Collision in Shields Harbour
Salmon Coble Sunk
Local Fisherman Drowned

During the early hours of this morning a distressing affair occurred near the Groyne Lighthouse, South Shields, resulting in a young salmon fisherman, named Michael Purvis, belonging to South Shields, losing his life, while other two men, one of whom was Michael Purvis, father of the unfortunate young man, and his companion, Joseph Burn, narrowly escaped with their lives.

Shortly after one o'clock the three men who had been following their pursuit in the salmon fishing were returning home in the coble Faith, and it appears that when in the vicinity mentioned the collision occurred, the craft being severed in two. The survivors were subsequently transferred from the colliding trawler to another salmon fishing boat in charge of John Strachan, R. Purvis, and Blasedale, and taken ashore at South Shields.

Our representative afterwards interviewed Joseph Burn, one of the fisherman, who was confined to his bed, still suffering from the effects of his immersion. He, however, was able to furnish some particulars of the accident. He said while returning home with his companions, Michael Purvis and his son, a fair run had been made till they had got a little below the Groyne, when one of the trawlers, which was also making for home, was seen coming close towards them. It was seen by Burn that a collision was inevitable, the trawler apparently trying to avoid another vessel coming down the river.

Burn says that before the trawler came into contact with the coble he leaped overboard from amidships, and when he came to the surface he struck out and caught hold of the corks attached to the nets, which sustained him above water.

It is not precisely known how Mr Purvis, sen., saved himself, but so far as it can be ascertained, seems that he had got in an awkward position, being first of all forced underneath the wreckage, and must have been under water a good while. Not only had he got under the wreckage of the coble, but had another difficulty to contend against, namely, the mass of floating nets, which added to his danger. he dexterously managed, however, to clear himself of this difficulty and reached one of the portions of the severed boat where he was rescued. Young Purvis had gone under and was not seen again.

The trawler Mercia, of North Shields, as soon as possible turned back, and her crew did everything possible to effect a speedy rescue. Mr Purvis, sen., and Mr Burn were got on board the fishing vessel, and afterwards sent ashore on board another salmon boat. The men were very exhausted after their trying experience.

Great sympathy is felt for Mr and Mrs Purvis in their sad bereavement. The unfortunate young man was 20 years of age, and resided with his parents in Military Road, South Shields.

The Mercia, which discharged her cargo of fish at the Fish Quay, North Shields, is one the Irvin fleet trawlers. She has not sustained the slightest damage through the collision, notwithstanding that coble was cut in two, one of the portions floating some hours after the mishap.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 9 May 1901

The Mercia Collision
Board of Trade Inquiry

At the Moot Hall, Newcastle, to-day, a Board of Trade inquiry was opened before Mr E. A. Hedley and Ald. Wm. Sutton, assisted by Captain R. C. Dyer, R.N., Captain George Richardson, and Captain Wm. Erskine, nautical assessors, into the circumstances attending a collision between the trawler and the fishing coble Faith, on May 9th. in Shields Harbour, whereby the latter was sunk, and one man drowned.

Mr Burton appeared for the Board of Trade. Mr D. Marshall, of South Shields, represented the master of the Faith and Mr R. F. Kidd, of North Shields, the master of the Mercia.

Mr Burton, in opening the inquiry, said the Mercia was a steam trawler owned by the Irving Steam Fishing Company, of North Shields, and had been out fishing in the North Sea under the command Mr Herbert Dealtry, with seven other hands. She left the fishing ground May 8th, bound for the North Shields Fish Quay, and entered the Tyne early on the morning of the 9th. It was a dark morning, and the second hand was on the look-out. As the vessel was passing the Skeleton Post cries were heard of “hard-a-starboard." Before the helm could be got over she crashed into something which turned out to be the fishing coble Faith. The coble was cut in two, and by the time the Mercia came round the halves drifted past her stern. The crew of the Mercia then saw forms struggling in the water and they managed to rescue Michael Purvis and Joseph Burn, but the third hand, son of Michael Purvis, was drowned. The loss of life in this case was one the material points of the inquiry. The Faith, which was owned by Mr Grout and Mr Michael Purvis, had been out salmon fishing, and was, at the time of the casualty, returning home on account of the weather. They were rowing up the river stern first, which was the custom with these boats, and were just abreast of the Skeleton Post when they saw the masthead light, and directly afterwards the three lights of steamer, which showed the steamer was coming towards them. They shouted, " hard-a-starboard," and their cry was apparently heard, but there was no time to avert the danger. Those were shortly the facts from the two sides, and there were two points at issue. One was as to whether a look out was kept on the Mercia, and the other, and the more important, was to what lights, if any, the coble was showing. The Mercia’s crew alleged that the Faith showed no lights; the Faith's hands, on the other hand, said they had the ordinary coal fire burning in their brazier, which gave good light. On this point he had an independent witness, the master the steamer Wellesley, who would tell them there were no lights visible from the coble when he passed it a couple of minutes before the casualty. [Proceeding.]

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 7 June 1901

The Fatal Collision in Shields Harbour

The inquiry into the circumstances attending the collision in Shields harbour between the trawler Mercia, of North Shields, and the salmon boat Faith, of South Shields, whereby the latter was cut in two and one life lost, on May 9th, was resumed yesterday at the Moot Hall, Newcastle. Mr Burton appeared for the Board of Trade. Mr R. F. Kind appeared for the master of the Mercia, and Mr T. D. Marshall, of South Shields, for the master of the Faith.

Three independent witnesses, the crew of the ketch Wellesley, which passed the Faith a couple of minutes before the collision occurred, the night watchman at the Anglo-American Petroleum Works, South Shields and a local pilot, were called in support of the statement of the master of the Mercia that no lights were burning on board the Faith.

Evidence was given on behalf of Michael Purvis, the master of the Faith (whose son was drowned), James Boyle and John Alex. Straughan, fisherman, Richard Thurlbeck, pilot, and Cresswell Ramsey, pilot's assistant, who swore that the brazier fire on board the salmon boat was burning when the collision took place.

This concluded the evidence.

Mr Marshall admitted that his client had not carried the lights required by the river by-laws, but argued that Faith had proved to have been carrying sufficient light for all practical purposes.

Mr Kidd argued that if the Court found the look-out on board the trawler was insufficient, the master could not held responsible, for the mate, who was the look-out, had left his post for a moment, the moment before the collision occurred. He contended that the evidence pointed to there being no light on board the Faith.

Mr Burton having summed up on behalf of the Board of Trade.

The Court adjourned until to-day, when judgment will be given.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 11 June 1901

The Fatal Collision in Shields Harbour
Judgement of the Court

Judgment was given yesterday in the enquiry which was concluded at Newcastle on Monday, respecting the collision on May 9th, between the trawler Mercia, of North Shields, and the salmon boat Faith of South Shields, whereby the latter was cut in two, and the third hand, Richard Purvis, jun., was drowned. The Court found that the casualty was due primarily to the master of the Faith, Michael Purvis, failing to exhibit any light, and a contributory cause was the temporary absence of Wm. Allerton, the second hand of the Mercia, from his look-out. No blame was attached to the master of the Mercia, but the Court reprimanded the master the Faith and the second hand of the Mercia.

Body of Purvis Found

Yesterday evening the body of Michael Purvis, jun., of South Shields, who, it will be remembered, was drowned through the collision with the trawler Mercia and the salmon fishing coble Faith, was picked up near the Groyne Lighthouse. The body was subsequently handed over to the charge of the River Tyne Police, and conveyed to the Mill Dam dead-house.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 12 June 1901

A Praiseworthy Effort.

In connection with the fatal collision which took place on May 9th, whereby the salmon coble Faith was cut in two, and the young pilot apprentice Purvis was drowned, I hear a praiseworthy effort is being made to raise a fund on behalf of the young man's father and mother. Mr Richard Thornton, I understand, has arranged to give the free use of the Empire Palace, with band and supply of artistes for a benefit concert on Sunday week, June 23rd. In addition to the talent which may be available under the Palace regime at the time amongst others who are expected to give their services are Miss Mimi Beers, and Mr George McDearmid, and there will be an exhibition of interesting living pictures. It is hardly, necessary to say that the concert will receive a hearty and enthusiastic patronage.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 12 June 1901

The Drowning of a Shields Pilot’s Assistant
Coroner’s Inquiry

At the River Police Station, South Shields, to-day, Mr John Graham, Coroner, held an inquiry into the circumstances attending the death of Michael Purvis, aged 19 years, of 26 Military Road, South Shields, who was drowned on the 9th May. Mr T. D. Marshall was present on behalf of the relatives.

Michael Purvis, father of the deceased, gave evidence of identification. The drowning of the deceased was due to a collision between the trawler Mercia and witness's coble Faith. On the morning of the 9th ult., the two vessels were proceeding up the river when the Mercia collided with and sank the Faith. The coble had sail up, and the three occupants were rowing. The length of the coble was about 32 feet, and the Mercia struck her about 12 feet from the stern, which forward. When witness first saw the Mercia it was near the North Pier and had the lights burning. The Mercia then changed her course and ran towards the coble. Witness shouted, but no notice was taken. The light of the coble was burning, and could easily have been seen. Witness was rescued by the Mercia. One of the firemen told him that he had just got out of bed, and the watch had been changed and there was no one on the look-out. wind was blowing fresh, and that was the reason the coble came home. It was a dark, clear night.

Joseph Burn, salmon fisherman, gave corroborative evidence.

Peter Taylor, 43 Low Lights, North Shields, said that he was the look-out at the time of the accident. He saw a white light, which was low down, like that carried by a salmon boat or pilot boat. Witness also saw a steamer and her lights. He afterwards noticed the low light and the steamer were very close together. The steamer's lights were burning brightly. He heard shouts, and in a short time the low light disappeared, and from that, judged that whatever carried the low light was sunk. The steamer did not change its course. He first saw the steamer's three lights when she was between the piers. He kept them in sight all the time, until the boat's light disappeared. He was sure that the steamer did not alter its course.

Jacob Legg, master of the tug Welcome, deposed to finding the body of the deceased on the 11th inst. The body appeared to have just come to the surface.

Inspector Grout spoke to receiving the body and finding no marks upon it.

This was all the evidence forthcoming, after which the Coroner perused several of the by-laws. In summing up the evidence, he said that the coble had not complied with the by-laws in not having the lights prescribed. On the other hand the trawler was also the wrong if it had not a proper look-out, two men being the prescribed number.

Mr Bell (foreman) thought that there was much negligence on the part of the Mercia in not having a look-out.

A verdict to the effect that deceased was drowned by a collision between the salmon coble Faith and the steam trawler Mercia on the 9th ult. was given, and added that the Mercia was in the fault for not having maintained a proper look-out.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 13 June 1901