Wreck of a Steamer at South Shields
Rescue of the Crew


About four o'clock on Saturday afternoon, two tugs were seen making for the Tyne having in tow a large screw-steamer. As they approached the harbour the dangerous position of the distressed vessel was observed by the pilots on the Lawe at South Shields, and they gave intimation to Mr Andrew Harrison, superintendent of the lifeboats. He at once got together a crew of eighteen hands and with himself and Mr Wm. Marshall as coxswain, the Tom Perry was launched from the Coble Landing. By this time the towline had parted and the steamer was at the mercy of the high sea and strong north-east wind. She drifted helplessly towards the south pier, and in a few moments struck on the stonework at the inner base of that structure, and soon became firmly fixed. The tide was rising, and evidently the bottom of the vessel had been knocked in, for she filled rapidly, the water in two or three minutes being over the cylinders. The crew were in a dangerous position, for the waves dashed with great fury against the sides of the sunken steamer, and sheets of water went clean over her. The alarm signals were fired, but by this time the Tom Perry, which had been taken in tow by the steam-tug Ulysses, was almost alongside. The lifeboat being smartly handled was placed within a few feet of the stranded steamer, and the crew one by one succeeded in getting aboard, notwithstanding the rough state of the sea. The captain and mate refused at the time to leave the ship. A third man, the carpenter, was rescued in a different fashion. One of the members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, named Johnson, made a rope fast to the ironwork on the pier, and by this means the man was hauled ashore by Johnson. The captain and mate were afterwards taken off by the North Shields lifeboat, James Young. The Tom Perry landed the fifteen hands she had rescued at the Coble Landing. They were taken to the Globe Inn, in Shadwell Street, kept by Mr Matthew Brack, and there supplied with dry clothing by the Tyne Lifeboat Institution, who keep their stores at that house in readiness for cases of shipwreck. Several of the men afterwards saw Mr Rudd, of Winchester Street, South Shields, for the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society, and were treated with every kindness, passes being supplied those who belonged to other ports. It being too late for them to make their depositions at the local Board of Trade offices in connection with the loss of the steamer, they were informed to make their statement at the nearest Shipping Office to their homes on Monday. Meanwhile the hull of the steamer, which turned out to be the Hector, of Sunderland, was found to have been almost totally submerged by the rising tide. The South Shields Coastguard, under Mr Lorden, had run the rocket van along the pier soon alter the vessel struck, but happily their services, owing to the promptness of the lifeboats, were not needed. Thousands of people crowded down to the scene on the firing of the signals. The loose articles about the vessel were washed off into the sea, including one of the boats, several ladders, boxes, etc., and were smashed in most cases into matchwood by the action of the waves against the stonework of the south pier and the large boulders beyond the Commissioner's jetty. As the tide rose over the vessel a cat was observed upon the bowsprit, evidently bewildered with the strangeness of its surroundings. It must have evidently been washed off, for nothing was seen of Grimalkin afterwards. Yesterday afternoon during low tide the master of the Hector, Captain Harris, and several of the crew got on board and secured some portions of their clothing and other articles.

Statements by the Crew


One of the crew made the following statement to our representative:—On Friday evening we left the staithes of Hebburn or Pelaw, with a cargo of coal, bound for Genoa. As we proceeded down the river it was found that we were six hands short, namely the second mate, the cook, and four sailors. We proceeded over the bar, and there lay to for the arrival of the men. The tug Ulysses afterwards came out having them with her, but they refused come aboard, owing to high state of the sea. We were thus left to do the best we could with the men we had. We headed slowly southward, but between three and four o'clock in the morning were brought to a sudden standstill as the engines would not move. It was thought that some rope which had gone overboard had become entangled in the propeller. At any rate we could do nothing. We were then off Sunderland. About seven o'clock we were taken in tow by the steamtugs Star Hope and General Gordon, which agreed to take the steamer back to the Tyne. When we got between the pier ends the towline snapped and we were stranded. When we saw what was the matter we thought were done for, and each man that could secured a lifebelt, but the lifeboat was soon alongside, and got us oft. The captain wanted the men to stay by her but they refused, seeing that she was filling, and he had also to leave shortly after. We have been treated with great kindness by the Shields people. The captain is a London man, and belongs to Rotherhithe.


In an interview with another of the crew, our representative learned that the steamer loaded a cargo of coal at Hebburn spouts, and left Shields harbour on Friday night, about twenty minutes past nine o'clock, for Genoa. Everything went well till four o'clock on Saturday morning, when it was discovered that something had got entangled with the propeller. Every endeavour was made by the crew to clear the obstruction, but without avail, and the engines were eventually stopped. The vessel was the left to the mercy of the sea, which was pretty heavy. This state of matters continued till about nine o'clock, when the steam-tug Star of Hope, of South Shields, observed the Hector, and bore down upon the steamer to render her assistance. She soon came up to the vessel, but could not get alongside, as the sea was very strong. The crew the tug, however, threw a line on board the steamer. This was caught, and eventually a hawser was fixed, and towing operations began. The Star of Hope performed her duty well for upwards of an hour and half, when another steam tug came on the scene. This proved to be the General Gordon, belonging Sunderland. Another tow line was got on board the Hector, and at this time the steamer was in charge of two tugs and had every anticipation of reaching her port of loading in safety. A successful tow was performed until reaching the mouth of the Tyne, when the tow-line broke on board of the Star of Hope, and before another could be got out, the Hector drifted on the end of the pier. The excitement on board the steamer was very great. She struck heavily about the engine-room, and her decks though not flooded, were frequently washed by heavy seas. The crew were not long kept in danger, however, as the lifeboat Tom Perry, towed by tug, put off, and some fourteen of the crew were got on board. They were unable to save any of their clothing and effects. They were subsequently landed in safety, and proceeded to their homes.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 2 July 1880

Open Questions
The Wreck of the Hector

Sir, —Kindly allow me to make a correction in your account of the wreck of the Hector. I happened to on the pier when she came ashore. I was near her, and shouted to a man to throw a rope ashore, and I would make it fast. He did so, and after I had made it secure a man came ashore by the rope. It was not made fast by Mr Johnson, as you report. By inserting this you will oblige.—Yours, &c.

John Baird, South Shields, July 2, 1888.

Sir, —We will claim it a favour if you will allow us, through the columns of your valuable paper, to express our sincere thanks to the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners' Royal Benevolent Society for their prompt attention and kindness in getting us food and lodgings on Saturday last, after being shipwrecked in the s.s. Hector on the south pier. We also desire to tender our sincere thanks Mr John Rudd, the society's hon. agent, for his courtesy and attention in getting us free passes to our various homes. Wishing the society every success, and hoping that every seafaring man may join its ranks. —We are, yours faithfully,

Henry Jones, Chief Engineer; James Pugsley, Third Engineer; Robert H. Leyman, William Black, James McConvel, John Hall, Seamen.

Shields, July 2nd, 1888

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 3 July 1888

The Stranded Steamer Hector

This morning, divers went down to inspect the condition of the bottom of the screw steamer Hector, which stranded off the south pier of the Tyne. In consequence, however, of the strong ground swell they were not able to complete the survey. We understand that Messrs Forster, Moore, and Bailey, of Tynemouth, the well-known divers, have been engaged for the work.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 4 July 1888

The Wreck of the Hector

The Tyne Commissioners have given notice of their intention to remove the Hector wreck which still remains the basement blocks at the end of the South Pier.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 5 July 1888

The Stranded Steamer Hector

Messrs Robert Irvine and Co., salvage engineers, West Hartlepool, have entered into a contract with the underwriters for the purpose of effecting the salvage of the screw-steamer Hector, of Sunderland, stranded at the end of the South Shields pier. The firm hare already placed a quantity of salvage appliance on the pier, and are present engaged in making preliminary arrangements for carrying on the required operations. Messrs Robert Irvine and Co. are the same firm that conducted the raising of the screwsteamer Dania, of West Hartlepool, and the large iron sailing ship British Enterprise, Liverpool.

The Board of Trade have requested their solicitor to take the necessary steps for holding a formal investigation into the circumstances connected with the stranding of the Hector, steamer, of Sunderland, on the 30th June, at the entrance of the Tyne.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 7 July 1888

The Stranded Steamer Hector

Messrs Robert Irvine and Co. salvage engineers, West Hartlepool, who have entered into a contract with the underwriters for effecting the salvage of the screw-steamer Hector, of Sunderland, stranded at the end of the South pier, have made a further examination of the vessel, and find that she is badly holed in the engine room. Centrifugal pumps have already been at work, and it is intended to have additional ones in operation. It is proposed to bulkhead the engine room off, and they expect to be able pump the water down, and so get the cargo discharged, in connection with which work a large number of men will be employed. The work being carried out Messrs Robert Irvine, jun., and Mr Boddy, superintendent engineer to the firm.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 9 July 1888

The Stranding of the Hector
Important Inquiry
Serious Charges Against Officers
Judgement of the Court

To-day, an inquiry, instituted by the Board of Trade, into the circumstances attending the stranding of the s.s. Hector, of Sunderland, on the south pier at the entrance to the Tyne, on the 30th June last, was concluded in the Town Hall, Saville North Shields, before Mr Geo. Cleugh and Mr A. H. Hill, borough magistrates, assisted by Capt. Hoare and Capt. Groves, nautical assessors. Mr Burton appeared for the Board of Trade and Mr Roche for the master, Capt. T. W. Harris.

Henry Jones said he was chief engineer of the Hector. They left Hebburn at a quarter to nine o'clock, and got over the bar about an hour afterwards. Witness had conversation with the master as to going outside and waiting for the men not on board. Witness considered dangerous to do so, but the master thought it would all right. Witness was instructed to work the engines easy and half-speed and dodge about until the tug returned with the men. The tug returned about twelve o'clock at night. The weather was very bad when they got sea and the gale increased as the night wore away. The wind was blowing right on the land. The master spoke the tug when she came up twelve o'clock. The master wanted the tug to come alongside, but the master of the tug refused, deeming it dangerous to so. Witness did not see the rope washed overboard. The engines stopped about four o'clock, but were set agoing again. About four o'clock the engines stopped again, and could not be re-started. The master, was sorry to say, was under the influence of drink, but he knew what he was doing. Witness saw the steward come on board the ship. He was drunk at the time. Witness saw little of the mate. He first saw him at seven o'clock in the morning of the 30th June. About that time, witness had visit from one of the men, who asked him to go on deck and reason with the master to arrange with the master of the tug. He did so. At that time the master was not, in his opinion, quite sober. The tug master wanted £200 to tow the vessel to the Tyne. The master was negotiating with him, but did not act sensibly. He first offered £50, and then £20, and afterwards £10. Witness then went into the engine room. Subsequently witness was again sent for by the crew, and asked to see the master. Witness then went on deck and begged the master of tug to throw them a line to save their lives, promising to have the question of payment settled by arbitration. They were then in sight land. The deck was not clear. There were not sufficient hands to clear the deck. Witness understood the master to say that the second mate, cook, and four sailors were not on board. Witness did not see the ropes washed overboard or tow lines part. Cross-examined: He did not see the master take any drink. He thought he was under the influence of drink from his actions. Witness did not think any sane man would have put to sea on such a night. He also considered the master under the influence of drink from the way in which bargained with the tug-master. He first offered £50, then £20, and afterwards £10, £5, and £2 10s 0d. When the vessel first struck, the master said to witness, she's all right, she's going all right. Witness could not say whether that was before the towline broke.

James Miller, second engineer on board the Hector, who held a chief engineer's certificate, said the weather was very bad, and they several times shipped seas. He saw a quantity of rope and chain on the deck. Witness found the door of the bonded store open and a case of gin on the floor. Witness saw the master several times during the night and morning. The master was then under the influence of drink. In the morning, witness said to the master, “You have made fine mess of it now." and he replied, “We are all right; we are going in all right." Witness did not see the steward. Cross-examined: Witness considered the master under the influence of drink from his manner.

Wm. Black said he was boatswain of the Hector. They were six men short when they sailed, viz., the second mate, two able seamen, and the cook. The hatches were not battened down when they sailed. They battened them down when they got out to sea. The decks were not cleared. There were ropes and chains lying about. Witness was on duty from eight o'clock the 29th ult., until the ship went ashore. They were at work all night. The mate was seen on deck about twelve o'clock at night, but witness did not see him. Witness was ordered the mate to clear the deck and set the watch. That was before he turned in. A piece of rope went overboard about twelve o'clock, and about half-past two o'clock another piece was washed overboard. Witness was on the bridge on the look out when the first rope went overboard. Witness was relieved about 2 30. They cut the rope that went overboard the second time, and the engines were re-started. A third rope went overboard afterwards, and finally stopped the engines. The master was then in the chart room. That was about four o'clock in the morning. Witness called the master, who was asleep. The master was not sober. Witness heard the master bargaining with the master of the tug. Witness first saw the mate at seven o'clock in the morning of the 30th June. He was not sober. Witness saw the towline part. They then sent their wire rope on board, but it did not hold two minutes. They then sent 5-inch rope board the tug, and it only held until hauled tight. The Hector then went ashore. The General Gordon bung on until the arrival of the lifeboat. About ten minutes elapsed between the vessel striking and her becoming fast. The ship moved about twenty feet after she struck. Witness did not see the steward. He did not see any drinking. He spoke to the master about being shorthanded, and he replied that they were going down to the buoys to wait for the men. Witness did not think it was fit for then to out to sea on such a night. Cross-examined: He had several conversations with the masters during the night. He did not speak sensibly. When witness asked the master about the signals, he hesitated and said, in reply to what signal he should use, "Oh, any flag." The master afterwards told him which flag to run up. The master was on the bridge and walked about. Re-examined: Witness picked up the signals, but the master told him which to take. By Capt. Hoare: Witness saw the mate in the cook's bunk about seven o'clock. The mate did not keep the watch on the bridge between eleven p.m. and four a.m. Witness and the carpenter kept the watch. The captain went below at 12 30 and came up when called at 3 30. They were unable to stow away the ropes and chains by reason of the seas that were washing over the deck. Neither the captain nor mate superintended the work. Witness superintended the getting out of the hawser. No orders were given by the captain or mate when the hawser broke.

Robert Hy. Leyman, able seaman, said he sailed in the Hector the 29th ult., and generally corroborated the previous witness. Witness understood they were going to sea when they sailed. He was at the wheel from 10 p.m. till 4 a.m. When went to the wheel he received instructions, but received orders after ten o'clock.

John Richardson, fireman on board the Hector, said heard the captain bargaining with the master of the tug to take the vessel to the Tyne. The tug master said would tow the Hector to the Tyne for £200 and not a cent. less, whereupon the captain made a bid of £20 and then began to make faces at the tug master.

Robert Miller Black, master of the tug boat Star of Hope, said that he sighted the Hector about nine miles off Sunderland about 7 o'clock on the morning of the 30th June. The Hector had signals of distress flying. She was lying in a perfectly helpless state, seas breaking over her. Witness bore down the Hector, and asked if they wanted any assistance. The reply came back,” Yes." Witness could not make any arrangement with the master; he acted in so strange a manner. Witness then asked for the second mate, when the reply from the crew was that “he was worse than the captain." Witness did not know what state the master was in except from what the crew said. They shouted that they (master and mate) were “both stupid drunk.'  Witness could not say anything about their state, however. Witness put his rope on board Hector, and it broke near the pier end.

John Moon, master of the tug General Gordon, said that he sighted the Hector about seven o'clock on the morning of the 30th of June. He at once made for her, and on getting alongside, he saw the captain on the bridge. He was leaning on the gunwale of one of the boats with his face in his hands. When about 20 yards off, witness hailed him, but received no reply. He hailed him five or six times and in reply to the question as to whether he wanted any assistance he simply waved his hands. Ultimately be was engaged by others on board he thought by the mate and others of the crew. After taking the Hector in tow, witness saw the captain go into the chart house and did not see him again. He could not say that there was anything peculiar about the master. When nearing Shields bar several tugs came up and offered their services. After the tow, line parted the master of the tug Contest offered his services but he like others was refused. The Contest was alongside for a good while.

Anthony Reed Emmerson, coxswain of lifeboat James Young, of North Shields, said that he took the captain, mate, and a fireman off the Hector and landed them at the Fish Quay, North Shields. They were sober.

Thomas Cook, Board of Trade officer, South Shields, said he attended to the shipping of the crew of the Hector. It was arranged that if any of the crew did not turn up when the vessel was ready to sail, that the master should send a tug to the Mill Dam, and that witness would procure substitutes and send them on board.

Wm. Stokes, boarding house master, Mill Dam, said he took the cook and two able seamen on board the Hector on the Friday. He saw the captain, who began to make out advance notes for the men. Suddenly, however, be jumped up in rage, and declared that he would not make out any more advance notes. He gave no reason for this, and the men refused to sea. The captain was not sober. When witness was on board the Hector on Thursday, the mate and second mate were drunk, and showing fight to all on board.

Cross-examined: The captain did not say he would not sign the advance notes unless some person was present identity the men.

John Robinson, able seaman, said that before sailing on the 29th June he spoke to the captain about the ship being short handed, and asked how far he intended to go without the men. The captain replied that they would drop down as far as the Mill Dam and there wait for the men. The captain was not at that time quite sober. Witness saw the captain between five and six o'clock on the following morning. He told witness to seek the mate, and he did so, but failed to find him. Witness did not see the steward. Witness received no other orders from the captain. With the exception of about hour and a-half witness was on duty all night.

Mr Roche having addressed Court on behalf of the master,

Wm. W. Smith, the mate, said he had nothing to say but that he left his case with the Court.

The court found that the stranding of the Hector was caused by the master and mate not attending to their duties and by the parting of the hawsers when in tow of the tug boats. The master had been on deck at intervals, but the mate was scarcely there at all, and both were unable attend to their duties. Signals of distress were displayed and help offered, but the master was unable to arrange about the assistance, and the crew did so, remuneration to be settled by arbitration. The vessel was not navigated with, proper and seamanlike care, and the court found the master and mate in default, and suspended the certificate of the master Thos. A. Harris, for eighteen months, and the mate, Wm. W. Smith, for twelve months.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 18 July 1888

The Sunken S. S. Hector

With respect to the screw-steamer .Hector of Sunderland, stranded the South Pier, it was intended to try and raise her on Saturday, but owing to the rough sea the divers were prevented from going below to make final examination. The sea is making a clean sweep over her. The centrifugal pumps have been removed from the lighter to the deck the Hector, in order to facilitate pumping operations when she is raised.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 30 July 1888

The Stranded Hector

A trial is being made to lift the s.s. Hector from her position at the South Pier, South ShieIds, to-day. The powerful double-engined tugs of Mr Joseph Lawson are in attendance to assist in the work and get her to safe berth.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 3 August 1888

Tomorrow Afternoon
Re S. S. Hector

T. GLOVER AND SON are Instructed to SELL BY PUBLIC AUCTION, at the King's Head Inn, No. 103 Hudson Street, North Shields, on FRIDAY NEXT, the 31st Aug, 1888, at 3o'clock prompt, the following stores:—4 Compasses, 3 Signal Lamps, Binnacle Top, Deep Sea Lead, coil of White Manilla Rope, coil of Ratling Line, coil of Spun Yarn, 2 bolts of Canvas, 11 pieces of Canvas, etc.

Auction Office, 6 King Street, South Shields.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 30 August 1888

The Steamer Hector

The steamer Hector, of Sunderland, stranded at the end of the South Pier, has been sold to local firm.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 31 August 1888

The Stranded Steamer Hector
Successful Raising Operations

On Saturday, the steamer Hector, which stranded at the end of the South Pier, at the mouth of the Tyne, on Saturday, the 30th June, was successfully raised. It will be remembered that operations with that object in view had been tried in vain by a Hartlepool firm, and it was generally believed that to float her was an impossible task. A short time ago the Dundee Salvage Company took the work in hand. Operations were commenced without delay, a large staff of men, experienced in the raising of sunken vessels, being engaged, under the superintendence of Mr T. N. Armit, a gentleman who has been very successful in this class work. The attempt to float the Hector on Saturday having been announced in the Gazette, an enormous crowd congregated on the pier. A large number of tugs were in attendance ready to render any assistance that might be required. From one till two o'clock a thick haze prevailed at the mouth of the river, which prevented the people who were at the storm gates—beyond which no one was allowed without special permission—from seeing what was being done. But later on the fog cleared away and the sun shone down brightly, and the greatest interest was exhibited as the result of the operations. Four large pumps were at work, turning out a tremendous quantity of water, but as the tide rose the large vessel lay apparently immovable. Just about three o'clock, however, her stern gradually lifted and swung out towards the river. Just before this the tide had risen level with her bulwarks, and the waves were occasionally splashing over the bratticing that had been erected to the height of three or four feet above, all along each side. Mr Armit had evidently made his calculations with great nicety, and when the large hull was seen in motion the excitement of the onlookers was intense. Slowly she worked round with the flow of the tide, but she seemed to be fast to the bottom underneath the stem. Eventually the tugs engaged for the purpose succeeded in dragging her clear altogether, and she was towed towards the Herd Sand, where it was expected she would be beached a little to the south of the Groyne. She however grounded on the edge of the channel before the intended distance been reached, but she lay in a much better position than before for an examination of the bottom. The full extent of the damage was ascertained yesterday and Mr Armit expected to be able to beach the steamer this afternoon at high water, when she will be temporarily repaired and afterwards towed up the river and placed in one of the repairing docks.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 24 September 1888

The Steamer Hector
Removed Up River

This morning the screw-steamer Hector, which was stranded at the end of the south pier on the 30th June, and floated to the Herd Sand on Saturday last, was again floated, and taken up the river in tow of four tugs. It will be remembered that on Saturday last she settled down at the south side of the navigable channel in the harbour. It was afterwards found necessary that the remainder of the cargo should be taken out as quickly as possible, case the tides should be lost, and a large staff of salvage operators, under Mr Armit, have been in constant attendance. The firm secured two of the Tyne Commissioners' hoppers, Nos. 11 and 12, for the purpose of transhipping the cargo from the Hector, and a considerable quantity was safely got out, which tended to lighten the vessel a great deal, giving the firm a better chance of removing the vessel. This morning at the flow of the tide, four powerful steamtugs were in attendance. The harbour officials were also present. The vessel successfully floated about eight o'clock, and was immediately towed up the river. In case of any mishap she was guided astern by two tugs, and towed by the other two. The operation was witnessed by a large number of people from the Lawe.  She was taken up the river with the intention of being docked at the Wallsend Pontoon Graving Dock, where she will be in due course be repaired. Hector was formerly owned by Mr Edward T. Gourley, M.P., of Sunderland. She was built at Sunderland in 1803, Length, 284ft. 4in.; breadth, 34ft. 8in. ; depth of hold, 27ft. 8in.; gross tonnage, 1,979; engines, 200 horse-power nominal.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 29 September 1888