The Huntsman aground

Gale and Snowstorm
Wreck at Shields
Rescue of the Crew

Yesterday's storm on the North-east Coast furnished an opportunity for the members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade to display, they have on many previous occasions, such capabilities as they possess for rescue work, and they once more proved that the motto "Always Ready," is one which aptly applies to that noble institution, and thereby added another to a long list of exploits, of which any brigade in the country would feel proud. Snow had fallen in heavy showers from early morning, and the wind, which had come away strongly from the southeast, veered round to due east as it gained in strength as the day wore on, and as a result there was a heavy sea breaking over the piers at the entrance to the Tyne. In the afternoon a close look - out was kept seaward from both sides of the harbour, but there was no need for the services of either Life Brigade or lifeboat till darkness set in. About four o'clock large steamer was sighted to the southward, in tow of another steamer, evidently making for the Tyne. A little after five o'clock the hawser parted, and the rearmost vessel, which was disabled, went adrift. She was, without delay, taken in tow by the steamtug President, but on nearing the river entrance, it was found that, owing to the force of the gale and the heavy sea which was running, it would be impossible to bring the steamer safely in and they were under the necessity of parting company. The Coastguard, which were under the command of Mr Lorden, at once fired three alarm signals, and H.M. Castor, supplemented these by firing three guns, with the usual result of attracting within a very short period a large and more or less excited crowd to the beach. In the meantime the rocket van, which had already been got readiness, was pushed along the South Pier. The steamer in helpless fashion, driven before the storm, and it seemed at one time as if she would dash herself to pieces against the pier but she luckily kept clear and eventually grounded some two or three hundred yards east of the Tyne General Ferry Company's gangway, but on the south side the pier, about eighty yards clear of the side of the structure. It was low water at the time, but the waves raced with great fury past the steamer, which lay head on to pier. The whizz of a rocket indicated to the hurrying crowd who streamed towards the beach that no time had been lost in endeavouring to establish communication, and it turned out that the first attempt was successful, the line, however, going over the topmast yards, and consequently there was a slight delay before those on board were able to properly fix the apparatus. This they, however, did with all possible promptitude, and it was not long before the first man was landed by the breeches buoy, on which the crowd cheered lustily. In about three-quarters of hour every soul on board had been taken off the ill-fated vessel. Before the rescue work had been completed great masses of spray were sweeping clean over the steamer, which proved to be the Huntsman, of North Shields, Captain White. The crew consisted of 23 hands, all told, and there was also on board, a Hull fisherman named Samuel William Norrie, also the captain's wife and their three children, two girls and a boy. Several members of the borough police did excellent service in keeping the crowd in check, thus giving the brigadesmen a better opportunity of effectually carrying out their duties. As the crew were landed, they were taken to the Watch House, each one being warmly cheered by the spectators, who took this means of expressing their satisfaction with the effectiveness of the life-saving operations. Some of the crew were suffering from the exposure to which they were subjected, but others took matters very coolly, one them taking the journey from the ship to the pier with his pipe in his mouth. Mrs White appeared to have swooned and she was carried down to the Brigade House, where everything had been got in readiness for the reception of the rescued. Dr. Goudie, in the absence of Dr. Crease, the brigade surgeon, was in attendance, and with the skilful assistance of Mrs Sweetapple, who is a trained nurse, and happened to be on the spot at the time, Mrs White speedily rallied, and was taken to the house of a friend in Thomas Street, which is only a short distance from her own home, in Charlotte Street. The three children, who appeared very little the worse for their experience, had already been carried to the house of Mr Thomas Vasey, in Seafield Terrace, where they each had a warm bath, and were attended to with the greatest kindness. The crew were supplied at the Watch House with dry clothing, and given some steaming hot coffee, which proved undoubtedly to be very acceptable. Before the whole of the crew had been landed, the captain being the last to leave the ship, the lifeboat Willie Wouldhave had been launched, from the house on the beach, on the south of the pier. She was in charge of Mr Andrew Purvis, Mr Robert Wells also being in attendance to see the boat off. As it turned out her services were not needed. The lifeboat was also launched from Salmon's Quay and proceeded down the harbour, and also the North Shields lifeboat, but it was found that all had been done that was necessary. When the muster roll of brigadesmen was called there were found to be 74 present. It was the watch of the fourth division, which is commanded by Captain Walter Buckland. The other officers in attendance were Captains Walter Ross, Geo. Robson, and G. R. Potts, and Deputy-Captains Geo. Scrafton, J. H. Wood and James Henderson. The shipwrecked men afterwards proceeded to their homes. In the course of interview with the rescued men appears that the Huntsman left Rotterdam on Friday last. Everything went well until four o'clock on Saturday morning. When about 26 miles off Dudgeon, the shaft broke, rendering the propellor useless. She was sighted in this helpless condition by the steam fishing smack Bee, of Hull, and making the usual signals for assistance the smack came alongside. The captain of the Huntsman explained the state of affairs, and asked for a hawser to be put on board, and it was arranged for the Bee to tow her to the Tyne. One of the crew of the smack having gone on board the steamer, towing operations commenced, and were carried on until six o'clock at night, when the s.s. London, which trades from Dundee to Hull, came up, and it was agreed for this steamer to replace the fishing smack and take the Huntsman in tow, owing to having more power than the fishing craft. The Bee therefore took her departure for Hull, and the disabled steamer was brought on northward. All went well, though great difficulty was experienced yesterday when heavy sea came away, till about mile and half south of the Tyne, when the hawser broke. The tug President attempted to bring the vessel into harbour but was unable to accomplish this and the steamer was ultimately driven ashore as above stated. The stranded vessel drifted further up the beach as the tide rose and this morning lay with her head to the west. The weather greatly improved, and at low tide the steamer lay high and dry, clear of the sea.

The Huntsman is vessel of 2,059 tons gross register, and is 281 feet in length. She was built at Jarrow in 1883 and is owned by Mr William J. Jobling, of Newcastle, though her port of registry is North Shields.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 11 January 1892

With regard to the stranding of the Huntsman there has been some misunderstanding as to the name of the tug which had her in tow just previous to the disaster. The mate of the steamer, when interrogated at the Brigade House, stated that it was the Gauntlet He was very positive about it, and even so late as yesterday reaffirmed his statement. On inquiry at the proper quarter, however, there was ample proof that he had made a mistake and it easy to see how the mistake must have arisen. The tug President was that day being used in place of the Great Britain for pilotage service. In appearance she is very like the Gauntlet, and the latter being so well known in connection with the harbour, it was very easy to take one boat for the other. The hawser which was found attached to the stranded vessel belonged to the tug President, so that there could be no question on the point. The Challenge was the first tug which offered its services after the steamer parted with the s.s. London, but an arrangement not being arrived at, the President undertook the hazardous task of attempting to bring the disabled vessel into the Tyne, but, as it turned out, the undertaking proved too much for her in such a heavy sea.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 13 January 1892

On behalf of the Officers, Crew, and myself - I beg to tender my sincere thanks to the members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade and Coastguard Staff for the prompt and efficient manner in which they achieved our rescue from the s.s. Huntsman after stranding on the 10th inst. I also, on behalf of my wife and children, sincerely thank those who were ready to offer them help in their weak condition, after being landed, conspicuously Mrs Sweetapple and Mrs Vasey, and have no doubt they will long remember their kindness with feelings of gratitude. Happy for us that our misfortune occurred where help is so promptly rendered by the "Always Ready."


Source: Shields Daily Gazette 13 January 1892



SIR. — Apropos of the stranding of the Huntsman on Sunday night, rather surprising, considering the facilities at hand, that better means are not adopted in taking the rescued ones to the Brigade House. Most us know it is considerable distance from the end of the pier to the shelter in question, and I would suggest that a light enclosed conveyance put on the rails for use in taking the men and women off the wreck to the Brigade House. How useful this would have been on Sunday night last was only too apparent. It must be very trying to those in such peril to be partially dragged and carried through an excited throng, and more especially on such a night as we experienced on the 10th. It would be no difficult matter to get a motive for the carriage, as a number of willing hands would be too eager and glad to render what help they could in cases of such emergency. If this is at all practicable l am sure it would meet with the approbation of hundreds of our fellow townsmen, likewise of yours most sincerely,


Source: Shields Daily Gazette 18 January 1892

South Side Notes

The Annual Supper of the Volunteer Life Brigade last week was a very enjoyable affair. One of the most effective items on the programme which followed the repast was afforded by Mr James Page in some verses he had composed on the stranding of the steamer Huntsman. The lines, which he recited with considerable skill, ran as follows:—

Far off to the southward, we saw her first, in the early afternoon,
And anxious eyes o'er the billows were cast—our fears were realised soon.
For over her bows a towline was seen, disabled we guessed her to be,
And on that towline depended, if the Tyne she was ever to see.
On, on, they came nobly riding, the storm king was now raging fast;
She's done for! she's parted; was shouted, on the rocks she's bound to be cast,
Through the white surging foam she was drifting—a lee shore just ahead.
There's women aboard her, was whispered, at least so the people said
The Brigade, Always Ready," had mustered; each man was there at his post,
While the guns boomed forth the warning knell, resounding along the coast,
Through the snow how they flocked in thousands, women, and children, and men,
With anxious brows, and beating hearts; description baffles the pen;
Then a light lit up the weird scene as a rocket shot o'er the wreck.
And loud hurrahs from the people rose as the rocket line fell on the deck.
Then the Coastguard and the Life Brigade their weight of work did share,
While the hawser's made taut, and well secured, its precious freight to bear;
And now the excitement increases, the anxious crowd stand breathless by,
The first man is landed safely, "Hurrah! three cheers" they loudly cry,
Back to the wreck the breaches go, the “little ones" are yet to come.
And stout hearts feel faint and quiver, and tears are shed by some.
While there on the bows the “Huntsman," the mother stands with heart beating wild,
Anxiously watching, and praying that God may protect her child.
Cheer after cheer from the crowd now breaks, for landed safe and sound
Is a true British Tar, and in his arms the captain's child is found.
And so they were all safely landed, captain, wife and children three,
Twenty-eight all told were counted in the watchhouse of the V.L.B.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 20 January 1892


WRECK OF S.S. HUNTSMAN.—PHOTOGRAPHS can be had of Thos. STRAUGHAN 36 William Street, South Shields. Price 1s each.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 26 January 1892

The S.S. Huntsman Floated

Yesterday the s.s. Huntsman, which was stranded on the beach near the South Pier on the night of Sunday the 10th inst., was successfully floated. The lifting operations were in the hands Messrs Smith and Co dock owners North Shields, who have had men employed for some time past on board the vessel. It was high tide in the afternoon at 2 30, and for some hours before several tugs were in attendance. The following had hawsers on board, the President, the Malta, the Brothers, and the Stag, while the Knight Templary lay in readiness should her services be required. About two o'clock the head of the steamer, which was lying towards the land, commenced to slowly shift round to the southward, and a line being placed over her bows she was eventually floated into deep water. A strong westerly wind was blowing at the time, and this aided the efforts of the tugs to some extent. A large concourse of spectators watched the operations with close interest. The Huntsman will be taken up the river and placed in dry dock for repairs.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 29 January 1892

Another trade item. In connection with the recent floating of the stranded steamer Huntsman, I am authoritatively given to understand that the Smith Dock Company, North Shields, were the only firm on the Tyne willing to contact for the job. They have had considerable experience in this class of work, and have been successful in every case they have undertaken of a similar nature. These are pleasing facts, an ought to go a long way to enhance the prospects of the old firm, which of late by the way, has taken to itself new name, and fresh industrial developments.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 1 February 1892

When the steamer Huntsman came ashore the rescued crew were supplied with clothing in place of the clothes which they wore when taken off the stranded vessel. Some of the men who were forwarded to their homes, I am told, failed to return the clothes with which they had been supplied, and as those they left behind had long ago seen their best days, I think the fact is worth mentioning, in order that a fresh supply may be forthcoming, though I this is more especially a matter for Shipwrecked Mariners' Society. Several of the crew testified in the heartiest manner their appreciation of the services rendered them, and the non-return the clothing could be looked upon with complacency if it were not for the awkward fix it might place the next rescued crew in.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 25 February 1892

The Stranding of S. S. Huntsman
Claim for Salvage Services

Yesterday, at South Shields Police Court, Major Dawson d Mr W. R. Smith on the bench, Wm. S. Jobling, shipowner, 19 Queen Street, Quayside, Newcastle, was summoned under section 460 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1854, by George Brown, steam tug owner, who claimed an amount of salvage not exceeding £200 for services rendered by the steam tug President in assisting the British steamship Huntsman while in distress off the river Tyne the 10th January last. -Mr T. G. Mabane appeared for the plaintiff, and Mr Rioch, of Sunderland, for the defendant.

Mr Mabane in opening, said that that was a claim under the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854, under which Act in cases of salvage where the claim did not exceed £200 their worships had jurisdiction. The simple question they had to decide was whether the owners of the President were entitled to salvage, when, although, their tug did not actually save the Huntsman, it was the means of keeping it from going on the rocks, and when it was found that the steamer could not be saved, placing it in a very good position on the shore, and thereby saving the lives of perhaps all on board. Sunday the 10th of January last, was the most violent gale that they had experienced on the N.E. coast that winter. At about four o'clock on that memorable day the screw steamer Huntsman was observed by a pilot named Burn from the pilot's look-out house, to in difficulties and he immediately ran down to the President, which was lying at the Groyne, and informed the master of the fact. The moorings of the tug were immediately cast off and she was headed for sea. When the Huntsman was observed, which was shortly after she had parted company with the screw steamer London, the tug proceeded towards her. The steamer was then bearing E.S.E. of the South pier, about two miles distant, and about one mile from the shore, and was in an extremely perilous position. Two other tugs were the re but consequence of their size, and not having double engines, they were incapacitated from rendering any assistance. Had the President not had four extra pilots on board, it was probable that she would not have been able to render the assistance that she did. The steamer was then in such a dangerous position that had she not been taken in tow at the time she was she would have drifted on to the rocks. There was considerable risk and danger attending the tug while trying to get a line on board as there was projecting from one of the Huntsman's hawse holes a chain cable which on account of the motion of the vessel was swinging about with fearful force, but notwithstanding that the tug proceeded right to her. After five or six attempts towing communication was ultimately established with the steamer and she was towed with great difficulty, owing to the heavy sea that was running, as far as the South Pier end. The tug at first attempted  to go round the outside of the sunken steamer Crystal, but finding that impossible she tried to get inside, but in consequence of the tremendous gale that was blowing the Huntsman was actually blown to the shore, where she stranded. That was a very critical time for the President and those on board of her, and if the steamer had canted to the northward instead of to the southward, as she did, the tug would have been unable to get out to sea again, but would certainly have gone over, or had everyone washed overboard. As was it was only through the steamer falling over to the southward that the tug was able to escape. The fact of the vessel being placed behind the pier rendered her much more easily rescued than if she had been placed in any other position. Besides it was undoubtedly the means of saving perhaps the whole of the crew, whereas if she had gone upon the rocks many lives would have been lost. The law did not lay down that salvage services had to successful, but that they had to be beneficial, and the services rendered by the President, he contended were beneficial in every sense of the word, as they were not only the means of saving life, but placing the steamer in such a safe position as to enable her to be ultimately rescued and saved.

Wm. Rookcastle, the master of the President, gave evidence bearing out the statement of Mr Mabane, and was cross-examined.

Francis McCarrick, engineer of the President, said if the latter had not got hold of the Huntsman she would have gone ashore at the Trow Rocks or Frenchman's Bay. They towed for about half-an-hour till they had got near the end of the South Shields pier. Two seas broke aboard, but luckily the tug canted to the south or they would have been on the pier. They were then compelled to let go the Huntsman or they would have gone ashore themselves. But for the heavy wind that came away just before they let go they would have got the steamer round the pier.

Cross-examined: The steamer was about two miles from the pier end when they sighted the Huntsman. They were manoeuvring about three-quarters of an hour before they got a rope on board. They were about mile and half from the pier when they commenced to tow. The steamer that time was about a mile from the shore.

Robert Burns, licensed pilot, said he was in the Pilot's Look-out House, on the 10th January when the wind was E.N.E. He observed two steamers off Souter, one towing the other. He was looking through the telescope and saw the steamers separate with a good distance between them, and came to the conclusion that the hawser had parted. It was about 3.40 and he went down to the Groyne to the President, and went out with her. When they got to the steamer she was perhaps a little north of the Trow Rocks. After a good deal of trouble they got a line on board the steamer and towed for about three-fourths of a mile. Their object was to get outside the wrecked steamer Crystal, but finding they could not do that, they tried to go between the wreck and the pier end, but heavy seas coming away they found that they had to part company with the steamer.

Lancelot Burn, pilot, who was on board the President when she went out to the steamer, gave similar evidence.

Other witnesses for the plaintiff having been examined, Captain White, master of the Huntsman, was called. He said the vessel was about 1 ½ miles from the South Pier, when the large towline broke and the vessel was drifting when the President came up. At that time his vessel would be nearer the shore. Nothing was said between him and tug, but a line was thrown. It was hauled on board, and when the tow rope had been made fast, he went on to the bridge. He watched the ship's head very carefully and from leaving the bridge and going to the forecastle and returning after throwing the line, she never altered a bit. The tug was towing four points on the starboard bow. Directly the pier got on the starboard bow the tow rope was slipped and she drifted ashore. There was no change in the position of his vessel for the better when the tug let go, in fact he thought it was worse.

Other witnesses, who were cross-examined by Mr Mabane, having been heard, the Bench found for the owner of the tug, for £70 and costs.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 12 April 1892