Schooner Ashore at the South Pier
Two of the Crew Drowned
Accident to a Brigadesman
Last night, another gale from the south-east sprang up, and at twenty minutes twelve o'clock three signal guns from the Spanish Battery and three from H.M.S. Castor boomed forth the intelligence that a vessel was in distress the south side of the harbour. Notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, immense crowds of persons flocked down the South Pier, where a scene of great excitement prevailed. The members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade were on duty at their watch house, and the lifeboatmen and coastguards were in readiness to render assistance. In a very short time the waggon containing the rocket and life-saving apparatus was run down the end of the pier. The vessel was then observed to be between three and four hundred yards south of the pier, rolling heavily in broken and violent sea. A rocket was fired, and from the flash it was observed that the vessel was a schooner, apparently laden, and under full sail. Rocket after rocket was fired, but the brigadesmen were unable to effect communication with the vessel until about a dozen lines had been thrown over her. Owing to the distance at which the vessel was lying, and the force of the wind, many of the rockets failed to carry the lines across her. About three o'clock in the morning, however, communication was established, the brigadesmen having persevered in their gallant endeavours to rescue the hapless crew for nearly three hours. In the meantime the South Pier lifeboat had been launched and manned by number of willing hands. Considerable difficulty was experienced in accomplishing this task, in consequence of the timber from the wreck of the Henry Cooke impeding their progress. When the lifeboat had been got afloat the crew pulled manfully in the direction of the wreck, but they were unable, in consequence of the heavy seas, to approach her, and the boat was swamped several times. After battling with the waves for some time they were compelled to return to the beach, the crew being exhausted. The North Shields lifeboat Northumberland, and the two South Shields lifeboats, Tom Perry and Tyne, were also pulled down to the bar, but they also failed to reach the vessel owing to the heavy sea, which was described as running mountains high. A rocket line having been made fast on board the schooner, the breeches buoy was sent on board, but it returned empty, showing that the unfortunate crew were unable, either from ignorance of the use of the apparatus or from exhaustion, make use of it. When the line was got on board, and while the brigadesmen were engaged in hauling in the hawser, Mr J. T. White, deputy captain, accidentally fell head foremost from the gearing of the pier on to low level, and received severe scalp wound. He was rendered insensible, but was soon able, with assistance, to walk to the Brigade Watch House, where the wound was dressed by Dr Crease, honorary surgeon of the Brigade. Mr White, although suffering much from the accident, remained on duty. Shortly after this occurrence, the vessel, which had been riding for upwards of three hours with two anchors down, broke adrift, and washed further inshore, and close proximity to the stranded schooner Scylla. The van and rocket apparatus were then brought higher up the pier, and three other rockets were fired over. By this time the schooner had sunk, and the sea was making a clean breach over her, the bulwarks also being carried away. A man on board the vessel was heard to shout, but what he said could not be distinguished. Two of these three rockets made excellent shots, the last striking the truck of the mainmast right, in. By the flash from the rocket, some men were seen in the rigging of the vessel. At twenty minutes past four o'clock another rocket was fired over the vessel, and went between the masts, but the line was broken by some of the floating wreck. At this time grave fears were expressed for the safety of the crew, the wind and sea having increased in force, and the tide being nearly high water. The brigadesmen considered it imprudent to fire more rockets, seeing that no use could made of them by the crew, and the only hope of saving their lives consisted their being able to hang to the rigging until daybreak, by which time the tide would have greatly receded. The brigadesmen, many of whom had been exposed to the violence of the storm for fully five hours, were now almost exhausted, and operations were suspended for a short time, pending the arrival of more rockets from Tynemouth and the approach of daylight so great was the danger of killing the poor fellows in the rigging by the rockets. Between six and seven o'clock three other rockets were fired, but these, like their predecessors, were not used. About this time the mainmast fell, and the vessel commenced to break op, but nothing was seen of the crew. When daylight set in, however, four men were observed in the fore rigging, shortly after half-past seven o'clock one of them jumped off and was speedily hauled ashore by means of hand lines. The three others followed rapid succession, and were speedily rescued. They were immediately conveyed to the Brigade House, where restoratives were administered to them, and where they were supplied with warm and dry clothing. Their sufferings during the six long hours they were in the rigging may be more easily imagined than described. The captain of vessel states that when the mainmast fell the mate and one of the seamen who were in the rigging were carried away with it and killed as well as drowned. He also stated that the vessel was the schooner Arcadia, Truro, bound from Runcorn for Newcastle, with a cargo of salt. The following is a list of the crew:
Captain: James Brockenshaw, Falmouth. Seamen: William Thomas Gibbon, Falmouth; John Stansby, Plymounth; Richard Warrington, Penrith.
Mate: John Brockenshaw, brother of the captain, 48 years of age, married, Truro. Seaman: William Gay, 50 years of age, man of war pensioner, Falmouth.
Source: Arcadia Shields Daily Gazette 12 December 1874
Inquest was also held on the body of John Brokenshaw, mate of the Arcadia. The body was found near to the pier at half-past one in the afternoon. The verdict was “Drowned by shipwreck."
Source: Arcadia Shields Daily Gazette 14 December 1874