First Annual Report

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade
Annual Meeting

The first annual meeting of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade was held in the new watch house last night. Alderman Glover was called to the chair, and there was a large attendance of members and those interested in the prosperity of the institution. Among those present were— Alderman J. F. Spence, secretary to the Borough of Tynemouth Life Brigade ; Messrs John Robinson; J. W. Lambe; M. Cay; S. Malcolm (secretary); Dr. Stokoe; J. Crisp; and S. Cottew and T. Tynemouth (captains), &c., &c. /pr>

The Chairman said he had been called upon most unexpectedly to fill the chair this evening. Although unexpectedly, he had great pleasure presiding for five minutes, or half an hour, or whatever the length of time might be, over meeting of the members of so noble a body the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade. (Applause.) After stating the object of the meeting, the chairman called upon Mr Malcolm (secretary) to read the report.

Mr Malcolm read the report, as follows:—

 "The committee, in presenting the first annual report to the members of this institution will endeavour briefly as possible to give outline of the transactions of the Brigade since its  formation. The establishing of Life Brigades in general is of recent date, and to Tynemouth will ever belong the honour of organizing the first brigade, on the model of which this and other brigades have been established. To establish one on this side of the mouth of the Tyne, a few gentlemen met together in December, 1865, and formed themselves into provisional committee. A public meeting, convened by the Mayor, was held in the Town Hall early in January, 1866, and, the 31st of the same month, the services of 47 volunteers who had enrolled themselves members were accepted by the Board of Trade, from which date the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade was officially established. The first drill took place at the south pier, February 17th, 1866, under the command of Mr Byrne, of the coastguard service. The movement soon became popular, and in a few weeks the roll had increased to one hundred and forty, and now reaches to two hundred men who have attended drill. The necessity for it soon became apparent, for on the night of April 2, the schooner “Tenterden," of Sunderland, came ashore behind the South Pier during a heavy gale. Forty-five members were speedily on the spot, and, under the superintendence of the Coastguard, succeeded in rescuing the crew, 5 in number, and a woman and her infant, from a watery grave. Without further detail the members have attended 9 wrecks, the crews amounting to 57 all told, and of which they have been instrumental in saving 30 lives, the rest, with the exception of two boys, being saved by the lifeboats or were enabled to get ashore themselves. In the fearful gale of January 6, 1867, these two boys were drowned, one by getting into a boat which was swamped, the other being washed off his vessel by a heavy sea. During the past long and severe winter the members have been very much exposed to storm and tempest while pursuing their arduous and perilous vocation. It soon became evident that something would have to be done provide for their comfort while on duty. An appeal was made the public for funds to erect a watch-house, and the liberal response enabled us to erect the comfortable and commodious building we now occupy. Your committee takes this opportunity of thanking the subscribers for their sympathy, and those gentlemen who have given us the useful instruments which adorn its wall. Our thanks are also especially due to P. J. Messent, Esq., the piers engineer, for furnishing the plans, and rendering valuable assistance during the erection. While the committee have been mindful of the comfort the members in general, they also contemplate providing before the winter sets in an additional room especially adapted for the accommodation of shipwrecked crews, and they are encouraged by the hope that their intentions have only to be made known when the necessary facilities will be afforded for carrying out this much needed project. We have cause for congratulation that this Brigade during the first year of its existence has been enabled to distinguish itself so much, especially in being the first institution of the kind to save life from shipwreck. This we say, not from any boastful superiority in point of efficiency, because we believe had other brigades been similarly situated a like success would have attended their efforts in the noble cause for which these establishments have been instituted. In conclusion, we hope that the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, successfully launched, will continue to be a permanent institution of the town, that each member will be stimulated in the future by the events of the past, and, in the words of our motto, will be " Always ready" to risk their lives to save any poor manner who may be wrecked on our coast."

 In the absence of the Treasurer (Mr A. Stevenson), Mr Malcolm also read the financial statement, which showed that the income of the Brigade during last year was £195 17s Id, and the expenditure £179 9s 9d, leaving a balance of £16 7s 4d. This sum, added to which £25 they had been promised from the Board of Trade, would make £41 odd, which would be applied towards defraying the expenses of the new room they intended to build before the winter set in.

Mr Wilson moved the adoption of the report and in doing so expressed his admiration of the way in which the Secretary for the Brigade had performed his duties during the past year.

Mr Robt. Bell seconded the motion.  Ald. J. F. Spence, North Shields, said the Chairman had asked him to say few words, and although he did not attend the meeting with the intention of addressing them he had had very great pleasure in expressing his admiration of the report which he had just heard read. He congratulated the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade on being the first to save any lives in the kingdom. They on the other side, being the older institution of the two, were naturally desirous to be the first to save life, but when they heard of what their friends in South Shields had done he for one—and he might speak for the whole of the members of the Tynemouth brigade—rejoiced to think that they were the first whose services were called into requisition with such important results. He considered it a great honour, and thought there was not a more laudable movement, or one more calculated to raise men in the estimation of their fellow-men than that in which they were engaged. They had already saved many lives when in peril and their success he ascribed to diligent practice, and the state of efficiency in working the apparatus to which they had attained. They all remembered the loss of the Stanley, and he could confidently assert that if Mr Byrne had had twenty-five disciplined men to aid him on that occasion, many valuable lives might have been saved. (Hear, hear.) He did not like to see men acting who were totally unacquainted with the apparatus they were handling. When everyone knew his business, the chances of saving life were more favourable than when the force was composed of nothing better than the rabble. He rejoiced to think that the South Shields brigade had attained such a high standard of proficiency, and he was delighted to see many of the members present. He hoped they would never fall short of the motto at the end of their report, as he was sure they would not, and although he did not wish to see wrecks, he hoped, when they did occur, that they would be as successful in saving lives as they had hitherto been. (Applause)

The Chairman then put the motion approving of the report, and afterwards scrutineers were appointed to go over the votes recorded for the election of officers during the ensuing year.

 Mr Wilson said he was pleased to see many of their worthy supporters present. It had been their study as officers of the institution to give all their friends satisfaction. Their humble endeavours to save Life had been very successful, and he hoped they would always be ready to do what lay in their power for their fellow-men when they required their services. He wished to propose, as most of the members of the brigade were working men, in regard to the money that the Board of Trade awarded, that it be distributed among those who were the means of saving the life of shipwrecked crews, to buy clothes and boots, as there was great tear and wear upon them, and they could not be replaced unless some assistance was given. If the meeting approved of the proposal he was confident that the public would supply them with the necessary funds to provide the food that might be consumed. He had much pleasure in submitting the resolution to the meeting.

 Mr Wm. Spence seconded the motion, which was unanimously agreed to.

Capt. Cottew proposed a vote of thanks to the Secretary and Treasurer. Since the institution of the Brigade they had conducted its affairs in way which had given entire satisfaction to its members. Mr McQueen seconded the motion, which was carried amid vociferous cheering.

 Mr Malcolm replied. He was very much gratified to think that his services had been highly appreciated. For any trouble he had been caused he thought himself fully rewarded by the success of the Brigade. They were successful in their very infancy, for after the third time they had been at drill they had to put what they learned in theory into practice, and were able thereby to save a ship's crew. He hoped since they got on so well last year that they would still go on progressing. On behalf of the Treasurer, who, he had no doubt, would duly appreciate the motion just made, and himself, he begged to return thanks.

Mr Malcolm proposed a vote of thanks to the Captains. It was necessary to have leaders or captains in an institution of this kind, and he was sure those who had experienced the storms and wrecks of last year would admit they (the captains) were at least well worthy of vote of thanks. If re-elected, he had no doubt they would continue to discharge their duties in an equally satisfactory manner.

 Mr Wilson seconded the motion, which was carried by acclamation.
 Captain Matthew Cay being unavoidably absent, Captains Cottew and Tynemouth briefly replied.

Mr Wilson then moved that Dr Stokoe should be elected doctor to the Brigade.

 Mr Bell seconded the motion, which was agreed to.

Mr Cay said although he had not the honour of being member of the Brigade, would take the liberty, as fellow townsman and an old tar, of telling them much he admired their institution. He had always been impressed with the idea that on their iron bound coast there were places where for many miles a lifeboat was of no use. This objection had been seen by the Board of Trade, and for many years they had been thinking of the line and rocket. They had now tried to introduce it, and he was proud to say that they had been so far successful. The benefit to be derived from such means of saving life was incalculable, for, Mr Spence stated, had the rocket apparatus been in use when the Stanley came ashore, a number of valuable lives might have been saved. He thought Tynemouth and South Shields should produce the two best Brigades on the coast. There were plenty of men competent for the work, and with the spirit of humanity which they evinced, he had no doubt they would do great amount of good in the way of saving valuable lives. He was only sorry that there was not some way of remunerating those who watched night after night, but hoped that they would come to that by and by, as it could not be expected that people could always work for nothing. He was very unfit to say anything the subject. He had risen merely for the purpose of introducing his friend Mr Robinson (applause), who, he had doubt, could say something better worth listening to than anything he could say. In conclusion hoped that there would be no strife between the Tynemouth and South Shields brigades further than an honest emulation to who should do most to promote the welfare and happiness of their fellow-men. (Applause)

 Mr Robinson then addressed the meeting. After stating that had not heard the report read, which re and that he was very glad to see such an enthusiastic and numerous meeting, he spoke of the benefit of having good captains, and the necessity there was for those who were under their command being thoroughly trained. He trusted that the members of the South Shields brigade would attend to discipline and training, so that when the time for action came they might be able to perform their duties with efficiency, and credit to themselves. Mr Robinson then spoke of the moral benefit coming to the members of the brigade from the philanthropic nature of the work in which they were engaged. When they felt they were doing good to their fellow creatures, they were doing good to themselves. There was no satisfaction in man working only for his own benefit. If they wanted to promote their own happiness they must seek to promote that of others. (Applause) In conclusion, he trusted that the society would go and prosper. He hoped their services would not be called too often into requisition, but storms would rise, and ships would be wrecked, and he trusted hen these occurrences did take place that every member of the Brigade would be found at his post. Many people had predicted that the volunteer movement would not last, but to-day it was as vigorous ever, and it was great benefit to many young men. He trusted that their voluntary efforts would be the same to the end, and he hoped they would have the thanks of their townsmen for their labours. (Applause and cheers.)  Mr Malcolm thought was desirable that those gentlemen who contributed to the funds of the brigade should know how the money had been expended. He therefore moved that the report and financial statement should be distributed among the subscribers and members. The motion was seconded by Mr Smith, and agreed to.  

The Chairman proposed a vote of thanks to Mr Wilson for the interest he had all along taken in the institution, which was enthusiastically responded to

Mr Wilson replied.

The scrutineers not having their task finished the time the other business of the meeting over, an interval elapsed, during which the members of the Brigade were treated to a plentiful supply of refreshments. On the list being made up, the following were found to have the highest number of votes, and were declared duly elected office-bearers for the ensuing year: — Captains—W. Cay, S. Cottew, M. Cay, jun. and Wm. Wright. Secretary—S. Malcolm. Treasurer—A. Stevenson. Committee of management —Geo. Stokoe, Robert Blair, George Smith. Jos. Crisp, G. A. Wilson, Thomas Tynemouth, Joseph Smith, L. Mackey, Charles Pearson, Robert Wells, T. G. Mabane, and G. P. Renoldson- A vote of thanks to the chairman terminated the proceedings.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 18 July 1867