the jetty instead of to the pier side. The consequence was that Mr Wood, bearing the older lad, and exhausted by his brave efforts to keep himself and the boy afloat, could not stand the strain, and was obliged to let go the poor fellow, who sank and was drowned. Mr Swainston made a gallant effort to reach him, and swam about for some time, but only a floating cap could be seen. Mr Dixon succeeded with the assistance of Mr W. Ross and Mr G. Palmers, in getting the little fellow he had saved to the pier, when was taken by the kindly hands to the brigade house, and had his needs attended to by Dr Crease, the Rev. H. W. Farrer and others. Afterwards he gave his name as Robert Robson, aged eight and living in West Kepple Street. It transpired that the father of the boy was one of the crew of the Coquet. The vessel ran down the harbour, and was dodging the schooner Maggie A. She was struck by a huge sea and carried nearly on to the schooner. The tug was so close that the vessel nearly touched, and one or two of the crew were preparing to jump on to the schooner's deck, when another sea knocked the Coquet far away. The escape was a narrow one, and the feelings of the father when he afterwards learned that his son’s life had been at the same moment nearly forfeited, can be imagined.

The name of the drowned boy has not yet transpired, it is stated that a lad is missing from Tyne Dock. The body has not been recovered.

Narrow Escape

While these exciting events were proceeding on the pier, the schooner Maggie A. was making for the harbour. The vessel was light and consequently reeled at every buffet of wind and water. When first seen she was some miles to the north of the piers, but as she put about and made for the harbour, it was feared that she had drifted too far to the southward and could not clear the terminus of the South Pier. For some minutes opinion hung between doubt and hope, but by and-bye it was seen that her head hung further to the northward and that with the careful handling which it was evident she was receiving she would make a safe entrance. At one moment, however, there was cry of “she's coming ashore," and the brigadesmen hurried to their feet; and then the schooner bore gallantly off the dangerous course, and, with her decks swept by every wave, ran over the bar and gradually into safer waters.

A Lunar Rainbow

Though the gale lulled with evening, the brigade at the south pier kept watch during the night and morning hours. About a quarter after seven in the evening a shower of rain a lovely lunar rainbow was reflected against the north-western clouds. As long as the shower lasted the moon was unobscured, and the sight for few moments was entrancing. A rainbow at such time was naturally the object of great attention and while the delicate arch hung in the air, and the moonbeams turned the foam on the wave crests into sparkling silvery tracery, the scene as viewed from the pier was one not readily to be effaced from recollection.

The brigadesmen while on duty at South Shields were in charge of captain W. Cay, and deputy captains Whitelaw and G. R. Potts. The lifeboats, Willie Wouldhave and Tom Perry were got out on the approach of the Firdene to the harbour, but, as we said, their aid was never needed.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 26 October 1885

26 October I BEG to RETURN my sincere THANKS to the two gentlemen (Mr Wood and Mr Dixon) who so nobly rescued my son from Drowning at the Pier on Saturday last; and also for the attention given to him by the Members of the Life Brigade while he was in their hands.


Keppel Street, South Shields 26th October.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 26 October 1885

26 October

Apropos of Saturday's storm, a correspondent signing himself Q.S. writes to the editor of the Gazette concerning the crowds which throng the pier as soon as the signal guns are heard. His letter is too long for publication on an occasion when space is so precious as it is to-day, but I give his suggestions, promising that he proposes to do away with the firing of the guns.

They are these:—

1st To connect the Coastguard Station with the Brigade-house by telephone. The coastguards thus summoned, with the brigadesmen already assembled, could very well work-the rocket apparatus, especially if there were no crowd, as it usually needs about half the available force of brigadesmen to keep space for the other half to work.

2nd. To connect the Lifeboat-house with the Brigade-house by the telephone.

3rd It could still be left in the discretion of the coastguard on duty to fire the guns if sufficient assistance were not present.

4th. It would, no doubt, be a decided advantage if a barrier were placed across the pier below low water mark, but it would be difficult to make an effective one, and it would be hardly necessary if the above measures we adopted.

Mr Walter Ruciman writes to the Gazette on the same subject. He says:-  Are these harrowing scenes to be tolerated year after year and nothing be done to prevent them. Surely there are some means that could be adopted. Can no other arrangement made than the firing of the guns, or if they are a necessity, can we not have two gates placed at the beginning of the Pier—one to bar the entrance of the railway which leads to the Sands, the other, say about 50 or 100 yards down the pier, these gates to be closed as soon as the guns are fired.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 24 October 1885


7 November

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade. —The usual monthly drill of the Brigade will take place this afternoon, near the South pier at four o'clock.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 7 November 1885

28 November

Messrs Wood and Dixon receive their medals.

Rewards for Gallantry
Honours for Shields Men

The committee the Royal Humane Society has conferred bronze medals on J. H. Wood and J. R. Dixon, for saying Robson in the sea at South Shields.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 28 November 1885


2 December

Letters to the Editor

Humane Society Medals

SIR,—I saw by the Newcastle Daily Leader of Friday last that the Royal Humane Society has awarded a medal each to Messrs J. H. Wood and Dixon, for conspicuous gallantry displayed upon the South Shields Pier a few weeks ago, upon the occasion of two boys being washed overboard, and the eventual unfortunate loss of one them. Now, with this award no possible fault can found. On the contrary, the award is, in the highest degree, deserved and well won by both the above gentlemen. But it seems to me, and doubtless also to many more, that, while acknowledging the claims of Messrs W. and D., the society has ignored those of another gentleman, who also displayed that zeal and bravery, so characteristic of Tyneside, in his gallant co-operation with the other two gentlemen. I daresay it is owing to some unfortunate oversight that this third gentleman's claim to public acknowledgment has been disregarded or unheard; it is equally due to the public, as to himself, that he should be known, and I hasten to place his name in that brave triumvirate, which reflects so much credit upon the locality in genera], and our Life Brigade in particular, of which Mr Wood is a respected member. The name of the gentleman is Mr Swainston, butcher, Ocean Road, and I trust that representations will be made in the proper quarter, to the end that his gallant efforts in humanity's cause may be suitably acknowledged. I may say in conclusion, that this letter is dictated by a sense justice alone. l am quite unknown to Mr Swainston.—l am, Sir,


Source: Shields Daily Gazette 2 December 1885

4 December

The Gallant Rescue at South Shields

The bronze medals from the Royal Humane Society, in recognition of the gallant conduct of Mr J. H. Wood and Mr J. R. Dixon, at the South Pier, a few weeks ago, have been received by Mr S. Malcolm, secretary to the South Shields Life Brigade, and will shortly be publicly presented. 'We understand that there is a possibility of the Board of Trade suitably recognizing the splendid behaviour of Messrs Wood and Dixon.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 4 December 1885

4 December


THE USUAL MONTHLY DRILL of the Brigade will take place TO-MORROW AFTERNOON, at 3-30. from the South Pier.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 4 December 1885

26 December

The protective gates are installed on the Pier.

The Protection of Life on the South Pier

The protective gates have been fixed on the South pier at a point beyond the brigade house. Disappointment has been expressed that the Chevaux-de-frise does not run to the waterside on either side of the pier, and probably the Commissioners may see the advisability of leaving no vacancy, especially in such dangerous proximity to the sea, through which adventurous persons may attempt to pass. The placing of the gates is rendered necessary by the frequent fatalities that have occurred on the pier stormy weather, and also by the fact that the brigade men, in their lifesaving operations desire to be tree from troublesome, and sometimes hindersome, crowds.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 26 December 1885