Great Loss of Life
Foundering of a Middlesbro’
Steamer off the Tyne
The Whole of the Crew Drowned
Another gale from the south-east more terrific than its predecessor, and lamentably fatal in its effects, raged the north-east coast daring Saturday night and Sunday morning. The weather during the latter part of last week was very unsettled, and on Saturday there was every appearance of an approaching storm. Rain fell almost incessantly from early morning until about five o’clock in the afternoon; and from that time until between eight and nine in the evening there was a temporary lull, but at the time last mentioned the gale came away. It increased in severity every hour, and during the early hours of Sunday morning the wind was blowing with the violence of a hurricane. The sea rose as rapidly as the wind, and broke angrily upon the shore. There were at frequent intervals blinding showers of rain, and the aspect seaward, rendered even more weird by the faint glimmerings of the beclouded waning moon, was gloomy in the extreme. During Saturday evening several vessels put into the Tyne for shelter, and, as usual, the members of the Volunteer Life Brigades, as well as the lifeboat crews, on either side the harbour were on the alert, ready to render their humane and valuable services. Throughout the night, however, nothing was observed by them to arouse suspicion that the terrible calamity, which was afterwards brought to light, was taking place. The first of intimations of casualty having occurred were the coming ashore of the body of a seaman at the Low Lights, North Shields, about two o’clock yesterday morning, and the subsequent finding of portions of wreckage, amongst which was a ship’s boat, bearing the name “Prince,” of Glasgow. Although at the time nothing whatever could be gathered as to the real extent of what was then evidently a serious disaster, a statement made upon the arrival of the screw-steamer Northumberland, of Middlesborough, left little room to doubt that the screw-steamer Prince, formerly of Glasgow, but now of Middlesborough had gone down with all hands. These fears were confirmed upon a portion of the masts of the vessel lying just in midchannel channel at the entrance of the piers, being discovered when the tide receded. Some of the papers of the Prince were also washed ashore, and they showed the master’s name to be F. Donaldson. No clue as to the number of her crew has come ashore, but she Is believed to have had some fourteen or sixteen hands aboard, all of whom have perished. Mr Farrier, master of the Northumberland, states that he left Middlesbrough for Grangemouth, with iron ore, on Saturday afternoon, and that the Prince with a cargo of the same material, and also bound for Grangemouth, left the Tees about the same time. They kept pretty close company until about a quarter to eleven o’clock, when off Souter Point. He stood out to sea, however, and came into the Tyne for refuge about four o’clock, when the tide was about the top. The supposition is, therefore, that the Prince made for the harbour, and that in entering about midnight, the tide would be on the turn, the was struck by succession the tremendous seas which were at that hour running upon the bar, and being unable to recover went down. Captain Farrier also states that although the weather was rough when he left Middleborough, the barometer kept up until about midnight, when it began to fall rapidly. The weather he experienced was extremely rough, and a sea which caught the vessel when outside went through her bulwarks, although in coming over the bar he shipped no water whatsoever. Yesterday afternoon, the body of an old man, between 50 and 60 years of age, was washed ashore, and last evening another body was picked up. Both are supposed to have belonged to the crew of the ill-fated steamer. The Prince was an iron vessel of 493 tons register, and was built at Glasgow, in1868. Her dimensions were length, 173 feet; breadth, 25 feet; depth of hold, 15 feet; and official number is 6,036. She had been running for some time between Middlesbrough and Grangemouth with iron ore. Up to a few days ago she was owned in Glasgow, but had just been bought by Messrs Watson and Partners, of Middlesbrough, and this is stated to have been her first voyage under her new owners. Her captain (Mr Donaldson) had been in the habit of trading to the Tyne, and was well-known in Shields. The master of the schooner Eureka, which arrived in the Tyne yesterday morning reports that while entering the harbour he observed a vessel in a sinking condition. The crew of the schooner heard voices in the water, but were unable to render any assistance. They afterwards reported the matter to a steamtug, which proceeded to the spot.
The scene yesterday morning when day broke at Tynemouth almost defies description. Thousands people were assembled on the piers, the sands, and around the shore generally, who had been brought up the intelligence the md disaster. The horizon seaward one long mountain of foam that dashed in mad cataracts over the piers and spent itself on the sands or the rocks below. Bits of wreckage were tossed like corks upon the huge waves and thrown up to be eagerly grasped at by those waiting to know the fate of the poor fellows who had fought vainly with the gale while they were comfortably in bed. During the night a fine retriever dog, the only living thing that escaped from the Prince, came ashore, and was picked up at the New Quay. The log of the vessel and some bills of lading also floated into the harbour and were picked up alongside the penny ferry, and handed over to Mr Lindsay, Collector of Customs. At six in the morning the first body was washed ashore at the Low Lights, and was picked up by a man named Walker, and laid in the dead house close by. He was apparently about 35 years of age, 5ft. 8in. in height, and had sandy whiskers and dark hair. He was tatooed on the left arm with an American flag, and on the right with a nail. He had on sea boots, oilskin trousers, and wore a blue guernsey, with a light guernsey underneath, grey wincey shirt, and a new flannel shirt, pair of blue and grey stockings, and a pair of mauve and white muffeton. In his trousers pocket were found a small black leather purse and pipe. About half-past two another body was picked up by Aaron Ryles, and laid alongside the first. This was a seaman about 45 years of age, with grey beard, and a little brown hair on his head, dressed like the first in blue guernsey, and blue stockings, but with pilot cloth trousers, and having round his neck a small check handkerchief. He had two knives in his pocket and a pipe. This body had been sadly knocked about by the sea, and the face was covered with blood. Another body was subsequently picked up, making three.
The Prince left Middlesbrough on Saturday morning, in company with the screw-steamer Northumberland, belonging the same owners. Both vessels were laden with pig metal, and both were bound for Grangemouth. They kept company until about 11 o’clock at night, when the Northumberland lost sight of the unfortunate Prince, and never saw her again. The Northumberland went on to her destination and It is supposed that the Prince made for the Tyne to get shelter. It is said that the vessel was purchased by the owners only ten days ago. The suddenness with which the vessel went down seems to suggest that she was “pooped” by a heavy sea, for neither of the Life Brigades stationed at the Tynemouth Battery or the South Pier knew of the disaster till the morning. The screw-steamer Guyers, that came In between one and two, saw nor heard nothing to indicate that any such calamity had occurred. The report of Mr Bushell, master of the screw-steamer Eureka, of Whitstable, is as follows: -About twenty minutes or half-past one on entering the harbour, he saw a screw-steamer founder athwart the channel between the piers. It was a gale of wind at the time from the east-south-east, with a very heavy sea. He heard people crying for help in the water, but could give no assistance. The first vessel that he passed at the Low Lights was the steam-tug Tyne, and he told the crew of the latter what he had heard. The Tyne proceeded to the spot, but could see nothing of any the unfortunate crew.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 4 December 1876