Events 1916


19 January

The Gazette published an article on the fiftieth Jubilee.

Jubilee of the V.L.B.

Fifty years have just passed over the head of that excellent institution, the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade. It was on the 15th January, 1866. that, at a public meeting, held in the old Town Hall, it was decided to form a Volunteer Life Brigade to assist the coastguard in their efforts to save life from shipwreck. A committee was appointed which included many of the most active citizens of the day, and, I believe, with a single exception, all have since joined the great majority. It is at this epoch marking interesting to put their names on record again. They were: Ald. James, Mr T. Pike, Mr Wm. Cay, Mr E. Maxwell, Mr Robert Blair, Mr Thomas Tinmouth, Mr Joseph Crisp, Mr Luke Mackey, Mr J. P. Rennoldson, Mr Archbold Stephenson and Mr S. Malcolm. The two latter were treasurer and secretary respectively, and Mr Malcolm, who is the only survivor of the group, held that office for forty consecutive years. In recognition of his great services the members presented him on his retirement, with his portrait in oils, and one is glad to see that it is now a treasured possession of the Brigade.

No Demonstration Yet

In peaceful times the jubilee year of the V.L.B. would have stirred to the depths the hearts of old and trusty members. But the spirit of the times forbids it, and a fine discretion has shown itself in relegating the honours of the occasion to the time when a lasting peace shall again have been restored to us. I think one of the remarkable features of the last fifty years work of the brigade has been the steady diminution of wrecks. Is it that we have fewer storms now, or that the storm fiend is less violent? More likely it is due to the combination of two altogether different things, the transition of our mercantile marine from sailing ship to steamer and the construction of the piers which have made the Tyne one of the safest harbours around the coast. As far as the south side of the river is concerned the number of wrecks covering a period of 40 years were as follows: - 1st decade 34, 2nd 39, 3rd 12 and 4th 13. The last ten years has shown even further improvements upon these figures and long may it continue. The premier Volunteer Life Brigade is at Tynemouth. South Shields was a good second, but it enjoys the distinction of being the first to save life. That was three months after its formation, when seven people were brought off the steamer “Tenterden”, by the rocket apparatus.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 19 January 1916


21 February

The Annual Meeting took place.

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade
Jubilee Year

Last night the annual meeting of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade was held in the Temperance Institute, Charlotte Terrace. The occasion was a memorable one, as on January 15th last the Brigade had completed fifty years of service. Mr S. Malcolm, the only original living member left, presided, and amongst those present were Captains J. W. Buckland, James Page, F. Oliver, and J. W. Buck; and Deputy-Captains Harker and Shaw.

The Secretary (Captain J. W. Buckland) read the annual report, which referred to the fact that it was 50 years since the Brigade was founded, the inaugural meeting being held on 15th January, 1866. It had been intended to commemorate the jubilee, but the time was not opportune. On the few occasions the Brigade had been called upon during the year the members had responded promptly, and all lives saved. The Russian schooner, Monitor, struck the South Pier on 12th January 1915, and the crew saved themselves by jumping from the jibboom to the pier. On 31st January 1915, the alarm was again fired, the steamer Perth having stranded on the Herd sands. The rocket was fired over the ship, but the crew did not avail themselves of it, there being no danger. On 28th August a long service medal was presented to Brigadesman W. F. Wilson.

The report also referred in sympathetic terms to the death of Dr J. R. Crease for many years hon. surgeon to the Brigade. Twenty-five members were at present serving with the Forces. Their names were: Lieut.-Col C. R. Toomer, Royal Engineers: Major J. B. Bowman, Durham Light Infantry: Captain J. S. Marshall, 9th D.L.I.: Lieut. Allan Purvis, 9th D.L.I.: Lieut. Thomas Gentles, Royal Warwickshires: Sergt. Alex. Robertson, St. John’s Ambulance Brigade, Rouen: Sergt. C. D. Scrafton, Royal Engineers: Sergt. J. L. Fitzpatrick, R.A.M.C., Coxlodge Hospital: Private John Campbell, R.A.M.C. Hospital, Chatham: Trooper James Werndly, 5th Lancers: Gunner Thos. Jones, R.A.: Engineer Artificer H. H. Shields, H.M.S. Queens: Leading Signalman J.G. Frazer, coastguard, Swanage: Pte. T.P. Dockwray, R.A.M.C. Hospital, Dover: Private J. Jamieson, West Yorks Light Infantry: Private J. E. Burn, N.F.: Pte. D. Plews, R.A.M.C. Hospital, Dover: Pte. James Pigg, N.F.; Pte. R. Granger, R.A.M.C. Hospital, Malta: Pte. Duncan Oliver, R.A.M.C.: Pte. Frank Haw, R.A.M.C. Hospital Clapton: Pte. T. F. Preston, R.A.M.C. Malta: Pte. Harold Sutherland, R.A.M.C.: Pte C. Stavely, R.A.M.C. Hospital Chatham: Carpenter mate James Thompson, R.N.

The financial statement presented by Mr James Page, showed that the total income amounted to £331 10s 11d. including£134 6s 8d. being credit balance at January 1st 1915: and there was a balance at the bank of £26 13s 6d. During the year £100 had been invested in the Tyne Commissioners, and £99 9s 4d. in the War Loan, bringing the total Investments up to £800.

The Chairman alluded to the jubilee anniversary of the institution, but added that that was not the occasion or the time to go into the past history of the brigade. Probably he alone was left to bear witness to the good men in the days gone by who threw their whole heart and soul into the work, and who laid broad and deep the foundations which had enabled them as a brigade to justify their existence. In moving the report, he congratulated the brigade on its position.

On the proposition of Mr Page, seconded by Mr Fred. Oliver, Dr Harland was unanimously elected honorary surgeon of the Brigade.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 22 February 1916

23 February

The Gazette published another article on the jubilee.

The Life Brigade Jubilee

Fifty years have sped away since the Volunteer Life Brigade was founded, and some of the best men South Shields could boast of have identified themselves with the institution at one time or another during that half century. None of the original members remain except Samuel Malcolm, and it was a very fitting thing that he should put in an appearance on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary two nights ago. What a host of incidents are recalled by such a history! During the big storms that have visited the coast there have been many anxious hours in the Watch House on the; South Pier, and when the alarm signals have given the call for assistance to some ship in distress how truly have the men acted up to the borough’s motto “Always Ready!”  There have, of course, been numerous occasions when the services of the men on watch have not been in requisition. In the long hours of the night, while the wind has howled around the building on the pier side and the waves on the beach have lashed into fury, many a thrilling tale would be told among the brigadesmen of when such and such a vessel came ashore and how the rescue of shipwrecked manners was effected. It must have been on such a night as this that Clark Russell paid his visit to the Watch House and wrote the brilliant article which afterwards appeared in a London newspaper. That article was much treasured, for it happily hit off the situation, and limned one or two well-known members of the brigade, who have now passed away.

Watch House Recollections

Among the figures which rise up in one’s memory in connection with the Brigade during the last quarter of a century are those of the burly and genial T. G. Mabane, whose breezy manner made him an ever welcome guest. There was also Thomas Vaisey, was a very successful man of business, and one of the most kind-hearted when succour was needed for rescued mariners. It was here that the valuable services of the honorary surgeon Dr Crease came in, and nobody can tell how many lives were saved through his instrumentality, either at his own hands or those of the men he taught the principles of first aid. A prominent figure for many years at the Watch House on stormy nights was Gabriel Potts, with his stentorian voice and his ever available snuff box. Then there was “Jimmy” Henderson, “Bob” Wells, and a host of others, who in some way quite gave character to the company which assembled on these occasions. I have mentioned the names of only men who have passed over to the majority. The Brigade has lost none of the regard of the people, only it seems hardly same since for special reasons it was “Driven from home”.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 23 February 1916


29 March

Benjamin Heron, a stalwart of the Brigade, died and the Brigade attended his funeral.

The Death of “Ben” Heron

Death has been uncommonly among old standards of late. One of the best known men in the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade passed away on Monday in the person of Mr Benjamin Heron after a very brief illness, he having been at work so late as last Saturday afternoon. “Ben” had been for very many years engaged as one of the workman at the South Pier in the service of the River Tyne Commissioners, and was a very skilful mason. There was never a wreck on the South side of the river entrance but Ben was there, and being a very handy man he was one, of the most useful members of the brigade on such occasions. He was one of the best attenders at the monthly drills and never missed a muster of the watch on stormy nights. He held the Long Service medal of the V.L.B., and he also possessed the Royal Humane Society medal. This was awarded him for him saving one, John Baines, from drowning, on the 15th August, 1870—nearly 46 years ago—and was presented to him by Mr Ward, of the firm of Ward and Oldroyd, pier contractors, on November 4th of the year stated. Ben had been a member of the Life Brigade for between forty fifty years.

Ben’s Habitat

The whole of Ben's life may be said to have been confined to the sea front, the earlier portion on that part where the South Park is now situated, his grandmother on the father’s side being that Betty Heron whose name is so familiar as a resident in that particular quarter. There was not a feature from the Groyne Light to the Trow Rocks with which he was not acquainted nor an incident of any note which transpired thereon for the last fifty years which he did not know something about. He did a lot of work on the pier in the shape of mason work, and was seen there in almost all weathers, often clinging like a limpet to the stone work on the steep pier sides Though he could neither read nor write it is safe to say that there was no more valued workman in his particular line down there, and there was no  one so well-known by people who were accustomed to wend there (sic) way to the South Pier with any great frequency, Ben was ever cheerful and ever ready for a talk about the great happenings in that region.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 29 March 1916

Funeral of Mr Benjamin Heron

Yesterday afternoon the remains of Mr Benjamin Heron, an old member of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, and who held the Royal Humane Society's bronze medal for lift saving, were interred in Harton Cemetery. the officiating clergyman being the Rev. J. GilI, of St. Thomas’s Church.  The funeral procession, which assembled at the residence of the deceased in Denmark Street. South Shields and walked to the place of interment, included members of the Life Brigade, which was officially represented by Captains Walter Buckland, James Page and J W. Buck, and Deputy Captain C. Harper; Mr Chas. Riley, keeper of the Watchhouse, Mr R. Kell, and others being present There was a considerable number of the deceased’s fellow workmen employed at the South Pier in attendance, the official staff of the Tyne Commissioners also represented.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 31 March 1916


27 April

The presentation of long-service medals took place.

Volunteer Life Brigade
Interesting presentation at South Shields

An interesting gathering of the officers and members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade took place in the Watch House, South Pier, last night, the occasion being the presentation of the King’s Long Service Medal to an old member of the Brigade, Mr John Meikle. The mayor (Ald. Taylor) made the presentation and supporting him were Lieut. Pearse, R.N., divisional officer of the coastguard in this district, Captains W. Buckland, J. Page, F. Oliver, J. Buck, and Deputy Captain Harker.

The Mayor said many distinguished and well-known Shieldsmen had passed through the membership of that institution, and it was still a great honour to be associated with such noble work as the Brigade stood for. The member who they were to honour had completed 20 years’ service in the Brigade. He was a Shieldsman, and his fine example of self-sacrifice and devotion to duty was typical of the hardy race of the North. That man lived longest and best who spent his time and his energies in the service of his fellows; and Mr Meikle in the 68th year of his age was a living example of that. This decoration the Mayor went on to explain was instituted by our present King, shortly after his accession to the Throne, because he admired the work of the Life Brigade and wished to reward those who gave a lengthened service in it. At the time it was instituted ten or twelve of their members had already qualified for the new honour, and it came to them in due course. Since then, several additional members had earned the medal, and he believed they very properly set great store by it, because it was the badge of faithful and gallant service in the god cause of humanity. The Mayor then pinned the medal on the breast of Brigadesman Meikle, who received three hearty cheers.

Mr Page moved a vote of thanks to the Mayor, and humorously remarked that that was not the only presentation the Mayor had made that day as he had given his only daughter away in wedlock, and in the name of the Brigade he expressed the ardent hope that the bride and bridegroom would be surrounded bt every happiness and comfort that this world can bestow. (Cheers.)

Mr Oliver seconded and Lieut. Pearse, R.N., supported the resolution which was also carried by hearty acclamation.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 28 April 1916


12 November

The Brigade took part in Mayor’s Sunday.

South Shields Mayor’s Sunday
Order of Procession

The Mayor of South Shields, Ald. Wm. Allen, will attend divine service at St Hilda’s Church, tomorrow morning, and at the Congregational Church, Ocean Road, in the evening. The following will be the order of procession in the morning, the procession starting as usual from the Municipal Buildings at 10.40 a.m., Namely: -

Mounted Police
Band of the 3rd Durham Light Infantry
Officers and Men of the Durham Light Infantry
(Lieut. Col. R. H. Wingfield Cardiff Commanding)
“C” Company of the Durham County Vol. Regiment
(Commander R. Cunningham)
South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade
St John Ambulance Brigade (Readhead, St Hilda and Harton Divisions) under
Capt J. Page Commander
North Eastern Railway Police
South Shields Fire Brigade
South Shields Police
Special Constables
Town Clerk   MAYOR        Deputy Mayor
Aldermen by Seniority
Councillors by Seniority
Borough and County Justices and their Clerks
Corporation Officials
Co-opted Members – Education Committee
Co-opted Members – Free Libraries Committee
Co-opted Members – Pensions Committee
Co-opted Members -  Distress Committee
Board of Guardians and their Clerk
Headmasters and Teachers
Postmaster and his Staff
Personal Friends of the Mayor
South Shields Master Painters Association
Operative Painters
Master Builders
A O Foresters
A O Shepherds
Friendly Societies by Seniority
Rearguard of Police

The return journey will be in the same order

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 11 November 1916

Mayor’s Sunday
Big Demonstration in South Shields

Mayor’s Sunday in South Shields was favoured by weather of the most congenial character, and as a result the Mayor’s procession was one of the largest and most interesting of the long and unbroken series of civic demonstrations of the kind held in the borough. The Municipal Buildings was the appointed rendezvous, as usual, and representative men of all classes of the community met in honour of the occasion. Under the direction of the Chief Constable (Mr Wm. Scott) the procession was formed in the order in which it was published in the “Gazette” 0n Saturday, and the excellent band of the D.L.I. being at the head. Lieut. Col. R. H. Wingfield, Cardiff, was in command of the khaki forces, and behind them came the men of C Company, 1st Durham County Volunteer Regiment: in smart uniforms, and in charge of Commander R. Cunningham. The Volunteer Life Brigadesmen were in uniform, and the officers in charge were Captains J. W. Buckland, T. B. Grimes, F. Oliver, and J. Buck; Allan Purvis (treasurer). The ambulance men were under Capt. J. Page, and then came the N.E.R. Police, the Fire Brigade, The South Shields Police (under Supt. Young) and the special constables, the latter being present in considerable numbers. They were in charge of Commander F. W. Marsh.

Then came the Mayor in his robes and chain of office, supported on his right by the deputy Mayor (Ald. J. Taylor) and on his left by the Town Clerk (Mr J. Moore Hayton). Among the members and officials of the Corporation were Aldermen R. Readhead, J.P., J.R. Lawson, J.P., W.L. Robertson, J.P., J. Grant, J.P., Dr E. H. Gibbon, J.P., W.G. Wylie, J.P., J.R.H. Hilton, J.P., DS. Richardson, J.P., R. Kaye, R.H. Peltler, J.P., Councillors C. W. Taylor, J.P., R. W. Graham, J. Burn, J. Semple, Dr Galloway, Dr Shepherd, W Johnston, T. R. Dowson, A. D. Johnston, S. Levy, J. Wilson, T.T. Pritchard, J. R. Curbison, J. Bell, R. Vine, G. E. Evans, J. Lawson, J. Gilroy, T. Syger, W. Stephenson, D. Lawes, W. J. Robertson, T. Stephenson, E. Smith, A. Anderson, C. F. Sutcliffe, J. A. Campbell, J. Dunlop, J. G. Winskell, J. Howe, J. Ranson, G. Druery, J. T. Armstrong, A. L. Ayre, T. Edmondson , R. Linney, and F. Wood. Mr L. Roseveare, (Borough Engineer), Dr Morley Mathieson (Medical Officer), Mr J. Bridge (Borough Accountant), Mr H. S. Ellis (Electrical Engineer0, Mr Whiteley (Tramways Manager), Mr J. Taylor (Assistant Town Clerk), Mr V. C. Barter (Education officer), Mr W. E. Staddon (Cemeteries Superintendent). Mr W. Bennett (Marine Parks Superintendent), Mr J. Thompson (West Park Superintendent).

In addition to the magistrates mentioned there were present in the procession Mr H. G. Fowler, Mr J. Foord, Mr T. T. Anderson, Mr C. Rennoldson, Mr W. E. Scott, Mr G. H. Napier, Mr Hy. Campbell. Among the headmasters walking were Mr G. R. Kirwan (High School), Mr T. A. Lawrenson, Mr P. Murray, Mr J. Robertson, Mr J. West, Mr I. Grayson, Mr J. W. Parker, Mr R. Davidson, and Mr J. Willis. The Master builders were present as a body among them being Messrs J. Christie, (president), A. Ross, C. Tata, J. Shewan, W. Brown and W. Fawcus.

About 120 Freemasons walked behind the friendly societies, among the number being Messrs J. C. Coulson, W.M. of Hadrian lodge, of which the Mayor is a member; A.G. Hodgson, W.M. of St Hilda Lodge and the following other brethren: W. H. Moffatt, J.G. Finlayson, T. Law, A.H. Gemmell, W. Brian, J. Potter, D. Dye, D. Jamieson, R.P. Fernandes, W. Davison, J.T. Reed, J. Burn, C.F. Fleming, \t.\w.\d.\spence, F. Tinn, J.J. Runciman, J. Sweeney, W.H. Castlehow, W. Eccles, J. Newby, G. Barber and others.

The church was crowded. The preacher for the morning was the vicar of the church, the Rev. Canon Roberson, who preached an excellent sermon. The collections for the day were for the Ingham Infirmary and amounted to £37 19s., the offertory at the morning service being £33 4s.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 13 November 1916