Events 1903


3 January

The monthly drills took place throughout the year.


THE NEXT DRILL will take place on SATURDAY AFTERNOON, the 3rd of January, 3-30 o'clock.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 24 December 1902

12 January

Scenes on the Coast
South Shields

The first hard spell of wintry weather this season in South Shields was experienced during the week-end. On Saturday there was a strong gale from the north-east, while the rain fell in torrents. A heavy sea prevailed, and the Life Brigade deemed it prudent to be on duty in the afternoon and evening, but their services were not required. Snow commenced to fall late at night, and continued during the great part of Sunday, and the outlook this morning was that of a typical winter, with the snow thickly covering the ground. Quite an army of workmen were early engaged clearing the main roads and tramlines, and thus traffic in the leading thoroughfares was carried on much as usual. In the meantime the weather seaward had improved, the gale having considerably decreased when snow began to fall.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 12 January 1903


5 February

The Annual Dinner took place, at which the Editor of the Shields Gazette announced the offer to provide a searchlight.

6 February

The offer by the proprietors of the Shields Gazette to supply the Brigade with a searchlight was the subject of articles throughout the year.

The Tyne and Life Saving

It is a remarkable fact that Tyneside, a district largely associated in the minds of many people with the production of engines of war, should always have been so much to the fore in everything associated with the saving of life. Although the claim is primarily made in connection with the saving of life from shipwreck, it is equally true in other directions. Few people now probably remember that it was a Tyneside Committee, or to be more precise a South Shields Committee, which first investigated the question of the excessive loss of life by explosions in coal mines, and it was the report of that Committee, subsequently adopted and re-printed by a Parliamentary Committee, which formed the ground work of our Mines Regulation Acts. It was again to Tyneside, in a double sense, that miners owed the invention of the safety lamp which, it may be fairly said, has robbed their hazardous calling of half its ancient terrors. Not only did a Tynesider, George Stephenson, invent the form of safety lamp familiarly called the "Geordie " and still in use, but Sir Humphrey Davy carried out at the Felling the experiments which resulted in the manufacture of his safety lamp, "the Davy," also still in use, while no further away than Sunderland Dr Cluny invented the safety lamp still known by his name.

Of the Tyne's association with lifesaving from shipwreck it is, or ought to be at this date, unnecessary to speak. Whatever may have been the merits of Lionel Lukin’s lifeboat it is certain that the craft invented by Wouldhave and built by Greathead was the first practicable and really useful boat for the saving of life from shipwreck, and for years after its invention South Shields was the chief, if not the only port in which lifeboats were constructed. The Tyne has also the honour of being the first port to establish a regular organisation for the support and maintenance of a life-saving service. In regard to the Volunteer Life Brigades there can be no question whatever that the honour of their origin belong entirely to Tyneside. Indeed Volunteer Life Brigades, although not known by that name, are very much older on Tyneside than is generally claimed, for nearly forty years before the establishment of the Tynemouth Brigade the Newcastle Association for Saving Life from Shipwreck had provided both Tynemouth and South Shields with mortars (the cumbersome apparatus which preceded the handy and serviceable rocket), rope ladders, and other means of saving life from shipwreck where the lifeboat was not available, There are records extant of drills at South Shields and at Whitburn many years before the present efficient brigades at those places or at Tynemouth were established. The Volunteer Life Brigades, however, represent the first organisation, on a systematic basis, of the voluntary help which is always so readily available in our Tyneside towns whenever needed for the rescue of fellow mortals from peril by land or by water. No fitter birthplace for such an organisation could have been found than the mouth of the Tyne, where every gale emphasised its need, and gave opportunity to the members to put into practice the skill acquired in peaceful drill.

One noteworthy characteristic of the Tyneside Volunteer Life Brigades has been the promptitude and readiness with which they have assimilated and turned to use every new lifesaving device or every invention which could be used to improve their appliances. Every improvement either in the rocket apparatus itself or any of its accessories or in the means for rapid and handy conveyance of the apparatus to the point at which its use is required has been readily availed of in order to render the services of the Brigade still more efficient. It is therefore not surprising, in these days when electrical developments are proceeding at such a pace that the Tynemouth Life Brigade should be the first to press electricity into their services. For long the difficulties attendant on rescue work in dark thick nights have been felt and appreciated by both the Brigades located at the mouth of the Tyne. The frequent use of the electric searchlight for defensive or warlike operations by the Tynemouth garrison and the submarine miners, suggested the idea of its utility for the more peaceful and prosaic, but at the same time more useful work of saving life from shipwreck. The generosity of a Shieldsman, Mr Roland Philipson, placed the Tynemouth Brigade in the position of once more being the pioneer Life Brigade of the Kingdom. Subject to the necessary approval of the Harbour authorities and the Board of Trade, Mr Philipson offered to present an electric searchlight capable of utilising the current in the town's mains so as to be instantly available for use to the Tynemouth Brigade. We believe that in the inquiries and experiments which have been carried out as to the practicability of such a light the only objection offered was to the possible danger to navigation involved in using the searchlight athwart or across the harbour entrance, which would have been necessary in order that the South Shields Brigade might profit by its use. That objection will be removed by the offer the proprietors of the Shields Gazette have made, of a similar searchlight to the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade. Alderman Winter, of the Tynemouth Brigade, was last night able to state that ail technical objections have been surmounted, and that the Tynemouth scheme only awaits the formal sanction of the Board of Trade in order to be put into operation. We trust that in no long time that assent will be given both for Tynemouth and South Shields, and that the two pioneer Life Brigades of the United Kingdom will lead the way also in the adoption of an appliance which experts believe will materially add to the efficiency and the value of the services of those excellent organisations./pr>

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 6 February 1903


7 February

South Shields Searchlight
Reception of the Offer
Opinions of Experts
Tributes by the Press

The reception accorded to the offer by the proprietors of the Shields Gazette to provide a searchlight for the use of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, has been of a most cordial and flattering character. Those best entitled to speak for the pilots, lifeboatmen, and brigadesmen are unanimous in their view that such an apparatus will be of the utmost value in assisting the life-saving efforts of the brigade or of the lifeboats.

In an editorial note the Newcastle Leader says:—Thanks to the admirably applied generosity of the proprietors of the South Shields Gazette, a complete installation of the searchlight at the mouth of the Tyne is now made possible. For some little time it had appeared as if the appeal to South Shields to emulate Mr Roland Philipson's endowment of the Tynemouth Brigade would remain unanswered; but the proprietors of the Gazette have responded under circumstances which redound to their honour and good citizenship. It is—we may be permitted to say—a peculiar gratification to journalists who have striven their utmost to obtain that greater safety for Tyne shipping which will unquestionably be secured by the provision of searchlights that their efforts have at length been crowned with complete success through the wise humanitarian liberality of members of their own profession.

A "North-country note" in the same journal says:—The annual supper of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, I am glad to know, was very successful, regarded as a convivial gathering, but it will have additional importance in the history of the life-saving institution by reason of the fact that it gave Mr G. B. Hodgson at opportunity of offering, on behalf of the proprietors of the Shields Gazette, to defray the whole cost of an electric searchlight for the use of the brigade. In making this gift to South Shields, the Gazette has acknowledged the benefits which it has received from that town in a manner which does honour to the profession of journalism.


The offer informally made at the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade annual dinner on Thursday night on behalf of the proprietors of the Shields Gazette to provide an electric searchlight at the South Pier as an auxiliary to the life saving work of that body has since been a topic of general comment in the district. Following so closely upon the generous offer of Mr Roland Philipson to equip the Tynemouth Life Brigade with a similar installation, public interest has been accentuated on the subject generally, and its further development will be very closely watched on both sides of the water. As to the practicability of the scheme, there are no longer any difficulties or doubts in the way, if, indeed, any ever existed. The only real question raised about which differences of opinion might exist is one as to the adaptability and utility of an electric searchlight in connection with life saving work. In that respect the scheme may not commend itself to everybody, although that is hazarding a good deal after the ready and cordial manner in which the controlling authority of the river—the Tyne Commission—have given their approval and sanction to it. But with the object of obtaining some individual opinions on that particular aspect of the project, a representative of the Shields Gazette yesterday had a number of interviews with men whose practical minds and experience entitle them to speak with authority.

Our reporter was fortunate in dropping in upon a number of old and young pilots at what is  best known as the Lawe "hut”, but what in reality is the Pilots' Watch House, snugly situated under the brow of the Lawe ballast hill. The topic was, of course, a congenial one, and while a variety of opinions were expressed they were all in the direction of applauding the excellence of the scheme and the manifold advantages which a properly constructed searchlight appliance would confer upon both life-boatmen and life brigadesmen. There was not the slightest conflict of opinion as to the utility of such a light.

Mr John Purvis, pilot superintendent, than whom no one is better able from long practical experience to express an opinion on such a scheme, very optimistically hailed the proposal as "a splendid idea."

In what way, Mr Purvis?—ln many ways. If you have a light in readiness to throw upon a spot where a vessel has come to grief, the rescuers will get about their work more expeditiously and with greater safety to-themselves and all concerned. Half the terrors and dangers which sometimes attend rescuing work on this bit of coast would disappear if we had such a light. That means, of course, the poor souls on the wreck would stand a better chance of being saved.
By way of demonstrating the value of his opinion Mr Purvis referred to the experience of a pilot's assistant, James Ramsey, who was present. Ramsey spoke for himself. He was one of the men who manned the lifeboat and went to the succour of the crew of the Knud, which was run down in collision in Shields harbour. In that disaster eight lives were lost. It was a dark night and when the lifeboat and its crew put off from the shore it was impossible, as Ramsey put it, to distinguish a man from a piece of wreckage. We picked up four men. We rowed to two other objects which we thought were two others of the crew, but in one case it was a piece of wood, and in the other it was a dog. If there had been a searchlight playing about the spot we could have seen the men in the water, and we could have saved them."

As Mr Purvis pertinently remarked, it is not always in stormy weather that disasters occur in which valuable aid might be rendered by a searchlight.

Mr Amos Ayre, another experienced pilot, remarked that an illustration to the point was also provided by the loss of the barque Christiani, at the end of the Groyne in the memorable gale of November twelvemonths. The rescue of the crew of that vessel, he asserted, would have been almost impossible if it had not been for the huge blaze which the pilot lads made on the fish pier. In the darkness of the night the men could not have seen where to jump, but the bonfire lighted up the spot for them and in his opinion they owed their it. A searchlight, which could be utilised at the moment would, of course, be much more valuable than even a bonfire under circumstances like these.

"If," said the pilot superintendent, as our reporter took leave of him, "a requisition was sent round the pilots for support of your scheme, there might be one who would not sign it, but I have not found him yet. I think, if our opinion is worth having, you may say we are universally in favour of a searchlight because we believe it would be of great value to life-saving work. That has been my opinion for long enough."

Mr J. Williams, chief of the coastguards stationed at South Shields, after eulogising the idea, gave one or two valuable hints in the methods of manipulating a searchlight for such a purpose. "As soon as a vessel strikes the beach," he said, “the light, once it has been thrown upon the wreck, must never be taken off, and it must never be raised above the horizon, or flashed along the coast. I believe if these conditions are adhered to—and there is no doubt they will be—then the light will prove a valuable help to us, and be an undoubted acquisition to life saving work."

Asked if an emergency might not arise in which the searchlight would be valuable as a means of discovering a stranded vessel, presuming the precise whereabouts of the wreck to be unknown, Mr Williams replied in the affirmative, but with a caution. “We must not regard the light as a novelty or plaything," he said, “and it should, if possible, be under the control of an electrician, whose sole duty would be to look after it. Such an emergency as you suggest, might occur, and did actually happen in the storm of November twelve months. While we were engaged at the Constance Ellen, you'll remember, a report came along that another vessel had stranded further southward. In the black darkness of the night it was impossible to see any trace of a wreck, and I had to divide our forces and take the waggon along the sands as far as the Trow Rocks. We found nothing, and the operations at the Constance Ellen were hampered by our absence. If we had had a searchlight we might have been spared that fruitless errand, Cases of that kind, however, will be of very rare occurrence, and I wouldn't suggest, in fact it would be a source of danger to navigation if it were done, that the light should be used as a search light along the beach excepting on such occasions. I believe, however, when we are engaged upon a wreck the light will be of very great value and help.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 7 February 1903

7 February


THE NEXT DRILL will take place on SATURDAY AFTERNOON, the 7th of February, at 4 o'clock.

S. MALCOLM. Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 7 February 1903

10 February 1903


(To the Editor of the “Shields Gazette”)

Sir, —I read with pleasure, of the kind offer made by the proprietors of the Gazette, viz:—To supply the Volunteer Life Brigade with a searchlight, which I think will be a great help to saving lives on a dark stormy night. But, Mr Editor, did you not make a mistake in your speech at the Brigade dinner, when you said Mr Cay, an old member of the Brigade, referred and suggested the possibility of using the local electric light us a searchlight, seeing that the said Mr Cay died before the local electric light was introduced? Now, sir, I venture to state that the first time the matter was brought to the notice of the public (not only of South Shields but anywhere) was through the idea of Richard Kaye in your "Odd Man Out's notes" over twelve months since, but as you say not much notice at the time was taken of it, although it developed in the minds of some—for instance, Tynemouth Brigade— who stole a march upon us, and have the honour of being the first to adopt the light. Now, sir, if l am right will you please say so, thus giving me the honour I am entitled to, viz., that of being the first to publicly agitate for the light to be used.—Yours, etc.,

Richard Kaye.

** Mr Kaye certainly wrote to "Odd Man Out" about the time he mentions suggesting the use of a searchlight, and his letter was published in South Side Notes, But the idea of a searchlight had been mooted in the same column a considerable time before that.—Ed., S.D.G.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 10 February 1903


4 March

The following article appeared in a summary of the monthly minutes of South Shields Council.

Searchlight for use of Life Brigade

A letter was read at the Electrical Committee from Mr S. Malcolm, hon. sec. of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, stating that the Northern Press and Engineering Co., Ltd., are prepared to present to the South Shields Life Brigade an electric searchlight, which would be used in the brigade's operations during stormy weather, and at wrecks, should it be thought desirable, and he would be glad if the Electrical Committee would consider the important question of the supply of the electric current with a view of ascertaining to what extent the South Shields Corporation would be willing to co-operate in this direction; that should it be decided to adopt a searchlight he is disposed to recommend that it be fixed in a lantern at the top of the staircase tower in the brigade watch house, which would only necessitate the laying of a cable to that point.—The committee resolved that the engineer obtain further particulars and report to the next meeting on the application, and that the Town Clerk write to Mr Malcolm in the meantime and state that the subject is receiving consideration.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 4 March 1903

7 March


THE NEXT DRILL will take place on SATURDAY AFTERNOON, the 7th of March, at 4 o'clock.

S. MALCOLM. Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 5 March 1903

12 March

The minutes of the Tyne Commission monthly meeting included the following decision.

In relation to the proposed establishment of a Search-light, the gift of the Northern Press & Engineering Co., Ltd, by the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, a letter was submitted from Mr S. Malcolm, secretary of the brigade, enclosing a plan.— The Committee recommended that the consideration of the matter be deferred.

Agreed to.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 13 March 1903

18 March 1903

The Life Brigade Searchlight

I hear that very satisfactory progress is being-made with the formal preliminaries necessary for the installation of the searchlight, that is to say, obtaining the sanction of the Board of Trade and the Tyne Commissioners. In view of the announcement made in regard to Tynemouth this week, it is expected that the receipt of these official sanctions is now only a matter of a short time. Indeed there seems likely, unless any unforeseen hitch occurs on either side, to be a friendly rivalry between the two brigades as to which shall be first to be equipped with the new appliance for increasing the possibility of saving life from shipwreck. More power to them both say I,

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 18 March 1903

31 March 1903

The Proposed Searchlight
Attitude of the Electrical Committee

The Electrical Committee of the South Shields Council have been further considering this matter, and in their report to the Council they state that the engineer, reporting upon the application made by Mr S. Malcolm, hon. secretary of the Life Brigade, at the last meeting, explained that to lay electric mains from the nearest point where the-mains are now laid to the Life Brigade House would cover a distance of 650 yards. The cost of laying the mains, together with the provision of a transformer which will be required in the Baring Street Sub-station, which will cost about £333.

Resolved —That the Town Clerk inform Mr Malcolm of the cost which will be incurred in laying the mains.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 31 March 1903


2 April 1903

The South Shields Searchlight
Discussion in the Council

At last night's meeting of the South Shields Town Council Ald. Rennoldson, moving the adoption of the Electric Lighting Committees report, said there was only one matter to which he need refer. He referred to the paragraph relating to the gift of an electric searchlight to the Life Brigade House: The previous night he saw very considerable prominence was given to this in the local newspaper, and the report was headed, "Attitude of the Local Committee," as though they had done something adverse to the proposal. He wanted to make it clear that the committee had come to no decision on the matter. They had an entirely open mind. A certain firm had very generously offered to present a searchlight to the Brigade House—(Ald. Marshall: "A lantern ') —yes, a lantern, and they were approached to know what could be done with regard to supplying the current. They went into the matter, and had ascertained that the cost of laying the cable would be £333. The committee had not decided upon or sent any recommendation to the Council. They merely resolved that the Town Clerk intimate to Mr Malcolm, the secretary of the brigade, what the cost would be. It was yet for the Council to decide what they would do. They did not know but what some other benevolent individuals might come forward and defray the cost of laying the cable. There was a variety of ways in which the money might be raised other than from the rates. There was certainly plenty of time to settle the question in sufficient time to get the searchlight in working order before next winter. If the matter was carried out, they might go so far as to supply the current free within certain limitations — (hear, hear) — but whether they would be justified in asking the ratepayers to put down this cable was a subject which they had not discussed. He certainly deprecated the implication contained in the headline in question that they had adopted an attitude adverse to this matter.

Mr Atkin contended that the committee did come to a decision on this matter. He moved and Ald. Wardle seconded that they tell Mr Malcolm the cost of laying the cable, and in addition to what appeared in the report the committee would be prepared to recommend the Council to supply the energy free.

Ald. Readhead: And that was carried?

Mr Atkin: Yes, in committee.

The Town Clerk: That was purposely omitted from the resolution. The minutes, as entered, show that that was done.

Mr Atkin said he accepted the Town Clerk's statement.

** We need hardly say the heading of the paragraph in question conveyed no such suggestion as Ald. Rennoldson has read into it.—-Ed. S.D.G.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 2 April 1903

4 April


THE NEXT DRILL will take place on SATURDAY AFTERNOON, the 4th of April, at 6 o'clock.

Ambulance Certificates will be presented.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 2 April 1903

14 April

Rescue of a Boy on Shields Beach

A young lad had a narrow escape from being drowned yesterday afternoon on the beach at South Shields. He was playing with some other boys on an old wreck on the South Sands, when he was completely overwhelmed by big wave which drew him into the sea. It was an exceptionally high tide at the time, and the waves were breaking on the shore very heavily. An elder brother of the young fellow pluckily went his aid, and was able to get into the water far enough to catch hold of and drag him ashore. He was in an unconscious condition, and was taken to the Brigade House on the South Pier, where he was attended to by Dr Harland's nurse, who happened to in the building. The lad was partly brought round, and shortly afterwards Captain George Ogilvie, of the Life Brigade, came upon the scene, completely restored animation. He was after wards taken to his home Barrow Street, South Shields.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 15 April 1903

15 April

Naval Ambulance Corps

An important development in ambulance work has been, or is shortly to be introduced by the St. John Association. The new idea is in the direction of the formation of naval ambulance corps, and the movement will be a national one. Locally, I see, an active start in the matter has been made by the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade who will be among the first, I hope, in the district, to form such a corps. The naval authorities of the country are giving not only their patronage, but their influence and active co-operation in the promotion of these new bodies, so that from a utilitarian and practical point of view they are destined to take their place among the recognized patriotic institutions of the kingdom. The object of the movement is to provide a body of men who will be available for service in case of naval warfare, just as the army ambulance corps are an auxiliary of the land forces in times of war.

Inaugural Step in South Shields

South Shields having been in the vanguard of ambulance propaganda, in all its various branches, for many years now is, by the fitness of things, expected to be among the first to take up the new idea. So far as the Life Brigade is concerned they are not likely to lose the opportunity of adding this further lustre to their name. Already nearly all the brigadesmen are proficient in "first aid," but for the naval corps they will have to further qualify themselves in nursing work and in other ways. The authorities will require them, among other things, to put in twelve drills a year and to pass an annual examination. For the latter they will be allowed 3s each, and if called on for active duty they will receive 3s 6d per day and rations. Ambulance corps of this kind should be of very great service during naval warfare, and no more suitable class of men for the work will be found than the members of our Volunteer Life Brigades.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 15 April 1903

21 April

The Brigade was involved in rescuing the crew of the Celine.


2 May


THE NEXT DRILL will take place on SATURDAY AFTERNOON, the 2nd of May, at 6 o'clock.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 30 April 1903

5 May

The Proposed So. Shields Searchlight

With regard to the proposal to provide a searchlight for the use of the Volunteer Life Brigade, South Shields, the Electrical , Committee of the South Shields Corporation report the receipt of a letter from Mr S. Malcolm, hon. sec. of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, thanking them for the trouble and attention they have taken in estimating the cost of laying a cable to the Life Brigade House, and stating that the latter is a very important and serious item in the consideration of the whole question, and he would have been glad if the reply of this committee to his application had indicated “to what extent the South Shields Corporation would be willing to co-operate," as mentioned in his previous letter. After discussion the committee resolved that the Town Clerk be instructed to inform Mr Malcolm that they are prepared to recommend the Council to supply current for the proposed searchlight for the use of the Life Brigade, under suitable conditions, free; of cost.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 5 May 1903

11 May 1903


A MEETING will be held in the WATCH-HOUSE  on Tuesday Evening, May 12th, at 8 o'clock, to Form a Division of No. 6 District St. John Ambulance Brigade. All Ambulance Certificated Men are requested to attend.—J. H. CREASE, Hon. Surgeon.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 11 May 1903

12 May

A New Ambulance Division,—At a meeting held in the Brigade House, South Pier, South Shields, last night, under the presidency of Dr J. R. Crease, it was decided to form a division in connection with the 6th Brigade of the St. John Ambulance Association. A large committee was appointed, and another meeting will be held at the same place next Tuesday evening to select officers, etc.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 14 May 1903


6 June


THE NEXT DRILL will take place on SATURDAY AFTERNOON, the 6th of June, at 6 o'clock.

S. MALCOLM. Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 4 June 1903

19 June 1903

The Brigade attended the funeral of Mr H. J. Adams who was a member.


THE MEMBERS are respectfully informed that the Funeral of the late H. J. Adams will take on Sunday Afternoon at 2 30. Members will meet at Green's Terrace. Uniform.

S. MALCOLM. Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 19 June 1903

24 June


THE MEMBERS are respectfully informed that a Parade is called for Wednesday, June 24th (Lord Roberts' Reception). To meet in Police Court Yard at 3 o'clock. Uniform and Black Trousers. Full muster requested.

S. MALCOLM. Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 22 June 1903


AT THE REQUEST OF MAYOR a Parade is called for Wednesday, June 24th (Lord Roberts' Reception). To meet Police Court Yard at 3 o'clock. Uniform and Dark Trousers. Full muster requested.

S. MALCOLM, Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 23 June 1903

The Visit of Lord Roberts

The twin Harbour Boroughs of Tynemouth and South Shields will today be at one in their desire to do honour to the Commander-in-Chief the British Army on his all too brief visit their midst. This is, we believe, only the second time in modern history that the twin Boroughs have received the honour of an official visit from the Commander-in-Chief of the forces. Such visits were commoner, no doubt, in the stirring days of old, but the visitors on those occasions were apt to be received in less courteous fashion than by the presentation of civic addresses, and, indeed, usually only achieved their entry to the towns by dint of hard fighting. But we venture to think that it is the man, rather than the Commander-in-Chief, that Tynemouth and South Shields will vie in honouring to-day. For beyond and above everything else, Earl Roberts has emphatically shown himself man, in every relation of life into which he has been called. As modest and unassuming he brave —for as the soldiers' laureate has written 'e does not advertise " —he is first and foremost splendid exemplar of the fact that merit will tell, even in that stronghold of patronage and private influence, the British Army. Unlike too many our highly-placed officers, Lord Roberts has won, by his own unaided endeavours, by his devotion to his profession and his duty, by his military talents and his remarkable bravery, every promotion and every honour which has fallen to his lot.

Lord Roberts

Few military men have to their record so long or so arduous an active career as that which Lord Roberts can boast—did he ever boast at all. In no sense has he been a carpet soldier, for, from the age of three and twenty to that of three score and ten, he has been in the most literal sense "ever a fighter." As the biographical sketch published elsewhere shows, he won his spurs in the grim days of the Indian Mutiny, where, while his gallantry in action gained him the Victoria Cross, his cool, calm judgment, quick decision, and undoubted military ability, earned him the not less deserved promotion which so rapidly followed. From his earliest days he proved himself not a merely fearless fighter, but a clever strategist. He has fought all his campaigns with his head, which undoubtedly the secret his great success, and he has ever shown himself possessed of that quick initiative and that readiness to face enormous risks in order to achieve his end which has always been the secret great military successes. His march from Cabul to Candahar first gave the world to see the type of General England possessed in him. A weaker man would have hesitated to take the risk, would have waited for instructions from head quarters until the opportunity had gone; a rasher man would have made the plunge without the careful preparation which in Roberts' case preceded his daring move, and contributed so much to its success. One secret of his success, indeed, has been that he has always considered his men something more than machines; that he has shown in his quiet unobtrusive fashion the reality and the depth of his interest in the soldiers under his command. This was appreciated the men, with the result that, when he was compelled to call upon them to make extraordinary exertions, or to undergo serious privations, they obeyed cheerfully and with alacrity, knowing that nothing but the grimmest of necessity would have induced “Bobs" to ask them to make forced marches or to go on short rations.

The same qualities were exhibited to a remarkable degree his latest campaign in South Africa. When, during the operations which resulted in the relief of Kimberley, and then in the capture of Bloemfontein, it became necessary to decide between delaying to re-capture his great convoy of provisions, or adhering to his original plan, he did not hesitate a moment, but, relying on the loyalty of his troops, entered the enemy's country practically without provisions for the enormous army which followed him, and fought a series of engagements with fatigued and half famishing troops. The event justified the wisdom of his decision, while the cutting rebukes administered to the high commanders responsible for what he considered the unnecessary sacrifice of life the frontal attack made before Paardeberg, afford evidence of his tenderness and consideration for his men. It was, we believe, a great and ghastly blunder on the part of the Government to recall Lord Roberts from South Africa before his work was done in order to swell the train of their triumph at the khaki election. Had he been left in South Africa with a free hand, in all probability the remaining stages of the war would have been very materially curtailed; and we say this without any way seeking to detract from the splendid services Lord Kitchener rendered throughout the remaining part of the war. But the situation after the capture of Pretoria was one in which the unequalled strategy of Lord Roberts would have been in all probability far more quickly effective than the dogged determination and perseverance of Lord Kitchener. As a matter of fact, it would probably have been much more advantageous to the country had the Government, disregarding all questions military etiquette and precedence, recalled Lord Kitchener, at the close 1900, to take control of the War Office, and left Lord Roberts to complete his work in South Africa. For the grim, relentless man of iron, who shocked the feelings of so many in this country by the ruthless measures he adopted to make his victory over the Mahdi's forces complete and lasting, was exactly the personality likely to have been of most value cleaning out the augean stable of the War Office. That is the one task which, in the course of a long and crowded life, Lord Roberts has not been entirely successful in accomplishing; simply because, we believe, he a man of too fine a nature, too sensitive a disposition, and, above all, with too high opinion of his fellow men, to adopt and enforce without hesitation consideration the drastic measures which alone will be effective in bringing order out of the chaos of the War Office. That chaos has become so terrible and so hopeless that only a man destitute alike of nerves, human susceptibilities, and indeed of bowels of compassion, can be expected to set it right. We ought, however, perhaps to apologise for the very intrusion such a pessimistic note on a day when the desire of every one in the two Harbour Boroughs will be to welcome in the most hearty and enthusiastic manner possible, " the hero of a hundred fights, the soldiers' 'Bobs.' "

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 24 June 1903

Lord Roberts’ Visit

The enthusiasm which awaited Lord Roberts at the South side borough exceeded all expectations, both in its spontaneity and heartiness. The Mayor (Coun. J. Grant), accompanied in his carriage by the Deputy Mayor (Coun. Beattie) and the Town Clerk, drove to the Market Ferry landing stage and met his Lordship as he disembarked from the steam yacht, Sir Charles, in which he had been conveyed from Clifford's Fort, his last place of call on the opposite bank of the river. Along with his Lordship, who was in his Field Marshal's uniform, were Major-General F. G. Slade, C.B., Inspector-General of the Royal Garrison Artillery, and staff. After formal greetings the distinguished party entered the open carriages which awaited them, his Lordship being accommodated beside the Mayor and drove to the Market Square, the line of route being excellently preserved by the members of the River Police—who guarded the ferry approaches—and the Borough Police, their services being appropriately supplemented by the officers and members of the Coastguard and Volunteer Life Brigade, The latter turned out at the request of the Mayor as a guard of honour to the distinguished soldier, and wore their full uniforms.

At the head of the carriage containing his Lordship the Chief Constable rode a fine steed, and several other officers were mounted. The arrangements for the ceremony of welcome to be given to Lord Roberts, within the Market Square itself, left nothing to be desired. In front of the Town Hall steps a limited area had been barricaded off for the carriages, and the members of the Council, their wives, and a goodly number of the leading citizens, , were present on the Mayor's invitation, were admirably accommodated on a temporary platform, which was tastefully trimmed with turkey red. tricolours, etc. behind the barricades thousands of the general inhabitants had taken up their stand long before the time his Lordship was due, and a great demonstration of enthusiasm and cheering rose from a perfect sea of faces at the approach of the gallant Commander-in-Chief, which was heralded by the playing of "See the conquering hero comes '" by the , constabulary Band, The open carriage was drawn up close alongside the platform, upon which his Lordship stepped from which he bowed his frequent acknowledgements to the overwhelming cheering which greeted him from all sides.

One or two pleasing incidents of the next few moments did not fail to win the cordial  approval of the great crowd, notably when his Lordship with characteristic kindliness extended his hand to many of reservists and veteran soldiers who were among those privileged to stand inside the barrier. He also greeted those nearest to him with a handshake.

The Mayor, addressing his Lordship said it was "the desire of the members of the corporation and the inhabitants of the borough to bid him a hearty welcome there. He had to ask the Town Clerk to read the address of congratulation, which they would feel honoured to have his Lordship accept.

The Town Clerk thereupon read the address, and The Mayor then said: My Lord, the Mayor, members of the Corporation, and the inhabitants of South Shields are proud to receive a visit from so distinguished an officer as yourself. Your Lordship has been in command in Ireland, India, and South Africa, and during your hurryings to and fro, inspecting fortresses, etc., you have had many ovations and welcomes, but none more hearty than that which the inhabitants of South Shields wish to tender to you. (Loud cheers.) Although South Shields is considered by some to be somewhat grimy, yet the heart of this borough heats true to the Empire. (Cheers.) I am very proud to tell you that there are here to-day some of those noble volunteers who served under your Lordship in South Africa —here to-day to give you welcome. There is also here a large body of volunteers —I refer to the Volunteer Life Brigadesmen — who, in times of storm and tempest, risk their lives in order to save the lives of others — (cheers) — and I am proud to say that since the noble breakwaters were constructed by the Tyne Commissioners, there has been a considerable reduction in the loss of life at the mouth of this important river. I have only now to say that we wish you long life, health and happiness to enjoy the honours so deservedly conferred upon you, and to be in the service of our King and country. (Cheers.)

Lord Roberts, whose reply was imperfectly heard even by those on the platform, said :—Mr Mayor, aldermen and councillors of the county borough of South Shields, I thank you very much for the great honour you have done me and the welcome given me here to-day. I thank you for this very complimentary address. I can assure you that I feel it most highly. I share with you the hope that there will never be an occasion of using the fort, but at the same time I agree with you that it should be there in case it is wanted. I have come here for the express purpose of satisfying myself that all is being done to render this great river, and the great industries upon which it exists, as safe as we can possibly make it. (Cheers.) l am pleased to see the volunteers who served in South Africa I know the good service they did at a time when they were wanted, and they did it most nobly. (Cheers.) I congratulate South Shields upon having such a fine body of men amongst them, I again thank you for your kind congratulations.

His Lordship again shook hands with those around him, and re-entered his carriage. Before driving away he beckoned to his side, from the fringe of the crowd, an old veteran soldier, who was wearing on his breast, among other medals, one for "Inkerman." He shook him cordially by the hand, and spoke to him cheerfully, an honour which the old soldier bore with unmistakable pride, while all who witnessed the incident applauded it heartily. The carriage and its occupants then drove away to Frenchman's Point.

Frenchmans Bay fort

Crowds of people were assembled all along the route, but there was very little cheering. On arrival at the fort the Commander-in- Chief was met by Colonel Penin, commanding the Militia and Volunteer Artillery of the N.E. District, and Col. Dawson, commanding 3rd D.V.A., who are encamped near the fort. The guns were manned by the men of the 3rd D.V.A., under Capt. Bell, with Captain Armstrong and Lieut. Chapman as gun group commanders. His lordship made an inspection of the guns and witnessed some interesting practice from the 1-inch aiming tube. He also visited the volunteer camp and partook of refreshments in the officers' mess, where he met the officers of the corps. Here he took a cordial leave of them, and entering his carriage again was driven away, the Mayor and Mayoress accompanying him to the South Shields station. He took his departure about 5 50, a parting cheer being raised as the train steamed away. The station was gaily decorated with flags and bunting in honour of the occasion.

The arrangements in connection with the keeping of the route at all the different points were excellently made and carried out under the personal supervision of the Chief Constable, Mr W . Scott.

The Mayoress provided afternoon tea at the Town Hall for the ladies and gentlemen, about 200 altogether, who were, present on the platform, at the Mayor’s invitation, to witness the presentation of the address.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 25 June 1903


3 July

The Annual Meeting took place.

9 July

The minutes of the Tyne Commission monthly meeting recorded the following decision.


The Harbour and Ferry Committee reported that, having fully considered the matter, they were prepared to recommend, that the application of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade for the consent of the Commissioners to the establishment of a searchlight in the tower of the Life Brigade House at South Shields, and the use of the light in connection with the saving of lives of shipwrecked, persons be granted, subject to certain specified terms and conditions.—Agreed to.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 10 July 1903


1 August


THE NEXT DRILL will take place on Saturday Afternoon, the 1st of August, at 6 o'clock.

S. MALCOLM. Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 1 August 1903


5 September


THE NEXT DRILL will take place on Saturday afternoon, the 5th. of September, at 6 o'clock.

S. MALCOLM. Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 3 September 1903

16 September 1903

The So. Shields Searchlight
Official Consent Obtained

We are informed by Mr Samuel Malcolm, the hon. sec. of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, that the Board of Trade and the River Tyne Commissioners have given their consent to the use of the searchlight offered by the proprietors of the Shields Gazette to the Brigade, under conditions which he can confidently recommend to the Volunteer Life Brigade for acceptance. There remains now, therefore, only the completion of arrangements with the Corporation for the supply of electricity to the light, in order to ensure the immediate installation of this very valuable adjunct to the appliances at the command of the Brigade.

" Northman," writing in the Newcastle Daily Leader on this subject, says :—" I note with great pleasure that the plans for the installation of a searchlight at the Brigade House, on the Spanish Battery, have received the approval of the Tyne Commissioners, and that the committee are now actively negotiating for the needful supply of electric current. I trust it may be taken for granted that no serious difficulty will be encountered in securing an adequate supply, it should be regarded as a privilege to render any help in so laudable a work. I say this advisedly, because, on the South side, it would seem that the public-spirited offer on the part of the proprietors of your South Shields contemporary, the Gazette, awaits acceptance and completion because of some foolish local prejudices on the part of people who, in such a cause at any rate, ought to be above petty jealousies and passing irritations. Imagine the feelings of men who have stood in the way of the provision of a searchlight on the South side in the case of loss of life which might plainly have been prevented by the use of the light! As such a contingency is by no means improbable, unless the existing embargo is speedily removed, I hope it will only be necessary to point out the risk which those concerned are running in order to secure the removal of every obstacle to the utilisation of the handsome offer of your contemporary. For once, one may hope that local rivalry will be turned to good account, and that South Shields will not consent to play second fiddle to the North side. It should be a race between the two as to who shall be the first in attaining the honour of having yet further protected the lives and fortunes of those ' who go down to the sea in ships.' "

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 16 September 1903


3 October


THE NEXT DRILL will take place on Saturday afternoon, the 3rd. of October, at 4 o'clock.

S. MALCOLM. Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 1 October 1903

9 October 1903

From the minutes of the monthly meeting of the Tyne Commission.

The South Shields Searchlight

Correspondence was submitted regarding the proposed searchlight at South Shields. On September 29th, Mr Urwin wrote to Mr S. Malcolm, secretary of the South Shields V.L.B., stating that the Commissioners were surprised at the contents of his letter of September 8th, and that he was instructed to ask whether it was to be understood from his letter that the whole of the negotiations which had been taking place between the South Shields V.L.B. and the Commissioners had simply been on behalf of the Board of Trade, and not on behalf of the Brigade, which latter the Commissioners had all along understood to be the case. —Mr Malcolm replied that the correspondence between the Commissioners and himself had been solely in the interests of the V. L. Brigade.

It was agreed that Mr Malcolm be informed that the terms and conditions upon which the Commissioners were prepared to grant the use of the searchlight must be accepted by and on behalf of the Brigade.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 9 October 1903

14 October

The Brigade was inspected.


THE MEMBERS are respectfully informed that the inspection of the Brigade by Capt. Freeland, R.N., will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 14th, at 5 p.m. A full muster is requested.

S. MALCOLM. Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 12 October 1903

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade.—Yesterday evening the members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade was inspected by Captain Freeland, R.N., the proceedings taking place at the brigade house at the South Pier. The officers present were:—Captains W.- Buckland, J. Page, T. B. Grimes, and G. Ogilvie; Mr S. Malcolm, hon. secretary and treasurer; Dr J. R. Crease, hon. surgeon; and Messrs G. R. Potts, Geo. Robson, and G. Grey, hon. captains. The number of men present was 34. Captain Freeland, who was delayed for a considerable time while visiting other stations through his horses breaking down, did not arrive till after the rocket drill had finished, but he afterwards inspected and addressed the men in the brigade house.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 15 October 1903

Proposed Searchlight

A letter has been read at the Electrical Committee of the South Shields Corporation, from Mr Malcolm, thanking the committee on behalf of the Life Brigade for the offer which this committee made to supply current for the proposed searchlight for the use the Life Brigade (under suitable conditions) free of cost. From a letter, dated 25th September, he learns definitely that the donors only contemplate the complete apparatus for attachment to the end of a cable at the Brigade House. He is thus face to face with the question of the cable itself, and behalf of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade and its work, has to ask the Electrical Committee if they are willing to recommend the Council the desirability of helping the brigade over this difficulty by extending their cable to the Brigade House.

In this connection he states that an application is now before the Tyne Commissioners for permission to lay an underground cable through their South Pier works in continuation with Pier Parade.
The committee, after considering the letter, resolved that the Town Clerk reply and express the regret of the committee that they cannot see their way to accede to the application to lay a cable to the Brigade House for the purpose, as having already offered to supply current for the searchlight under suitable conditions free cost, the committee do not feel justified in incurring the expense of laying the cable estimated to cost £330.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 28 October 1903

29 October 1903

The South Shields Searchlight

We are afraid no stick is too small to beat the Gazette with, in the opinion of some members of the South Shields Town Council. Last night, Ald, Rennoldson, the chairman of the Electricity Committee, in addition to tendering us some valuable advice on the conducting of a newspaper took the Gazette severely to task in regard to views it has never expressed. The Gazette has never been afraid to utter its own opinions on any subject, but it must decline to be held responsible for the opinions of other journals, which, as in this instance, are merely quoted in its columns as a matter of information for the public. If Alderman Rennoldson wished to take exception to the article he should have done so in the journal in which it originally appeared, or he would have been perfectly welcome to have made any contradiction or correction he desired in our own columns at the time. At the same time we cannot accept in its entirety the repudiation offered last night by the chairman of the Electricity Committee. It may be well, for the information of the public, and especially of the seafaring section most intimately concerned, to supplement in some detail the statement made by Alderman Rennoldson in regard to the present position of the searchlight negotiations. When the proprietors of the Gazette offered to defray the cost of a searchlight for the use of the Volunteer Life Brigade, it was with the expectation that the Corporation intended to fulfil the statutory requirements of their own Electric Lighting Order, in which Pier Parade is one of the streets scheduled in the compulsory area, " throughout '' which the Corporation is bound to lay cables for the supply of electricity. Were this obligation carried out, the construction of the connection between the Corporation cables at the seaward end of Pier Parade and the searchlight would have presented no difficulty that would have engaged the attention of the public. But when the matter came before the Electricity Committee that body required the whole cost of laying the cable from the end of Ocean Road to the Brigade House to be met, in addition to the cost of a " transformer " station. In regard to the latter, by the way the offer of the proprietors of the Gazette included with the searchlight a transformer which, we were advised, was sufficient for rendering the current as supplied in the Corporation mains, viable for working the light. In regard to the cost of the cable down Pier Parade, neither the proprietors of the Gazette nor, we believe, the members of the Volunteer Life Brigade, feel inclined to defray the cost of carrying out work which, by their own Act, the Corporation is under a legal and moral obligation to undertake themselves. There, for the present, the matter remains.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 29 October 1903

30 October 1903

Proposed So. Shields Searchlight

Councillor George Laing, speaking at the annual dinner of the Tenants' Protection Society in South Shields last night, referred to the proposed searchlight for the use of the life brigadesmen. He said the Shields Gazette had made a handsome offer in the first place, and the Corporation on its part had promised to supply the current free, but then came the question of the cost of laying the cable necessary to instal the light. He had been thinking of how that difficulty might be overcome, and it occurred to him that they might reasonably appeal to the Life Boat Institution to meet the expense. They had a surplus balance of between £25,000 and £30,000, and it should not be forgotten that the searchlight would facilitate the work of the lifeboat as well as the brigade. The former institution had this large sum of money invested, and for such a good purpose they ought to be able to spare sufficient, or at least give a handsome donation, to enable the scheme to be carried out. (Applause.) He offered the suggestion to all concerned in the matter.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 30 October 1903


6 November

The South Shields Life Brigade Searchlight

The Engineer (Mr James Walker) reported to the Piers Committee that he saw no engineering objection to an application from Mr S. Malcolm on behalf of the South Shields Life Brigade, for permission to lay an underground electric cable on the Tyne Commissioners' freehold land at South Shields, for the purpose of supplying electric current to a searchlight in the South Pier Watch House.

The committee recommended that permission to lay the cable be granted, subject to certain conditions specified in the Engineer's report, and to the payment of an acknowledgement of 1s per annum.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 6 November 1903


5 December


THE NEXT DRILL will take place on Saturday afternoon, the 5th. of December, at 3 30 o'clock.

S. MALCOLM. Hon. Sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 4 December 1903