Events 1897


7 January

During a severe storm, the steamer Wandsworth went ashore at Tynemouth and the crew were rescued by the Tynemouth Brigade.

South Shields

The firing of the alarm signals, and the quick response of the Medusa guns, brought thousands of townspeople to the seaside, the South Pier as far as the Brigade House being densely crowded with people, while on the bank tops the large numbers of sightseers braved the fury of the elements for several hours at a stretch although the scene of operations was very far removed, yet considerable excitement prevailed. The lights of a stranded vessel were clearly discernible through the darkness, and the firing a couple of rockets, at comparatively long intervals was a source of no end of conjecture. Nothing of a definite nature however was ascertainable beyond that the Tynemouth brigade had secured communication with the stranded vessel, the name of which did not transpire until nearly midnight. The members of the South Shields Brigade were in attendance at the Watch House in goodly numbers and kept watch during the night. Among the first comers after the guns fired were Captains G. R. Potts, and J. Page, and Ald. Mabane honorary captain also put in appearance.

The wind subsided a little towards midnight but came away fresher than ever in the early hours of the morning, and at daybreak the outlook was exceedingly bleak and tempestuous. There have been very few arrivals in the Tyne, and only about half-a-dozen vessels have ventured to sea during the last two tides.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 9 January 1897

The Scene at Tynemouth

Last night the 2nd division of the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade was on duty the Watch House, among the officers present being Capt J. F. Spence. There was considerable stir and animation in the in the house and on the cliffs, and the entrance to the harbour was scanned very eagerly by those who were ready and anxious to render assistance to any vessel that might get into difficulties. Fortunately no such necessity arose; it is certain that if a casualty of any kind had occurred, the coastguard and brigadesmen would have had on hand one the grimmest tasks they ever faced, for every span of shore line was bordered by a  wide belt of seething foam which was malicious in its aspect. The waves were thumping against the broadside of the steamer Wandsworth with a sound like the discharge of a cannon. It was curious  to notice that the mast head light of the vessel was still burning last night, and I lights could also be seen, in the cabins. It is stated that several cats, ferrets, canaries, and fowls were on board when the crew left her. What has been the fate of the poor creatures must be left only to conjecture. The vessel must have sustained a great deal of damage during the night, as she had sunk considerably this morning as though her back had been broken.

It is worthy of notice that the rescue of the crew of the Wandsworth establishes a record in the annals of the Tynemouth Life Brigade. Never since the formation of that institution over thirty-two years ago have the members been called upon to bring ashore so many men from one vessel as 25 all told, which was the complement carried by the  Wandsworth. Although it forms a record for Tynemouth, it is not, however, the biggest achievement of the kind that has been performed in the harbour. South Shields can show a better figure, for on January 10th, 1892, five years ago to-morrow, the steamer Huntsman, of North Shields, was stranded on the South Pier, and South Shields coastguard and Volunteer Life Brigade rescued, by means of the rocket apparatus, the crew of 23 all told, one fisherman, the captain's wife, and three children —28 lives in all, or five more than the Tynemouth men landed from the Wandsworth on Thursday night.

South Shields.

If at one time yesterday the storm showed some appreciable signs of slackening it was but the harbinger of something worse to follow. After midday the outlook was blacker and fiercer than ever, and very shortly afterwards the tempest broke over the coast line with renewed strength, the wind blowing in terrific gusts, and the sea breaking more furiously upon the shores than since the storm began. Towards dusk, the tide came to its full, the sight seaward was one of grand picturesqueness. Far out into the offing the seas were breaking tremendously and the rugged coast line as far the eye could see was an unbroken stretch of white water. The South pier end came in for a severe buffetting, the monster seas coming with the south-east wind having full play upon it and spreading themselves with terrible rapidity and force. Often the lighthouse was completely hidden in the tremendous volumes of water, and the spray shot high into the air above it, while broken seas rushed madly along the pier promenade for several hundred yards. The spectacle was I even more thrilling and beautiful towards midnight. The red glare from the lantern in the lighthouse was sufficiently powerful to light up the turbulent waters as they dashed over the extremity of the superstructure, and every now and again leaped far above the light itself. A scene more weird and awe-inspiring has not been witnessed at the south side of the harbour for some considerable time. There was a big muster of brigadesmen throughout yesterday and at midnight the roll call showed between 30 and 40 members still on duty, among them being Captains G. R. Potts. J. W. Buckland and J. Page; and Deputy-Captains Newby, Scrafton, Grimes, and Thompson. This forenoon the wind had fallen a trifle, but the sea was running as dangerously as ever, and the brigade were again on the look-out.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 9 January 1897


16 January

A national ambulance competition was planned.


ALL AMBULANCE MEN are particularly requested to attend a MEETING in the Watch House on Monday, January 18th, at 8 p.m., in reference to General Competition open to all certificated men in the United Kingdom.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 16 January 1897

23 January

A severe storm caused damage to the North Pier, which was witnessed by the Brigade from the South Pier.

The Tyne Piers
A Serious Disaster
North Pier Breached
Lighthouse in Darkness

The storm, which this morning is showing signs of passing away, has proved one of the worst and at the same time one of the most disastrous experienced at the mouth of the Tyne for many years. Throughout yesterday a mountainous sea broke with fearful rapidity over the piers, the north side superstructure, as usual, getting the worst of the buffeting. Just before nightfall, when the tide was at its full, the storm was seen at its worst, and only those who saw the huge volumes of green waters spending themselves on the North Pier can adequately appreciate the fury of the elements at that time. Occasionally it seemed that whole length of the pier from the crane outwards was buried in the seas. It was with some feelings awe that the sightseers looked upon the spectacle, and in some minds a dread fear was felt for the safety of the pier itself, for the worst of the storm was spending itself immediately the spot where for some time workmen have been engaged in the work of strengthening a weak part. The storm continued with unrelenting force during the night, and daybreak this morning showed that the worst fears had been realised. At 5 40 the members the Volunteer Life Brigade on duty at South Shields saw the lights on Tynemouth pier end disappear and when day dawned it was seen that serious damage had been done to the north pier. Looking at it from the South Pier, the pier seemed practically in halves, for only few paces from the crane the sea had made such terrible inroads that fully 20 feet of the higher portion of the pier on which the public promenade is constructed, has been demolished. Hundreds of tons of stone work must have been dislodged and swept away, for the chasm is believed to reach right down to the foundation. The sea during the forenoon was making a clean breach over the part of the pier, but it could be seen that the parapet wall for some distance had completely washed away and damage done to the north of the seaward side of the pier that the outer part had been completely broken through and the sea could be plainly seen through one of the shelter arches constructed above the level of the railway in the upper and northern portion the pier. It will, of course, be impossible to ascertain the full extent the damage until the heavy seas abate, but the appearances at present point to the damage—which has occurred at the point where a previous gale had undermined the pier—being of very extensive character.

Damage to North PierThe extent of the damage is not at all visible to those viewing the pier from the north side of the harbour, but from a side view, such as can be obtained from the beach or pier at South Shields, the serious nature of the damage is at once apparent, and large numbers people made their way to the seaside this forenoon to inspect the havoc that had been wrought. For a distance of several yards, and it is hard to judge, exactly how many from the necessarily great distance at which the spot can only be viewed—the upper part of the structure has been completely carried away—promenade, and parapet, and handrails, and tons of masonry. It is a clean gap, or gulf, reaching down to the lower level where the engine line is laid. The lower level itself, forming as it does the base of the Pier and offering twice the resistance to the force of the seas, has not been demolished bodily, but has without doubt been very much weakened on the north side, and by the aid of a telescope there are cracks visible, which afford further indication of the it has received. Through one of the shelter arches constructed in the upper part of the pier a clear view of the sea to the northward is obtainable, showing that the damage that portion of the pier must be very extensive indeed. The mammoth crane is to the landward side of the beach. Further landwards some of the stones forming the parapet have bowled over, and for a great distance the handrails have been completely torn away.

Such a disaster as the storm has brought about during the night cannot be said to be wholly unexpected. The manner in which the Pier at that particular point has been undermined by the wearing, tearing action of the storms for more than a year past, and the difficulties that have been experienced in the repairing operations are tolerably well known to the public, notwithstanding the inexplicable reticence on the part of those in official circles. It was known that the cavern, or gap, was of such depth that violent storm from a northerly north-easterly would prove a very severe test. Such a test was afforded by last storm, and has proved more than the damaged structure could resist.


One of our representatives called upon Mr P. J. Messent, engineer of the piers, Tynemouth, this morning, to ascertain the true extent of damage. Mr Messent, after drawing a rough section of the pier, said : —" The whole of the damage is confined to the 200 feet which we have been engaged repairing for some time past. Until the weather changes and I am able to get down, I can't say what has been the extent of the damage done last night. The repairs were in an advanced state, and a large number of blocks had been placed the gap. It will be remembered that reports were made to the effect that these had been washed away, but they were all in their places when those reports appeared. The lights in the lighthouse went out early this morning, so that it is possible a crack has been made right through and broken the pipe. The lamps will be lighted with oil to-night. Of course it is bad, but it is fortunate it is no worse. There are three thousand feet of pier at Tynemouth, and 5,000 South Shields,— 8,000 in all, —and this space of 200 feet is the only piece that gives any trouble. It has been an exceptionally bad winter owing to the succession of storms, and the divers have not been able to get to work for nine weeks."

Mr Messent was appointed resident engineer of the piers, in 1855 or 1856, and in 1870 was appointed head engineer to the Commission, in succession to Mr Ure.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 23 January 1897


27 January 1897

The commemoration of Her Majesty's long reign will be celebrated by every branch of society according to its light. The central body of the St. John Ambulance Association have hit upon the idea of holding a national competition, which promises to be a most comprehensive and interesting affair. Throughout the length and breadth of the land ambulance classes, great and small, have been invited to take part in it, and South Shields among the rest has not failed to respond loyally and heartily, I hear that two teams have arranged to compete. Each team will consist of five men and these will enter into competition with other local teams. The winners of each section will then be brought together and the final tie will take place at the Crystal Palace, London, for which occasion a grand fete will be promoted. In the annals of ambulance work in this district, South Shields comes out conspicuously, and I believe that the ambulance corps formed in connection with the Volunteer Life Brigade was the first of its kind in the country. As the town has already distinguished itself, so its best wishes will go with its representatives for their success on this occasion.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 27 January 1897

27 January

The Annual Dinner took place.

30 January

The monthly drills continued throughout the year.


THE NEXT DRILL will take place Saturday Afternoon, the 30th of January at 4 o'clock.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 28 January 1897


6 February


THE NEXT DRILL will take place on Saturday afternoon, the 6th February, at 4 o'clock.

S. MALCOLM Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 5 February 1897


6 March


THE NEXT DRILL will take place on Saturday Afternoon, the 6th of March, at Four o'clock.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 4 March 1897


3 April


THE NEXT DRILL will take place Saturday afternoon, the 3rd April, at 4.30 o'clock.

S. MALCOLM, hon. sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 2 April 1897

24 April

It does not appear that this suggestion was taken up.

The Tyne Life Brigade
An Excellent Suggestion

A correspondent writes to the Newcastle Chronicle: “It has been suggested that would be only fitting that the two premier Volunteer Life brigades in the country, Tynemouth and South Shields, should be represented in the procession at London on the occasion of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Seeing that the Volunteer Life Brigade is one of the most humane organisations that have been instituted since her Majesty ascended the throne, it certainly would not be out of place if a small detachment from each of the Tyne Brigades were enabled take part in the great precession. Tynemouth is the premier brigade, but South Shields holds the record as being the first to save life. It may be remembered that the first two lives saved by the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade were those of a mother and her child, from the brig Tenterden, which was wrecked at the South Pier April 2, 1866."

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 24 April 1897


1 May


THE NEXT DRILL will take place on SATURDAY AFTERNOON, the 1st of May at Six o clock.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 1 May 1897

24 May

The Queen’s birthday celebrations took place.

The Queen’s Birthday

On Tyneside the Government offices and Custom Houses were closed, and at noon a royal salute was fired from the cruiser Medusa, the guardship of the port, a proceeding which at first created considerable excitement in the harbour boroughs, the guns being mistaken for the usual signal for calling out the Volunteer Life Brigade.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 24 May 1897


5 June


THE NEXT DRILL will take place on Saturday Afternoon, the 5th of June, at 6 o’clock.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 3 June 1897

4 June 1897

To the Editor of the Shields Gazette,


Sir, —I had hoped amongst the multiplicity of Jubilee celebrations, that the precedent of 1887 would have been followed, and the members of our South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, and the Lifeboat Crews entertained to dinner supper. The lifeboatmen, I see, are to have a procession during the afternoon to contribute to the public enjoyment. Surely the public in turn might show how much they appreciate the courage and humanity of both classes of men whose motto is

Always Ready.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 4 June 1897

4 June

The Ambulance Corps received the results of the annual examination.

At the annual meeting of the Nursing Division of the St John Ambulance Association, examination certificates were awarded to “Volunteer Life Brigade, instructor Dr Crease, secretary, Mr J. Page, 16.”

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 5 June 1897

10 June

The Brigade took part in the Lifeboat Demonstration at Newcastle.


MEMBERS wishing to attend the Lifeboat demonstration on Saturday next are requested to assemble at the Railway Station at 1.15 p.m.—Uniform must be worn.

S. MALCOLM. Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 10 June 1897


3 July


THE NEXT DRILL will take place on SATURDAY AFTERNOON, the 3rd of July, six o'clock.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 3 July 1897

14 July

The Annual Meeting took place.

24 July

The Brigade attended the funeral of brigadesman James Gibson.

At 5 Pearson Street, South Shields, on the 23rd inst., James, the beloved husband the late Catherine A. S. Gibson, and only son of the late James and Hannah Gibson, aged 38 years. Interment at St. Stephen's on Sunday at 2.45. Friends, also members the S.S.V. Life Brigade, are kindly invited to attend.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 24 July 1897

25 July

FUNERAL OF A SOUTH SHIELDS BRIGADESMAN —The funeral of Mr James Gibson, a member of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, took place on Sunday afternoon, and was largely attended by his fellow brigadesmen, and society of joiners of which the deceased was member. Mr Gibson joined the brigade in 1886, and took an active part in everything connected with his duties. About 40 members mustered the lookout house and marched from there under the command of Deputy-Captain Geo. Scrafton to the residence of the deceased in Pearson Street. The brigadesmen walked ahead of the procession, two deep, from there to St. Stephen's Churchyard, where the burial service took place. The officers of the brigade present were Deputy Captains Geo. Scrafton, James Thompson, and Thomas Newby (brother-in-law), also Mr James Henderson, house captain.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 26 July 1897


7 August




S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 4 August 1897


4 September


THE NEXT DRILL will take place on Saturday Afternoon, the 4th of September, at 6 o clock.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 4 September 1897


3 October

The Annual Church Parade took place.


THE NEXT DRILL will take place on Saturday Afternoon, the 2nd of October at 6 o'clock.

Church Parade on Sunday, October 3rd. To muster at 10 a.m. sharp.

By order of the Committee.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 29 September 1897

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade. —Yesterday, the annual church parade of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade took place. The assemblage was at the Watch House, south pier, and there was good turn-out, the officers present being Messrs G. R. Potts and George Robson, captains; Messrs Scrafton, Thompson, and Grimes, deputy captains; James Henderson, house captain; and Mr S. Malcolm, hon. secretary and treasurer. The members of the coastguard and naval reserve men from H.M.S. Medusa also took part. A procession was formed, and, headed by the band of the Wellesley Training Ship, marched by way of Ocean Road, King Street, the Market Place, and Coronation Street to the Church of the Missions to Seamen at the Mill Dam, where service was held. There was a very large congregation. Bishop Sandford preached an appropriate sermon, and a collection was taken on behalf of the funds of the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners' Society.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 4 October 1897

19 October

The Brigade was requested to take part in a procession to mark the opening of the John Readhead Wing at the Ingham Infirmary.

Ingham Infirmary Extension
Proposed Workmen’s Demonstration

A meeting of sub-committee of the Workmen's Governors was held the Ingham Infirmary last night to make arrangements for organising a workmen's demonstration on the occasion the laying of the foundation stone of the new wing by the Earl of Durham, on Saturday, November 6th. There were present Messrs R. W. Jobling (chairman), David Cook, Wm. Hannant, W. Sinclair, Jas. Thompson, Geo. Lambell, James Boyd, Wm.Tindle, and John Smith. The secretary was instructed to insert an advertisement in the Shields Gazette inviting the secretaries (or other representatives) of all trade and friendly societies, and also the conductors of bands in the town to attend meeting at the Dispensary at Westoe on Monday evening next, to make further arrangements for the proposed demonstration. The secretaries were also requested to write to the commanding officers of the 3rd D.A.V. and the 5th V.B.D.L.I., asking permission for their respective corps take part in the demonstration, and to the secretaries of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, and the St. John Ambulance Brigade, asking them also to join in the procession.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 19 October 1897


2 November


THE MEMBERS are respectfully informed that the NEXT DRILL will take on Saturday Afternoon, the 6th of November, at 4.30 o'clock.

Members will meet in uniform at 1.30 p.m. at Trinity Church to march in the procession to the Ingham Infirmary.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 2 November 1897

6 November

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 6 November 1897

15 November

Stormy weather resulted in the Brigade being on duty.

November Gale
Heavy Sea off the Tyne

After weather of a most unpleasant character in which rain fell very copiously towards dark, the wind last evening came away very suddenly from a northerly direction and swept along the coast with such force as to cause a high and dangerous sea, which made clean breaches over the Tyne Piers and made it a very awkward thing to vessels bound inwards to reach their destination. South Shields Volunteer Brigade were soon on duty.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 15 November 1897


4 December


THE NEXT DRILL will take place on Saturday Afternoon, the 4th of December, at 4 o'clock.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 4 December 1897