Disasters at Shield
Total Loss of a Barque and all On Board
About one o'clock this morning the storm raged with tremendous violence, and the sea was running fearfully high across Shields bar. At this time three signal guns from the Spanish Battery, Tynemouth, and a like number from H.M.S. Castor, boomed forth the mournful intelligence that a vessel was in distress at the entrance of the harbour. Notwithstanding the early hour of the morning and the fearful weather large numbers of persons turned out in order if possible to lend a helping hand in rescuing those exposed to the fury of the wind and sea, or learn the fate of those who had been cast ashore. The whole of the officers and almost every member of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade were in attendance. A largevessel was seen making for the harbour previous to the firing of the guns, but the brigadesmen observed that she had got to the south side of the South Pier and must evidently come ashore. They then exhibited three bright lights from the Watch House, upon which the guns were fired. The waggon containing the rocket and life-saving apparatus was with great difficulty run a considerable distance down the pier and made fast. Five rockets were fired and a line was got on board the vessel, which had now struck the sand about one hundred yards south of the pier, and only a short distance from the wrecked schooner Scylla, but it was not used by the crew. The vessel then heeled over with her decks to the sea, and immediately commenced to break up. The brigadesmen shouted to the men to haul on the line, but they evidently had not understood the use of the apparatus because it was not used. The lifeboats Tom Perry, Tyne, and Northumberland were manned and pulled down towards the bar, but their crews found it impossible to make headway in consequence of the violence of the storm, and, after almost exhausting themselves, they were obliged return to the river. The ill-fated vessel broke in almost incredibly short space of time, and the whole of the crew perished, notwithstanding that they were within a stone's throw of the shore. At daylight the beach presented a strange and even melancholy appearance, the wreck being strewn about in all directions. It was then found that the vessel had been a large timber-laden ship the huge balks with which she had been loaded were mixed amongst the timbers of the wreck. Amongst other things picked up were a Bible, an old log book, a name-board, and life-buoy. These gave the name of the ship being the “Henry Cooke," and the life-buoy was also marked with the word "Glasgow." It is stated, however, that the Henry Cooke belonged to Mr Swallow, of South Shields, was commanded by Captain Waddell, and was bound from Quebec for Sunderland. From the Mercantile Register we find that the Henry Cooke was a full-rigged ship, of 925 tons register, and was at Miramichi, N. B., in 1854. It supposed she would have a crew of from 15 to 20 hands on board. Between six and seven o'clock this morning one body was picked up near the scene of the catastrophe, and taken to the Dead-house. It was lacerated in a frightful manner, and the deceased appeared to have been injured by the heavy balks which formed the cargo.
The scene of the disaster has this forenoon been visited by thousands of persons. The wreck is strewn about the beach in a wonderful manner. Among other things which have been found are two Good Templars' certificates. One states that John Swallow Waddell, master of the ship Henry Cooke, was, on the 2nd March, 1874, admitted member of the "Advance" Lodge, No. 584, located at Greenock. The other states that Peter Jansen, a resident of Denmark, and mate of the Henry Cooke, was, on the 27th October, 1874, admitted member the "Stadacona" Lodge, No. 26, situated Quebec. No definite intelligence as to the exact number of the crew has been ascertained, and no more bodies had up to midday been recovered. Several men were engaged in securing the cargo, and placing the timber above high water mark.
Source Shields Daily Gazette & Telegraph 9th of December 1872
List of the crew:
J. S. Waddle, captain, resided at Blyth, and leaves a widow and family;
John Arinea, mate. King's Lynn;
Edward Forster, second mate, Blyth;
Wm. Reith, carpenter, Stonehaven;
John Green, cook and steward, Greenock;
Patrick Curtis, able seamen
John Braden, able seamen
Peter Jansen, able seamen
Edward Williams, able seamen
Charles Johnson, able seamen
Joseph Latimer, able seamen
Thomas Miller, able seamen
David Bolam; able seamen
John Dunn, able seamen ;
Wm. Vickery, George Watson, ordinary seamen
Henry Gossland, boy.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 12th of December 1874
The Wreck of the Barque
Finding of Two Bodies
This morning, the bodies of two men were picked near the Trow Rocks, South Shields. They were attired in seamen's clothing, and were doubtless part of the crew of the ill-fated barque Henry Cooke. The clothes were very much torn. The men appeared to between 25 and 30 years of and had evidently been strong and powerful persons. One of them had a rope fastened round the waist, as though the man had been lashed to the rigging. It was very much tatooed about the arms, one of which had on the American flag in colours and the other a full rigged ship. The other body had a piece of elastic round the neck, and on this was a small crucifix, which leads to the belief that the deceased had been a Roman Catholic.
Stealing Copper from the Wreck
Yesterday afternoon, a seaman named Francis McMann, belonging to Sunderland was taken into custody by P.C. Barnett, of the River Tyne Police, on a charge of stealing copper from the wreck of the barque Henry Cooke. When apprehended he had about 20 pounds weight of copper in his possession. He was brought before the South Shields magistrates this morning, when the charge was proved and he was committed to prison for one month.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 11 December 1874
The Late Barque Henry Cooke
Communication from the Owners
We have received the following communication from Mr Robert Swallow, of Bridge Street, Sunderland, owner of the late barque Henry Cooke, respecting the fate of that vessel:—"Captain Jenner, of the Scotch schooner Halls, called yesterday at the office the owner of the Henry Cooke, and stated that it had been in company with that vessel all the way from Rattray Head Blyth, showing the vessel had coma north about, so that the report of the ship having been seen off the Tees with her stern stove in is not correct. Captain Jenner says he exchanged a few words with the captain the Henry Cooke, who said that all was then. The ship's topmasts were down, and everything prepared for meeting rough weather. Captain Jenner last saw the Henry Cooke at about three o'clock Tuesday afternoon, when she was heading out to sea, evidently with the intention of waiting the tide for Sunderland." Appended is list of the crew:—J. S. Waddle, captain, resided at Blyth, and leaves a widow and family; John Arinea, mate. King's Lynn; Edward Forster, second mate, Blyth ; Wm. Reith, carpenter, Stonehaven; John Green, cook and steward, Greenock; Patrick Curtis, John Braden, Peter Jansen, Edward Williams, Charles Johnson, Joseph Latimer, Thomas Miller, David Bolam; John Dunn, able seamen ; Wm. Vickery, George Watson, ordinary seamen Henry Gossland, boy.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 12 December 1874
The Loss of the Henry Cooke, Friday, December 11, 1874.
A NEWSPAPER published in the port at which the late barque Henry Cooke was registered —the Glasgow News —directs attention to the circumstances attending the loss of that vessel, and reflects on the efficiency of the service rendered by the Life Brigade. “Accuracy (it says) in firing the rockets in such cases should be aimed at the whole year through; and this, the most melancholy of many fatal shipwrecks which have recently occurred, ought cause Government to issue a Commission of Inquiry into the whole question. The Commissioners could proceed from Shields to Granton, and from thence to Fraserburgh, where inquiry seems to be much needed." So far as the latter port is concerned, our contemporary's columns have of late borne painful testimony to the necessity for something being done in the way of improvement; but as regards the Tyne, there was certainly nothing in the events of last Tuesday morning calling for the slightest reflection on the action of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade. The vessel had just struck the sand when the gear of the Brigade was ready for use, and in less than one minute a rocket was shrieking through the air. It apparently fell short of the ship and quick willing and well-practised hands could send up another, a second rocket was fired, and the line lay across the Henry Cooke's jibboom. What more, then, was wanted on the part of the Brigade That even then there was not a single creature able to help himself on board the barque is just about as certain as if the story of absolute helplessness were being told today by one who was there. Ignorance as to how they should proceed when the hawser was within reach is entirely out of the question at this time of day. When Manby's apparatus was new and little known, stranded seamen in plenty might, doubtless, hare been found who could not tell what the silent messenger meant; but it is quite otherwise now, and to suppose that nobody on board a large British ship, commanded by a Northumbrian mariner, comprehended what was to be done when a piece of slack had to be hauled in, is a suggestion not worthy of a moment's consideration. It is likely enough that some, if not all, of the hands were on the wreck when the second rocket was fired, but the position of the vessel was such ' that they could scarcely have done anything to save themselves. Instead, therefore, of a Government Commission inquiring into proceedings which a mass of independent, if not even critical, onlookers know to have been in every respect worthy of the highest commendation both for promptitude and skill, it would be well if an official investigation could be held into every detail connected with the state of the ship. Board of Trade, inquiries, dealing only with questions affecting the navigation of vessels in trouble, are well enough in their way even with all the faults inherent in tribunals constituted as such Courts are at present; but that something else is required is made abundantly plain by the shipwreck under notice.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 11 December 1874
Dec 14 1874
To the Editor of the “Glasgow News”
67 Hope St
My attention has been directed to a paragraph in your issue of 10th inst referring to the loss of the barque “Henry Cooke” with all hands at the mouth of the Tyne.
You begin by throwing out some doubt as to the efficiency of the Life Saving Apparatus and follow it up by saying that it would be hard to satisfy the public that the lives could not have been saved.
Now by these statements a reflection is cast upon the crew who worked the Rocket Apparatus on that occasion viz the Members of the South Shields Life Brigade, and they are highly indignant , and justly so, as the writer of the paragraph could have no idea of the circumstances of the case.
From the vessel first striking until she was lying in splinters along the beech not a living soul was seen or a voice heard. You confess that a line was thrown across her jib boom. Perhaps you are not aware that the next operation must be performed by the crew, and if they fail, what more can be done from the shore?
It is not my intention to occupy your space by recounting all the services of our Brigade since its formation in 1866, but will merely state that we have landed from wrecks at least 120 people.
The latter part of your paragraph casts a further slur on our character, that the Rockets were badly aimed and that a Royal Commission should enquire into this, and the whole question, commencing at South Shields and ending at Frazerburg.
As far as the Shields Brigade is concerned I say-not boastfully, but in defence, that it would be difficult to find a body of men who are more expert in firing Rockets or handling the Rocket Apparatus, and if your Commission ever comes to Shields it would be to see how thing can be properly done.
I do not know whether if I have given an undue weight to the words of your paper but false impressions get abroad and are spread all over the country from which innocent persons suffer. It is for the benefit of your readers and in justice to the Brigade that I trouble to reply to this. To show a different view of the matter is taken by one of our local papers. I will conclude by quoting some remarks published this morning.
The Sout. Shields Life Brigade are worthy of the highest honour for their magnificent courage and promptness on the terrible morning of Wednesday. No one can have any conception of the dangers and difficulties they had to encounter, without going down to the So. Pier, when the sea was comparatively calm and witnessing the wild and terrific scene which was then presented. We need not say much of the degeneracy of Englishmen when she can produce sons such as these”
Trusting you will publish this as soon as possible.
I remain Yours truly
Hon Sec South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade
Source: Minute Book One
On Saturday, Mr John Graham, coroner, held an inquest at the Marine Hotel, South Shields, on the bodies of two men who, as already reported, were picked on Friday. They are supposed to belong to the Henry Cooke, but there being no identification a verdict of "Found drowned" was returned.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 14 December 1874
Bodies Found at South Shields—Yesterday afternoon, Mr John Graham, coroner, hold an inquest the Marine Hotel, South Shields, upon two bodies unknown. As previously reported, one of the bodies was found near to Marsden Rock on Friday afternoon. On examination, two letters "J. H." and a star and anchor were found tattooed on the back of each hand. The second was found yesterday morning in Frenchman's Bay, and bore the following marks A fishing smack, a small fish, and four spots in the form of a diamond upon the inside of the left arm; an anchor on the outside of the right arm; and a small ship in full sail upon the inside the right arm. Both are supposed to have belonged to the barque Henry Cooke, but there being no one able to identify them, a verdict "found drowned —supposed to be by shipwreck," was returned.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 22 December 1874
Wanted, written tenders for the rafting and floating of the cargo of timber and wood, ex-Henry Cooke, from South Shields Beach, where it now lays, to the River Wear. Address R. Swallow and Co., 16 Bridge St., Sunderland.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 21 December 1874
Wreck of the Ship Henry Cooke
On South Shields Sands
Notice —Any Wreck or Stores belonging to the ship Henry Cooke which have been or may hereafter be picked up belonging to the above-named vessel, must be delivered to the person in charge of the wreck, at the "Brigade House," South Pier, and salvage will be paid thereon after the sale of the same. Any one found with wreck or stores in their possession belonging to the said ship, and not reporting the same will be prosecuted.
26 Spring Terrace, North Shields,
The Receiver appointed.
SALE OF WRECK AND STORES AT
M. PYE & SONS have received instructions from the Underwriters, to SELL BY AUCTION, on Wednesday, Dec. 30th, 1874, near the Brigade House, South Shields, Pier,
THE WRECK OF THE SHIP HENRY COOKE,
Also the STORES, consisting of Anchors, Chains, Sails, Warps, Standing and Running Rigging, Set of New Signal Flags, Iron Caps, Brass Bell, Masts, Yards, Spars, Quantity of COPPER, &c.
Sale to commence Ten for Eleven o'Clock.
Sale Offices, Collingwood Street. Newcastle.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 26 December 1874
The Wreck of the Henry Cooke South Shields
Board of Trade Inquiry
This morning an inquiry, instituted by the Board of Trade into the circumstances connected with the wreck of the barque Henry Cooke, the property of Mr Swalwell, of Sunderland, was opened in the Town Hall, South Shields. It will be remembered that the Henry Cooke was wrecked on the sands a little to the south of the South Pier, South Shields, during a heavy gale on the morning of the of 9th December last, when the whole of her crew, numbering seventeen hands, were drowned. The vessel was timber laden, and on a voyage from Quebec for Sunderland. The inquiry was held before Ald. Strachan and Ald. Moore, borough justices, and Captain Prowse, R.N., and Mr S. T. Cornish, nautical assessors. Mr L. V. Hamel, solicitor, Newcastle, conducted the case on behalf the Board of Trade; and Mr T. Tinley Dale represented Mr R. Swalwell the owner of the vessel.
Mr Hamel having opened the inquiry describing her tonnage, &c., referred to her having been stranded on the Irish Coast in January, 1873, when on voyage from Liverpool for Pensacola. She was afterwards sold for £500, and subsequently pumped out and floated, upon which she was towed to Troon awn repaired. In April 1873, the vessel, which had previously become the property of Robt. Swalwell was placed in Mr Edward's High Dock, South Shields, and about £2,000 were spent upon her. On the 4th September last she cleared out at Quebec, bound for England, with 1,098 tons of balk timber, and a quantity (not large) of deals, having no deck cargo. Mr Hamel then described the wreck of the vessel, and said the chief points to be considered were with reference to the conduct of the members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade on the occasion, and as so the seaworthiness or otherwise of vessel.
The first witness called was Samuel Hicks, coastguardsman, who deposed: About midnight on Tuesday, the 8th of December last, I was on the South Pier, and saw the port light of a vessel along the coast I watched the light about twenty minutes or half an hour. I then burned a light for the guns to be fired at Tynemouth. The signal was answered immediately. The brigadesmen who were in the Watch House, got their apparatus down to the wreck before the guns fired. A rocket was fired about ten minutes after vessel struck. She was about 600 yards off the south side of the South Pier. I cannot tell whether the rocket reached the vessel. In about ten minutes more a second rocket was fired, no communication having been effected by the first. Two more rockets were fired, and about half hour was occupied in firing the whole of the rockets. As the fourth rocket fired, the vessel was seen to fall over. At this time another vessel (the J. P. Frecker) came ashore, and the apparatus was taken towards her, and a rocket fired. I heard no sound from the Henry Cooke, and it was hardly possible to have heard anything. There was between nine and ten feet sea on the bar, and wind was east by north, the force about ten. I cannot say whether she fell with her deck to the sea or to the shore.
Cross examined by Mr Dale: - I have not seen the sea higher than it was that night on this coast. The sea was making clean breach over the vessel, and she went to pieces immediately.
Re-examined by Captain Prowse: I have always found the brigadesmen ready to give assistance on the occasion of a wreck. The weather was very stormy, and a great many members of the brigade were in attendance. In my opinion nothing more could have been done by the brigade than was done. I did not see anyone on board the vessel. When the first rocket was fired she not within range. The next morning I saw the wreck strewn along the coast, but not any portion of a boat. There was no wreckage from any other vessel on the beach.
By Ald. Moore: The vessel did not appear to shift much.
Andrew Whitelaw, member of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, said: I went to the Watch House about ten o'clock on the night of Tuesday, the 8th of December last. While there, about a quarter to one o'clock the following morning, the coast guard reported that vessel was standing close in, and the brigade had better make preparations. The wind was very strong from east by north, and it was a "dirty” night at sea. I had then only been three months in the brigade, but I had previously been twenty two years at sea. When got the apparatus down, about five minutes afterwards, the guns were fired from the Spanish Battery. The vessel must then have been close to the shore. I saw that the vessel was barque and close reefed topsail set. The red light was burning as brightly as though it had been newly trimmed. She was this time a wreck, but keeping together. The first rocket was then fired about one o'clock, but went to leeward, we then took the standard a little further to windward, and I saw from the reflection that the line of the second rocket went over the stays of the jibboom. We thought the line had been secured. One of the members shouted through the speaking trumpet for the crew to haul the line on board, but I heard no response. When we found that the line was not being hauled on board the ship, a third rocket was fired, but it fell short. I saw the vessel again by the light the rocket. She was then moving, and her decks wore exposed to the sea. A fourth rocket was fired about seven minutes after the third. One of the captains then shouted out that the vessel was going to pieces, and the mast then disappeared. Orders were then given for the members to get lamps and patrol the beach to see whether any of crew might come ashore. There was a very heavy sea, and it was breaking over the pier.
Mr Dale: The gale was as heavy as any I have experienced with exception of a typhoon. I saw spray going over the vessel's topmasts heads. I don't think there was anybody on the vessel’s deck when she struck. There had been very heavy gales and a high sea for about a week before the morning of the wreck. The tide was about two-thirds ebb. If the vessel had remained where she struck she would not been dry at low water. There were four other wrecks on the beech during that wreck.
By Capt. Prowse: Considering the sea that was running, I am of the opinion any well founded vessel would have broken up as quickly as the Henry Cooke did. Her falling with her decks to the sea contributed to her going to pieces so quickly.
At this stage of the inquiry, Ald. Strachan complained that a charge should have been brought against the members of the Volunteer Life Brigade, and thought the Board of Trade had acted injustly towards them in instituting an inquiry of such an inquisitional character, without having produced any evidence to show that they did not do all in their power to save life.
Mr Hamel said the Board Trade were of the opinion that the reports were not true and they wished to remove the slur which had been thrown upon them. The inquiry as he expected had pointed out was not so much as to the conduct of the brigade as to the seaworthiness of the vessel.
Ald. Strachan maintained that there was no accuser and the Board Trade had exceeded the law. He would like to know who had sent the reports to the Board of Trade
Mr Whitelaw said he felt very much hurt to have to be called upon to exonerate the conduct of gentlemen who gave their services gratuitously to save life.
After some further observations Mr Hamel said they had been going on a wrong hypothesis, and it had just occurred him that it was not the conduct of the Volunteer Life Brigade the Board Trade wished to inquire into, but into the working of the apparatus.
The examination of witnesses was then resumed, and Mr Wm. Cay, captain of the first division of the Life Brigade, was called. His evidence was in corroboration of that given by Mr Whitelaw.
Mr Cay, in answer to Mr Dale, said he did not think any vessel could live in such a storm and such a sea with the same cargo on board.
[The inquiry was proceeding when we went to press.]
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 16 March 1875
The Wreck of the Henry Cooke South Shields
The Adjourned Inquiry
This morning, the Board of Trade inquiry into the circumstances of the wreck of the barque Henry Cooke was resumed the Town Hall, South Shields, The magistrates were Ald. Strachan and Ald. Moore, and they were assisted Capt. Prowse, R.N., and T. Cornish, nautical assessors. Mr L. V. Hamel, solicitor, Newcastle, conducted the case on behalf of the Board of Trade; and Mr T. Tinley Dale appeared for Mr R. Swallow, the owner of the vessel.
Hugh Calderwood, manager of shipbuilding establishment, known as the Troon Shipbuilding Company, said that in the year 1872 the barque Henry Cooke was under his charge for repairs. She arrived May of that year. There were no repairs done to her until after she went into dry dock. The owner (Mr McCullagh) pointed out to him what required to be done to the vessel, namely, three lengths a piece of dead wood, and garboard streak of keel, new rudder, braces, and other repairs. She was sheathed with inch and half yellow pine from the keel to the upper part of the ways, and caulked from keel gunwale, including water ways and stanchions, also decks ware required. She was in dock five or six weeks under repairs, and another week or two was neaped in. The old keel was away altogether at the after end, and the other damage to her bottom was on the starboard bilge. The timber of the old keel was quite sound. The timber in which they bored through in order to put in treenails were also perfectly sound. The vessel was principally built of spruce and black birch, and several of the timbers had been renewed with pitch pine in 1862. Henry Cooke was under his charge at Ardroman in 1862, when she was re-classed for five years, A1. She then got new topsides and the ceiling was almost all off in the inside. The lower hold beams were taken out from the misennmst forward, and several new timbers were put in. She was then under Lloyd's inspection and all the timbers that were defective were taken out the vessel, and replaced principally with pitch pine. The repairs in 1862 were those ordered by Lloyds’ surveyor. The cost of the repairs in 1872 was £377 19s 4d.
Examined by Mr Dale: Witness never knew the vessel to require pumping before she left Troon, and she lay in the harbour for a considerable time. She was for sale when in the dry dock and was examined by several persons, after being opened out. The repairs done in 1872 were simply those arising from her having been ashore, and he did not notice any the handiwork done in 1862.
Re-examined by Mr Hamel: He did not look for any defects except those caused by her being aground. The vessel had a windmill and flywheel pump.
By Mr Cornish: The vessel was surveyed after the repairs were effected.
Joseph Johnson, shipwright, North Shields, said the wreck the Henry Cooke was sold to him and others on the 31st December last, by auction. They purchased the whole of the wreck lying between high and low water marks, and from one end of the beach to the other. They then proceeded to dissect the wreck, and get out what iron and copper they could, and also to secure what wood was worth keeping. A good deal of the latter was of very inferior quality. He had purchased many wrecks previously. They paid £47 9s for the portion they purchased He believed the bottom, with the anchors, chains,&c, were sold for a little over £100. This was the worst wreck had had anything to do with. They could see where the ship had been repaired apparently about three years ago. Various portions of the wreck were removed to the store room at the South Shields Custom House for inspection. Robert Porter assisted him the removal. The portion removed was very fair sample of the whole wreck; both as regarded the owner and the Board of Trade. The name of the vessel was on various parts of the wreck, including the stern and the port bow.
By Ald. Strachan: There was other wreckage on the beach when the Henry Cooke was sold.
By Ald. Dale: The fact of timber being hollow would render vessel unseaworthy, notwithstanding that the ceiling and outside planking were good. When timber was removed to the Custom House, none the owners the Henry Cooke were present. He had never seen more wreckage the beach at any one time, although he had seen more vessels ashore. He did not see the name of the vessel on the starboard bow. It was very stormy weather when we purchased the wreck. Mr Abbot, the Board Trade shipwright surveyor, took samples of the wreck from the portions breaking up. All the portions of wreck from which samples were taken belonged to the Henry Cooke; and, in his opinion, those portions now the Custom House also belonged to the same vessel. This was one of the worst wrecks he had ever seen. He did not offer to sell any portion of the wood to either Mr Swallow or Mr Harford. He had sold a quantity the timber to the River Tyne Commissioners for £50, and, there was still a portion lying on the beach. The repaired portion of the vessel was very good, and seemed to have been overhauled within a short period.
By Mr Cornish: The wood had decayed from the time of it being put into the vessel.
Robert Porter, ship carpenter. Coble Dene, North Shields, was next examined. He said he was employed by Mr Johnson to gather samples of the wreck for inspection by the Board of Trade Surveyor. The samples were a fair average of the whole wreck. They were wrapped up in canvass and taken to the Custom House. They were labelled, and marked with the letter “P." .The samples were taken from the midship part, but he could not say whether from the port or starboard side. They were wrapped in canvass because they would not hold together otherwise. As they sawed the wood through small pieces kept falling off.
By Mr Dale: He did not see any portions of the vessel's name on the part of the wreck which he was engaged. He had no idea of the size of the timber he sawed through. He could state that the whole of the vessel there was not sound timber, but some were better than others.
Ald. Strachan said no reliance could be placed on the evidence given by this witness, as it was impossible that vessel in the condition he had described the Henry Cooke as having been in, could have come along the coast in such weather.
[The inquiry proceeding when we went to press]
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 19 March 1875
The Wreck of the Henry Cooke South Shields
As reported in our last impression, the Board of Trade inquiry into the loss of the barque Henry Cooke, which took place a little to the north of the South Pier, South Shields during a heavy gale, on the 9th December last was resumed at the Town Hall, Market Place. The following evidence was taken after we went to press:—
Walter Abbott, Shipwreck Surveyor of the Board of Trade said that in December last he received instructions to examine the wrecks of the barque Henry Cooke and the schooner Arcadia, and he did so. There was no danger of confusing the portions of wreck as the vessels were of different tonnage. The wood of the Arcadia was good and that of the Henry Cooke bad. No portion of the Arcadia would bear comparison with the Henry Cooke. The Arcadia was a total wreck, but the wreck was not strewn along the beach. He examined as much of the Henry Cooke as was on the shore, the condition of which he reported to the Board of Trade. After that report was sent he was again instructed to examine the wreck. The result of that survey was also reported to the Board of Trade. The witness here read copies of his reports on the condition of the wreck as sent to the Board of Trade. Out of the fifteen timbers on the port bow eight were rotten. Many other portions of the wreck were also stated to be rotten. He was convinced that the vessel would make a great quantity of water on the port bow, and the manner in which the porthole was secured was enough to make her unseaworthy. The water ways were very rotten were the vessel parted and two of the masts were dangerously rotten. In his opinion the vessel was sent to sea not only merely defective, but in a manner to endanger the lives of all on board. In reply to Mr Hamel, the witness said the bowsprit of the vessel was remarkably large and very good as also were various parts of the stem.
By Mr Dale: When he examined the wreck he was not aware that the Board of Trade inquiry was about to be held. He did not see a timber that was not defective, but the outside planking was good. The ceiling was also defective except that belonging to the cabins, which was very good. He saw no evidence of a thorough overhaul eighteen months ago.
The inquest was adjourned until Monday April 5th.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 20 March 1875
The Wreck of the Henry Cooke South Shields
Conclusion of the official enquiry
The adjourned Board of Trade Enquiry into the loss of the barque Henry Cooke, of South Shields, belonging to Mr R. Swallow and partners, Sunderland, which was wrecked with all hands off the South Pier last December, was held yesterday, at the Town Hall, South Shields, before Ald. Strachan and Ald. Moore, borough magistrates, assisted by Captain Prowse, R.N., and Mr Cornish, Nautical Assessors. Mr L. V. Hamel, solicitor, appeared for the Board of Trade, and Mr T. Tinley Dale for the owners.
Mr Walter Abbot, shipwright's surveyor to Board of Trade, was called and cross-examined by Mr T. Tinley Dale at considerable length on the subject of the report he had made regarding the condition of the Henry Cooke. He adhered to the report which had made, and which was given in his evidence in chief. Mr Abbott, however, would not swear that the piece of built mast, about 35 feet long, which he had examined, belonged the Henry Cooke. This mast was very bad.
Mr T. Tinley Dale, in reply to Ald. Strachan, said he would be prepared to contradict most amply many of the statements made in regard to the vessel by Mr Abbott in his report; and Mr Swallow, the owner, felt very deeply the allegations which had been made against him, and which were considered to have no foundation.
Mr Ald. Strachan said the court had no desire whatever to limit the cross-examination of Mr Dale.
Mr Dale replied that he would make it as concise as he consistently could with the interests of his client.
After short adjournment for lunch, the Court assembled, when Mr Hamel called
Mr John Taylor, superintendent at Mr Edwards' High Dock, South Shields, who stated that in April, 1873, the barque Henry Cooke was put into his hands in order to thoroughly overhaul her and make her right and tight She was leaky and wanted caulking and re-sheathing. They were instructed by the owner to do everything necessary to her. They stripped her wood sheeting off, dressed her down, and overhauled her bolts and fastenings. Wherever there was bad bolt it was taken out. There were some bolts bad at the head, and they were taken out. She had pined a little like all old ships. They took her stem out It was wide at the hood ends. It was sappy, and the caulking had become wide. They put in some pointers forward, and some iron hooks to fasten the ship. They put in two new hooks, four new pointers, and also a new facing piece. The new stem was fitted in the usual way. It would not have been possible to reeve the stem. They examined the timbers, and found them all very good. They tried all the timbers which were exposed. The ship was not dissected in the dock in the way she was on the beach. The main waterway of the vessel was examined, and that which was seen was found to be good. They did not open the vessel at the plank sheaf. They did not examine the timber heads, they thought it was not necessary. They caulked her, double hawsed her, then caulked and hawsed her again, and also sheathed her with wood upon felt, and again sheathed and metalled upon felt. The ship had excellent skin, and bore the double hawsing well, which proved she was a sound ship. The owner wanted her well done, and that was the reason they double sheathed her. The dock repairs and metal cost about £2,500. There were no marks on the stem. He knew the stem of the Henry Cooke, it lay on the beach. He selected the piece of wood and moulded it, and saw it put in. He also saw some of the new planks up the quarters and the new sheathing. The barque had good port when she left the dock. There were one or two pieces put in—the rest being good. When she left the dock the planks of the port itself met and formed a butt. The vessel was three weeks in the dry dock, and there were sometimes -as far as 150 men working at her. They supplied no rigging to the vessel.
Mr Taylor was afterwards cross-examined as to the condition of the vessel, and in reply said be considered her perfectly seaworthy, and worthy of her class.
At the conclusion of Mr Taylor's evidence, a conversation took place between the Court and Mr Dale respecting the calling of further evidence.
Ald. Strachan remarked that there were officers be implicated the loss the vessel, and did not think it would be contended that the last time the owners had control over the ship they sent her to sea in a condition-so far as they were aware—which could be called unseaworthy.
Mr Dale said he was prepared to call evidence to show that the vessel was perfectly seaworthy.
Ald. Strachan said he did not think the Court would require any further evidence; in fact he did not think then was anything to reply to, or to answer on the part of the owners. He might remark that the first question that came before them was in reference to the conduct of the Life Brigade. He was sure there was not the slightest imputation to be cast upon members the Brigade. Their conduct had been of the most gallant character as regarded the work they were called upon to perform. Then as regarded the working of the rocket apparatus, those who had charge of it displayed the utmost promptitude, and everything was done that possibly could be done for saving of the lives of those on board that was to say if there were any lives save. The Court would report to the Board of Trade. The enquiry then terminated.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 13 April 1875