Events 1887

Rocket being fired


The Annual Supper took place and this is referred to by Mr Mabane in his letter to the Editor.

12 January

On Saturday evening the annual supper of the South Shields Volunteer Life, Brigade is to be held at the Watch House. The occasion is one of more than ordinary interest, that the date is the twenty-first anniversary of the institution. The majority of the Brigade will no doubt be fittingly commemorated, preparations, I understand, having been made to that end. The history of the Brigade, the leading incidents of which were published in these columns not long ago, is a noble record of brave effort to rescue storm-tossed mariners from the dangers which beset them in rough weather at the mouth of the Tyne, and the many gallant deeds performed under the auspices of the institution are proudly remembered by the people of Shields.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 12 January 1887

15 January

The Life Brigade Anniversary

SIR,—Will you allow me to correct a slight inaccuracy which appears in your report of the above in to-night's issue? Mr Malcolm is reported to have said "that Capt. Mabane joined the ranks 1871," which should have read that in that year I was appointed a captain, having been in the ranks from the summer of 1866, when I joined. Although not present at the first meeting 21 years ago, owing to my being in London, yet my heart was in the work even before then, as I contributed several letters (under a nom-de-plume, which I don't remember) to the Shields Gazette urging the formation of a Life Brigade similar to that at Tynemouth.—Yours truly,

T. G. Mabane.

South Shields, 17th January, 1887

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 18 January 1887


A new system of signals is introduced.

South Shields Life Brigade Signals.— At their monthly drill on Saturday afternoon the members the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade tried the new rocket-signals, which in future are to be fired for the summoning of the brigade instead of the guns as hitherto. The new signals were an entire success, and were heard with great distinctness so far as Westoe, notwithstanding that the sound had to travel against a strong breeze from the west. As the guns have been removed from the Spanish Battery this method signalling will henceforth be the sole means used when the assistance of the brigade is required in cases of vessels in distress entering the Tyne.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 7 February 1887




20 May

The Brigade stood by when a schooner was in danger in the harbour, but their services are not required.

Latest News
Storm on the Coast
Serious Damage to Shipping
A Ship Ashore at South Shields
The Lifeboats Out

Most people in this district were awakened earlier than usual this morning by the fierce beating of the rain on the window panes and the howling and buffeting of the wind. There has not for a long time past been a storm so boisterous as that which arose during the night. In the more exposed situations, pedestrians found it difficult to keep their feet; chimneys were threatening an occasional tile was sent flying, and it seemed as if there had broken on the north-east coast one of those terrible storms from which we have of late years been comparatively free. However, the wind subsided at an early period of the day, and the rain cleared off, leaving a rather threatening sky. As reports which are given lower down will show, a schooner very narrowly escaped being wrecked at the mouth of the Tyne, under the South Pier. One of the Scotch fishing boats likewise had a narrow escape, and the wreckage of a salmon boat might, at mid-day, be seen on the sands. It is possible that we may have still rougher weather within a few hours, as cyclone is said to be travelling in this direction. As will be seen from our telegrams, the storm has not been confined to our own coast only, but has extended over the whole country, doing much damage in some places and creating everywhere considerable alarm.

South Shields
Narrow Escape of a Vessel at the South Pier

About hall-past four o'clock this morning, a gale of wind, accompanied by heavy showers, came away from the north-east, and continued to increase in intensity until ten o'clock, when it blew with terrific force across the mouth of the Tyne. There was a nasty cross sea running off the piers, the water inside the harbour being a very tumultuous condition, while, away outside, dangerously high seas made the work of getting to the river a very difficult one indeed. A little after ten o'clock a schooner, evidently of foreign build, was observed in tow of a steam-tug. They came on slowly, but making fair progress considering the state of the sea and the force and direction of the wind, when just within the piers the tow-line parted, and the schooner was driven toward the South Pier, just opposite the farthest gates. The members of the coastguard, who had been watching the incoming schooner intently, lost not a moment in firing the new signals near the Watch House, and the promptitude of Mr Lordan, chief officer, and his assistants, had the effect of calling the members of the Volunteer Life Brigade to spot in a very short space of time. Two lifeboats were also launched by the pilots and put off without delay, one being in tow of a steamtug. The schooner, which had no sail set, was of course helpless in the gale, and was soon placed in jeopardy; indeed was thought by many that she had actually struck. The tug Gauntlet, however, had by this time got another tow line ready, and succeeded in getting it made fast to the drifting vessel. A very large number of spectators had now gathered on the pier, and the Commissioners' pier locomotive had taken along to a spot immediately opposite the schooner the rocket van, with the members of the Brigade, which included Captain Mabane, and a large staff of the brigadesmen. Fortunately it was found that their services were not needed, for the tug managed her somewhat difficult task admirably, and eventually got the vessel into safety. The promptitude of the lifeboatmen is beyond all praise. Immediately the alarm signals were beard, the crew of the Tom Perry, of South Shields, mustered in a few minutes, and the boat was launched without delay; and shortly after, the James Young, of North Shields, was also put into the water. The coxwains of the Tom Perry were Messrs Burn and A. Purvis. They proceeded to row vigorously towards the distressed vessel, the broken water making it very difficult to make headway. The assistance of the lifeboat was, however, not required, though the James Young got into close proximity to the vessel before she was got off. After the schooner was towed some distance, it is stated, the towline again broke, but she was afterwards got safely into the Narrows and taken the river. It appears that the name of the schooner is the Krosen. At the time, no vessels were observable in the offing. During the course of the morning several trawlers put into the Tyne for refuge. During the gale two salmon boats, which had been moored in the harbour, were broken adrift, and one was smashed against the South Pier.

South Pier 2.15

The two salmon boats referred to above are said to belong to Mr Clift and Mr Howard, and are named respectively the Helen and the Osprey. Both were moored in the harbour this morning, but on breaking adrift were driven with considerable force against the inside of South Pier, and have been, by the force of succeeding shocks against the stonework, reduced to matchwood. The sky has cleared, but the wind still blows with unabated vigour, and the seas are breaking over nearly the whole length of the North Pier. Only one vessel, a screw-steamer, has put to sea, and she proceeds southward. A steamer, which has been seen making from the south for some time struggling against the gale, has nearly reached the harbour. With the exception of this and a tug lying off the south pier, no other vessels are in sight.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 20 May 1887


24 June

Members of the Brigade assist Dr Crease during one of his lectures.

“FIRST AID TO THE INJURED" —Dr J.R. Crease delivered a lecture on the above subject on Thursday night in the Seamen’s Institute, Mill Dam, to a fairly large audience. In the course of the lecture he gave practical illustrations of bandaging and stretcher work in which he was assisted by members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 24 June 1887


6 July

The Annual Meeting took place.


THE ANNUAL MEETING will be held in the Watch House, on Thursday, July 7th, 1887, 7 30 p.m.

S. MALCOLM, Honorary Secretary.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 6 July 1887

20 July 1887


THE ADJOURNED ANNUAL MEETING will be held in the Watch House on Thursday, 21st inst., at 7 30 p.m.

S. MALCOLM, Hon, Sec

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 20 July 1887


6 August 1887


The usual monthly drill of this brigade will take place this evening at 6 o'clock from the South Pier. The Brigade on this occasion will be under the direction of the newly-appointed captains and deputy-captains. A full muster of the members is expected.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 6 August 1887

11 August

Mr Hunter was a member of the Brigade.

Rescue from Drowning by a Member of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade.—James W. Bell, of Newcastle, writes to say that on Wednesday last, while bathing near Frenchman's Bay, he got into difficulties owing to the strong tide and swell, and had it not been for the timely aid of Mr A. E. Hunter, who was swimming out some distance from him, he would have been drowned. This is not the first occasion which Mr Hunter has done similar gallant service, and Mr Bell expresses great gratitude for the timely aid, and for the very kind treatment he afterwards received the hands of that gentleman.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 11 August 1887

31 August


THE MEMBERS are respectfully informed that the next DRILL will take place on SATURDAY AFTERNOON, the 3rd of September, at 6 o’clock.
By order of the Committee,


Source: Shields Daily Gazette 31 August 1887


1 September

Brigade Drill.—The monthly drill the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade is announced for Saturday evening at the south pier. To the many visitors now in the town the practice with the rocket apparatus will be an interesting sight.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 1 September 1887

1 September

A request for Mr Hunter’s rescue to be recognised.

A Brave Shieldsman

Sir,—Kindly allow me through the medium of your columns to draw the attention of your readers to the gallant rescue effected by Mr A. E. Hunter, of this town, some three weeks ago near Frenchman's Bay. At that time a brief notice of this occurrence appeared in the Gazette, but since then no farther efforts have been made with the view of bringing the matter before the Royal Humane Society. The rescue was effected at great personal risk to Mr Hunter, as there was a strong current running at the time and a considerable amount of surf breaking along the rocks. I may mention that this is the third occasion on which Mr Hunter has been instrumental in saving life, and, as he is a member of the Life Brigade, I think it rests with the officials of that body to bring the matter under the notice of the proper authorities. I enclose my card and remain sir,— Yours, Sec.


South Shields, August 31st, 1887.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 1 September 1887

30 September

THE MEMBERS are respectfully informed that the next Drill will TAKE PLACE on Saturday Afternoon, the 1st of October, 1887, at 6 o'clock.

By order of the Committee.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 30 September 1887


15 October

Stormy weather results in the Brigade being on watch duty.

The Stormy Weather

This morning the wind had somewhat abated, but rain still fell at intervals and at the time of writing there was every appearance of more dirty weather. About six o'clock last night after darkness had set in, the South Shields pilots on the out-look at the Lawe observed vivid flashes of lightning seaward, which were succeeded by peals of thunder, seemed to be a good distance away and there was not a recurrence of the phenomena. The wind continued to come away in strong gusts and there was at times heavy falls of rain, and an occasional hailstorm. A schooner which had been observed about five o'clock towing from the southward entered the harbour about six o'clock, and two tugs entered somewhere about the same time. The number of vessels lying in the harbour storm-stayed was very large, including those which had been obliged to put back. The pilots on the Lawe kept a strict look-out, and several members of the Volunteer Life Brigade, under command of Captain G. R. Potts were in attendance, some of them remaining on duty all night. The coastguard, under the charge of Chief Officer Lorden, were also duty. The wind varied from north-east to north-west, and was blowing from the last-named point at ten o'clock, this morning. About eight a.m. a French barque came from the north and entered the harbour without much difficulty though there was a tug in attendance upon her in case her services were needed. The sea in the forenoon still continued rough, the big rollers sweeping straight into the mouth of the harbour. The spray, although it was just commencing flood tide, was flying over the north pier in great sheets as the waves broke against that structure, and a similar state of things prevailed at the outer end of the south pier.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 15 October 1887

27 October

The Brigade Ambulance Team takes first prize.

Newcastle Exhibition
Ambulance Competition
South Shields Takes the First Prize

Last night a competition between the various ambulance classes in this district took place at the Newcastle Exhibition in the tournament ground, North Gardens, the ground being illuminated by concentrating the electric search light from the tower on the Old Tyne Bridge. The work to be done was entirely practical. It included (1) the application of triangular bandages, &c, of improved splints and tourniquets for various injuries; (2) The removal of the injured on ordinary stretchers, on improvised stretchers, and by hand up an incline, over a ditch, and down an incline, and the leading of the injured into a waggon; (3) The restoration of the apparently drowned. The entries were numerous, there being eighteen detachments of four men each. The South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade put in three detachments, numbering a dozen in all. All wore the uniform of the brigade, and the fine physique of the men and their smartness called forth favourable comment. The borough police force of South Shields also sent two detachments of smart fellows, who likewise met with a good reception. In their work the Shields men generally appeared to be clean ahead of the field; and when the issue was made known there was general surprise that the policemen were not placed. When the programme was about two-thirds through, the electric light suddenly ceased. This aroused the longshore spirits of the brigadesmen, and instantly a deep voice, with a speaking trumpet enlarged into something terrible, called out, Where's your portfire." Appeals for “bullseyes" failed to move the police, and the rest of the proceedings were illuminated only by the dim stars, and an occasional wax vesta. The business came to an end just about 11 o'clock. The judges appointed were Drs. W. C. Arnison, M.D., W.P Mears, M.D., and C. J. Sutherland. The latter gentleman, however, withdrew. The competitors included classes from Hartlepool, Durham, Darlington, Elswick Works, Tynemouth, South Shields, and Sunderland. The judges' decision was as follows:—I., South Shields Life Brigade, 2nd detachment; II., Monkwearmouth, 1st detachment; III., Hartlepool centre and Monkwearmouth 2nd, divided. The whole of the successful corps were trained in connexion with the St. John Ambulance Association. Amongst those watching the proceedings, and occasionally assisting, were Dr. Crease, South Shields Mr S. Malcolm, Westoe; Dr. Middlemiss, Darlington; Dr. Broadbent, South Hetton; Capt. Oswin Bell, Tynemouth, and others.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 28 October 1887


4 November

Mr Hunter received his award for gallantry.


THE Members are respectfully informed that the NEXT DRILL will take place To-Morrow Afternoon, at 4 o'clock.

After the Drill, His Worship the Mayor of South Shields, J. T. Eltringham Esq., J.P., will present ALFRED E. HUNTER, a member of the Brigade, with a Certificate on Vellum, granted by the Royal Humane Society for his gallant effort in saving the life of Mr James W. Bell, August 3, 1887.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 4 November 1887

7 November

Bravery at South Shields

At the conclusion of the monthly drill on Saturday evening the members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade adjourned to the Watch House, where one of their number, Mr Alfred E. Hunter, was presented with the Humane Society's certificate for bravery. The Mayor (Ald. Eltringham) presided, and there were present, in addition to the members of the Brigade, a large number of ladies, including the Mayoress. Mr S. Malcolm (hon. secretary), in introducing the Mayor, stated that as soon as he heard of Mr Hunter's gallant action he made it his business to institute the necessary inquiries, and on writing to the authorities in London he received a reply almost immediately asking him to furnish full particulars. The Mayor then made the presentation, and in doing so remarked that it was a rather a singular coincidence that one of his first public duties on becoming Mayor was to make a public presentation to one of the members of that Brigade for saving life, and an exactly similar duty he was performing in the last days of his mayoralty. He remarked that although they had not had many great storms during the past two years, they were always ready to face danger, and to save life, not only collectively, but individually, as was evident from the fact that in that time three members of the Brigade had sufficiently distinguished themselves to merit recognition from the Royal Humane Society. (Applause.) He then handed, Mr Hunter the certificate, which is on vellum, and records the fact of his having saved the life of James W. Bell, while bathing at Frenchman's Bay on the 3rd of August.—On the motion of Captain Whitelaw, seconded by Mr George Robson, three hearty cheers were giving to the Mayor for presiding, and a cheer was also given for the Mayoress. The interesting proceedings then terminated.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 7 November 1887

7 November

The outcome of this request is not recorded.

WOULD the person who removed the Silk Umbrella from the Watch Tower of the Volunteer Life Brigade House, on Saturday afternoon be good enough to return it at once to 2 Ogle Terrace, South Shields.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 7 November 1887

23 November

The Brigade are on watch during stormy weather.
Severe Gale on the Coast
Great loss of Life
Serious Damage to Property

The storm which came away yesterday morning, continued during the whole of the day and through the greater part of the night. The seas broke with great fury against the piers at the mouth of the Tyne, and the weather was such that the sailings were exceedingly small. The members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade went on duty at night, the rocket van having been previously taken along the pier in preparation for any contingency that might arise. The members of the brigade, who were under command of Capt. George Robson, left duty at midnight no occasion for their services happily, having arisen. The wind for several hours more, however, continued to blow in heavy gusts, but towards daybreak greatly subsided, and the sky eventually cleared, though this forenoon there was still a moderate breeze from the eastward. A large number of vessels left the river.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 23 November 1887

16 November

Some critical comments were made about the result of the Ambulance Competition.  

At the contest between the members of the various ambulance corps in the district, held at the Exhibition about a month ago, it will be remembered that South Shields secured first honours, the winning team being members of the Volunteer Life Brigade, taught by Dr Crease. The teams which provoked most favourable comment amongst the medical men and others looking on were the two teams sent by the South Shields Borough Police, teacher Dr Sutherland, and it was thought by many present that they should have brought away the remaining prizes. For some reason or other, however, these were awarded to representatives of ambulance corps from Sunderland and Hartlepool, much to the surprise of competent critics, who watched the several teams go through the various phases of competition. Now somebody is crying out about Newcastle playing second fiddle to South Shields in regard to proficiency in ambulance knowledge and skill.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 16 November 1887


1 December


THE MEMBERS are respectfully informed that the next DRILL will take place on SATURDAY AFTERNOON, the 3rd of December, 1887, at Four o'clock.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 1 December 1887

6 December

The previous evening, 5 December, there had been a dinner to mark the formal opening of the new Tynemouth Brigade House.

The First Volunteer Life Brigade

There was something pathetic in the complaint made by a member of the Tynemouth Life Brigade last night, that the Brigadesmen of Tynemouth have not had "so much luck” as the Brigadesmen of South Shields, and so have not so noble a record to show. If ships would only contrive to get themselves wrecked at the north instead of the south side, this gentleman seemed to suggest, the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade would lose no time in covering itself with distinction. Nobody who knows the members, from the chiefs downwards, will doubt that; and yet everybody must hope that the opportunities tor the brigadesmen to show of what metal they are made will be as few as possible. A life brigade may distinguish itself not only by saving life, but by being “always ready." The friendly rivalry between Tynemouth and South Shields is a noble illustration of the northern character. The Brigades on either side of the Tyne have each one peculiar title to fame. The Tynemouth Brigade was the first to be formed, and the South Shields Brigade was the first to save life. It happens, in consequence of the peculiarities of the approach to the Tyne, that most ships go ashore on the south side. Tynemouth has therefore to wait longer to cover itself with glory. That most shipwrecks should occur where the South Shields brigade can alone be of service is really a happy circumstance, for the north side of the river is much the more terrible for a ship which runs ashore, and the chances of saving the whole of the persons on board are consequently smaller in the one case than the other. Everyone present last night must have felt the truth of Mr John Foster Spence's remark, that in case of a ship getting on the rocks behind the north pier there will be great danger of some of the brigadesmen losing their lives through the wash of the sea. There will also be other very serious difficulties in the way of an effective rescue; and we trust that no wreck will again be seen in that situation, well adapted as it would be to exhibit the bravery and the prowess of the Tynemouth Life Brigade. However, these qualities do not stand in need of demonstration. We all understand that the Brigade is ready for even the most dangerous service, and at the same time we trust that it will be long before its qualities are again put to a trial. We must compliment the Brigade alike on its handsome new quarters, and on the readiness with which the money has been raised to defray their cost. It seemed when the former Life Brigade house was being pulled down that it would not be possible to secure an equal situation; but the new Brigade house is not only larger and more complete in its arrangements, but is so excellently placed that it affords a better look-out than formerly. There is only one more thing to be said- We repeat the advice given by Alderman John Foster Spence last night— "Attend to your drills." The fact that there are so few wrecks on the north side should not operate so as to disqualify the brigade for effective service in case it is needed. Fortunately, there is little reason to fear this. The drill of the Tynemouth Life Brigade has been frequently the occasion of official praise.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 6 December 1887