Severe Snowstorm
A Schooner Ashore at South Shields
Lifeboats to the Rescue



Since yesterday morning there has been a complete change in the weather. A hard frost prevailed for several hours before the fall of snow commenced in the afternoon, but was not till about two o'clock that there were any signs of the storm which came on, and continued for some twenty hours, and which has had the effect of putting a wintry aspect on all things out of doors. The wind, which was from a westerly point veering round to the north, came away in strong gusts, and made it a somewhat difficult undertaking for sailing craft to enter the Tyne. After a cessation of some four or five hours the snow began to fall last night about eight o'clock, and was driven about in blinding showers in the streets of South Shields, and, being of a powdery nature, the particles clung to the clothing of people passing to and fro. During the night there were frequent showers, and this morning the snow lay upon the ground to the depth of three or four inches. About seven o'clock a three-masted schooner was observed off the Tyne in tow of a steamtug, making slowly for the harbour. The tug was the Stag, and there were two tow lines out. The vessel passed in between the piers about eight o'clock, but just when a short distance from the South Groyne, a squall caught the schooner with such force that both lines parted. Coastguardsman Bartlett, who had been watching the vessel for some time, on seeing her drive on to the Herd Sand fired the new rocket signals, to summon the Volunteer Life Brigade. About the same time the North Shields lifeboat was launched and put off to render any assistance that might be needed. The new South Shields lifeboat Bedford was also launched, but the north side boat was the first to reach the schooner, which had dropped her anchor when the towlines broke. In about ten minutes from the firing of the alarm signals a number of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, with the members of the coastguard staff in command of Chief Officer Lorden, had taken the rocket cart along the Commissioner's line of railway which skirts the Herd Sand, and were ready to throw a line over the vessel, when a blue light was exhibited by one lifeboats, indicating that all was well. The tug had got a fresh line on board and succeeded in towing the vessel from her dangerous position, and eventually took her up the harbour to her destination. The tug Brothers was also near the scene, but her services were not required. The schooner proved to be the Balgay, of Dundee, Captain Cowper, from Rotterdam, with a cargo of moss litter, for Dundee. The captain's wife was aboard the schooner. The wind being partly of the land the water was not very rough within the harbour works, but outside matters were much different, heavy seas at times breaking over the north pier end. This forenoon the wind had abated, but there were not wanting indications of more snow.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 28 January 1888