Mary Mac

About 12 o'clock the gusts of wind were attended by showers of snow, sleet, and hail, which fell so heavily to completely obscure the view seaward, and were blown with such force, against the face, that few dared to look out. At this time the only persons on the south pier were the coastguardsman on duty, Jon. Ellis, and P.C. McQueen, the pier watchman who about 20 minutes past 12 saw the lights of vessel rapidly coming ashore to the south of the pier. They immediately fired the warning signal, and speedily the loud roar of the three guns from the Spanish battery carried the news of the danger up the river. Such, however, was the noise and power of the storm, that the guns were almost unheard on the south side, and even the watchers on the pier, though they saw the flash could not hear the report, and it was only by Superintendent Richardson sending round one of his men to knock a number of them up that anything like a muster was at last secured. The consequence was that at first a small band of coastguard, pilots, police, and straggling landsmen were left to help the crew of the vessel, to which we have referred, and which proved to be the brig Mary Mac, of Whitstable. She had taken the ground well up the sands and about 200 yards from the pier. Immediately on stranding the crew had launched their long boat, and boy got into her, but a huge wave came rolling in, poured over the brig and when it had passed the boat and the boy were gone, and were not again seen.

The Mary Mac belongs Whitstable, was the property of Messrs Kemp and Cambourne, of that place, and was manned by the following crew: Captain Richard Stone, Whitstable; John Court, of Canterbury, mate; John Donnovan, London; William Page, London; Frederick Souttee; Robert Fagg, and the boy who was lost.

The body of the lad who was drowned from the Mary Mac has not yet been recovered. A strong body of salvors are at work to-day recovering what they can of the wreckage. The hull of the Mary Mac is still intact, but it is so strained that there is not much hope of its getting off. Part of the hull of the Cora is still standing.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 7th of January 1867

The Wrecks At The South Pier
The Captains' Statements

The following are the principal portions of the official depositions given by the captains of the wrecked vessels to the Collector Customs, South Shields (Mr Blaikie), as Receiver of Wrecks:-

Richard Stone, captain of the Mary Mac, of Whitstable, 189 tons register, reports that the  said ship is owned by Kemp and Cambown, residing at Whitstable that she was built of wood North America, in 1852 ; that the crew consisted of seven hands, including deponent; that the said ship had on board a cargo of ballast, and sailed from London on the 25th of December, bound for Sunderland; that on Sunday  the 6th inst., the tide being at the time half-flood, the weather very severe, thick snow, wind blowing a hurricane from the SE, found that the brig could not enter Sunderland, and made for the Tyne. On nearing the entrance, mistook two, lights in North Shields, the one above the other, for the leading lights. Saw the pier close to, which he believed to be the north pier. Starboarded the helm, and immediately came to the ground on the sands on the south side of the south pier. Got the long boat out. One of the boys got into it; found the boat could not live in such a sea, and attempted to get the boy out of the boat, but it broke adrift, and went to pieces on the stones of the pier, and the boy was lost. The rocket apparatus was fired from the shore several times, but he could not find that the lines had reached the vessel as was very dark, although it appeared at daylight that two lines had reached the vessel. Hove the lead line on shore, to which the rocket line was attached, and six of the crew saved by the cradle, &c.; that the loss the ship is estimated at £700, and that it was not insured. That in the master opinion the casualty was caused by his having mistaken lights in North Shields for the leading lights in a very dark snowy night.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 8 Jan 1867

On Sunday morning January 6th 1867 @ 12-30 a.m. during a heavy gale from NNE & strong sea the brig Mary Mac of Whitstable in entering the harbour mistook the light on the South Pier for Harbour lights & ran ashore on the South Pier rocks, the “Margee” of Whitstable & the brig “Lucerne” of Blyth followed the first named vessel’s course & they all drove ashore the signal guns were fired and the “Tyne” manned by 17 hands Providence 18 hands Northumberland 18 hands all proceeded down to render what assistance they could but owing to the position of the vessels on the rocks they were unable to get alongside the crews were rescued by the South. Shields Life Brigade with the exception of 2 boys drowned, the Lucerne & Margee broke up

Tyne’s crew (17 hands)

George Smith

Geo Chambers

John Purvis

Thos Brown

Wm Wright

Thos Young

Mathew Young

John Shotton

Wm Wright 2nd 

Wm Young

David Young

Robert Purvis

Wm Tinmouth

Henry Young

John Wells

Thos Marshall

Mathew Heslop


Providence crew (18 hands)

Andrew Harrison

James Purvis

George Ayre

Wm Marshall

John Ridley

Henry Johnson

William Burn

Robert Lang

Robert Shotton

Robert Wilson

Frederick Young

George Brown

Ralph Thew

Mathew Young

William Bedlington

Robert Chambers

Thomas Stephenson

John Bone

Northumberland crew (18 hands)

Gilbert Young

John Stobbs

Henry Sadler

Magnes Almer

Thomas Mould

William Foster

Robert Amour jun

William Stevens

Michael McInlay

William Bogie

James Milton

Moses English

Robert Amour sen

James Smith

Henry Towns

James Turnbull

Peter Marshall

John Watson

Source: Tyne Lifeboat Institution Service Record

Fearful Scene at the Mouth of the Tyne
Total Loss of Four vessels

A hurricane, accompanied by blinding showers o£ sleet and hail, raged at the mouth of the Tyne on Saturday night. The sea was mountains high; and about midnight, as the storm was gathering in force, the preventive officer on the look-out at Shields saw a vessel driving ashore to the south of the south pier. He immediately burned a blue light, and three guns were fired from the Spanish battery to call out the Life Brigade. The preventive officer and the pier policeman got the apparatus for the saving of life down to the pier, but the gale was so strong that they had to crawl on their hands and knees to do so. By two o’clock four ships, with their sails all blown to streamers, were ashore. The vessels were the Mary Mack, of Whitstable; the Cora, of Whitstable; the Lucerne, of Blyth; and the Merghee, of Whitstable. All the lifeboats were got out and fully manned, and pulled down into the Narrows, but the force of the hurricane was so great that, after contending with it for above two hours, their crews were obliged to put about, completely exhausted, and leave the saving of life to the Life Brigade. This was a most difficult and perilous undertaking, as the lines had to be fired against a gale of wind. The piers were covered with ice, and the gale was so strong that the men could hardly stand, and the crews on board the ships were so benumbed with cold that they could make little effort to help themselves. The crew of the Mary Mack got the longboat out, and put a boy into it to steady it; but it was stove under the ship’s quarter, and, the painter breaking, it drove away with the lad in it. He was washed out, but held the gunwale until it drifted into the broken water, when he was knocked off by the seas and drowned, the boat going to pieces. The crew of the Cora, which vessel was close alongside the pier, managed to swing themselves ashore; the crew of the Blyth brig, acting under instructions from the Life Brigade, got aboard the Cora and were hauled ashore on the lines. They had not been ten minutes out of the brig when she slid over with her decks to the sea, and the waves pitched her stem end. The crew of the Merghee managed to spring to the pier, except one lad belonging to Canterbury, who was on his first voyage, and who was so paralysed with fear that he dared not follow the other men. He got into the rigging, but the vessel immediately heeled over, and after he was swung two or three times backwards and forwards in the air by the motion the ship, she broke to pieces, and he was drowned. After stilting over the sand about half mile from where she struck, the Mary Mack got into a position where communication was opened with the shore by one of the seamen throwing a lead line to a man, who plunged into the surf to get it. A “cradle” was then got off to the ship upon a hawser, which was made fast, and the seamen were all brought to land. The crew were taken to the Half-Moon public-house, where warm clothing was prepared for them, and after being comfortably refreshed with hot coffee they all recovered. The Merghee and the Lucerne are entirely broken up, and the Mary Mack and Cora are wrecks. A Whitby brig struck on the sand during the morning. Her crew were taken off by the National Lifeboat.

Source: Glasgow Free Press 12 January 1867

Wreck of Three Whitstable Vessels and Loss of One Life

Shields, Monday, Jan. 7.

The gale of Saturday night last proved excessively disastrous to the shipping on all parts of the coast, Amongst the vessels that were lost were three belonging to the port of Whitstable, all of which were wrecked off Shields harbour. We regret to add that in addition to the vessels one life sacrificed that of a boy named Paine, belonging to Canterbury. The names of the vessels are the "Mary Mac,'' Capt. Stone, belonging to Messrs. Camburn and Co., which was, we are informed, uninsured; the "Merghee," Capt. Friend, belonging Messrs. Nicholls and Co., which was insured in the Whitstable Mutual Club for £680; and the "Cora," Capt. J Strand, belonging to Messrs. Kemp. Goldfinch, and Co. which was insured in the same Club for £800.

Respecting the "Mary Mac," the captain reports that while making for the Tyne on Saturday night, he sighted the Sutherland and Souter buoys, and kept close in so as to avoid being driven past the harbour by the fury the gale, which was at that time a complete hurricane from the S. and S.S.E. The sea was rolling mountains high, and accompanied by fierce showers of blinding hail, which prevented him from distinguishing the harbour lights. He got two lights in one, and supposing these to be the leading lights, steered by them.  In a few minutes, however, he saw the South Pier (which he took to be the North Pier) right under his starboard side, and, acting on the instant, he put his helm about but before the vessel had an opportunity of altering her course she struck heavily upon the pier. The captain, seeing now the dangerous position he was in, kept his head up the pier, and drifted along for a considerable distance. Captain Stone cannot account for appearance of the lights which misled him, but asserted that every time he saw them they appeared in line—a high and low light. As soon as the “Mary Mac" was discovered, the “Tyne” under Mr. George Smith, and the "Providence" under the charge of Mr. Andrew Harrison, were manned and proceeded down to the bar. When the two boats got to the bar, the crews saw that the stranded vessel was outside of the harbour, and that it was impossible to render assistance, the sae on the bar being such as no boat's crew could master. Within the bar the lifeboats, with their crews, lay for about an hour. The two boats then put back, and most of the two crews proceeded down to the pier to assist in working the rocket lines. At 4 o'clock the unfortunate vessel struck the Herd Sand, when the pilots again ran to their lifeboats, and the "Providence" and the "Tyne" proceeded to the rescue of the crew, a work in which, we are glad to say, they were successful.

Some time after the above disaster, viz., at 3.30 a.m. Monday, the schooner "Merghee," came within the end of the pier, and struck heavily on the loose stones of the base. The signal rockets for the brigade were fired, and the force already on the pier was reinforced by several pilots and other members the life brigade The "Merghee," when she first came in contact with the pier stones, was very fortunately caught on the turn by a large breaker, which swept her bowsprit round so that it overhung the pier. Seeing this the men made for the bow for the purpose of making their escape by that means. Just as the captain got clear, and as the men were humanely assisting the boy (James Paine, of Canterbury) from the bowsprit to the pier, the vessel was again borne on a wave and the boy slewed right round. The men immediately escaped from off the bowsprit, but the poor boy was forced by the waves from the grasp his assistants, and dashed away. One of the crew (John Stones) immediately left the fore end of the ship and went to the braces, by which he set the sails, so that the head of the "Merghee" was brought once more to the head of the pier. The whole of the crew were in readiness when her head again came round, and by strenuous efforts the whole safely reached the mason work of pier. John Stones, however, sustained very severe injuries on the left arm by the bowsprit coming down upon it while he was getting up the side of the pier. The men had not long been ashore when the schooner began to break up, and she was soon a complete wreck. The crew were taken to Mr. Thompson's, Pilots' Landing, where every attention was paid to them.

On the same night brigantine "Cora," also of Whitstable, came ashore on the inside of the South Pier, a little to the east of the "Mary Mac," but fortunately very close up to the pier. The mast and crew, as soon as they saw the position they were in, left their vessel by getting over the side by aid of a rope, and waded ashore among the stones lying alongside the pier. The whole of them got safely ashore and were taken to the house of a Mrs. Heron, where they received every kindness and attention. Subsequently, the "Cora" rapidly broke up, but before she was completely gone the crew reboarded her and secured a good many of the stores, sails, &c, belonging to the vessel, and the greater portion of their own clothing.

Source: Whitstable and Herne Bay Herald 12 January 1867

To-Morrow (Thursday) Jan. 10,

THAT good and substantial Brig MARY MAC, Capt. Stone, 187 tons register, delivers 327 tons coals, with her Running Gear, and all on board, as she may then and there lie. Immediately after the Sale of the Vessel, the following Stores will be sold, which are now landed on the beach, consisting of two Anchors, two 90’s of Chain, three Kedges, two mooring Chains, one Tow Warp, two Hawsers, two Warps, one Boat, two Sails, one Flying Jib, one Boom jib, two Foretopmaststaysails, two Square Foresails, two Foretopsails, one Foretopgallantsail, two Topmast Stunsails, one Lower Stunsail, three Stunsail Booms and Irons, complete, one Square Mainsail, two Maintopsails, 1 Maintopgallantsail, one Mainstaysail, with Boom and Gaff, with the whole .of the Running Gear, which are in good working order.

Sale commence at 11 30 in the Forenoon prompt.
General Auction Offices, Linskill Street, North Shields.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 9 January 1867

South Pier, South Shields

Mr T. LILLEY Has received Instructions to RE-SELL BY PUBLIC AUCTION,
On Monday Next, Feb. 11, 1867,

THE Brig MARY MAC, of Whitstable, 199 Tons Register, as she may then and there lie, near the South Pier, South Shields, with the whole of the Stores then on board, including Two Anchors, with 180 Fathoms of Chain, Masts, Topmasts, and Rigging, which was new last year.

Sale to commence at Two O'clock p.m., prompt.
General Auction Offices, 10 Linskill Street, North Shields.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 5 February 1867

The Mary Mac

During yesterday, the brig Mary Mac, which went ashore behind the South Pier during the January gales, was got off and towed the river. Efforts had been made during last week to get the vessel off, and on Thursday her position was altered on the strand, to facilitate her floating. The stormy weather of the two succeeding days, however, stopped operations, which were recommenced yesterday morning, and, favoured by a good tide, left in the afternoon.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 25 March 1867