Iron Crown

The Gales
Another Storm On The North-East Coast
Large Iron Vessel Ashore
The Crew Saved

Iron Crown pictureAll yesterday a strong ESE gale gave unmistakable tokens of a terrible sea night fall, and at six o'clock members of the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade made their way to the Brigade House, at the Spanish Battery.

About half-past twelve o'clock the green light of a sailing vessel was seen as if proximity to the staging at the south pier. In response to signals of distress immediately sent up from the vessel, the guns at the Spanish Battery were fired and the usual alarm given from the Castor, that a ship was ashore on the south side, The vessel, however, was soon observed to be drifting towards the North Pier. She went straight for the bend near the outer end, then struck, according to one testimony, but immediately drifted out into deep water. Here the anchor was let down, and the vessel rode where she still lies, a little further out to sea than the new landing stage for the pier ferries. As soon as it was seen that the ship had come over to the north side the guns were fired announcing the fact. People who heard the reports at Tynemouth believed that a second vessel had gone ashore, and it was some time before the crowd which gathered on the pier knew the real state of the case, Mr John Anderson had the van with the rocket gear taken along the rails on the lower pier to a point opposite the ship. There was strong force of members of the brigade. Mr Latter took command of the operations. Several rockets were fired from the vessel; they lit up the darkness and shone on the heaving water, revealing to the spectators a large iron vessel with her head to the sea. In the shortest possible space of time a rocket was fired from the pier, which went a little high, and was apparently carried to leeward by the strong wind blowing at the time. The ship continued to send up rockets, and it was seen that the line had not reached the hands of those on board, A second rocket was immediately fired. It went straight amidships, barely clearing the bulwarks to all appearance, and laying the line across the deck, All this was the work of only a few minutes, and was conducted amidst the growing excitement of the gathering crowd who were still uncertain how great the danger might be. It was not known that the vessel was anchored. It was thought she might be fast in the middle. She could be seen rising and falling with the waves. The weather, which had cleared a little, again grew thick, and with the waves breaking over the pier upon the brigadesmen and the spectators, the fate of any craft out there in the storm did not seem enviable. There appeared to be some delay on board in taking advantage of the means of escape offered them. In addition it was found that the whip-line of the hawser had got jammed in the block, and great difficulty was experienced in getting it free. The strong range carried the lines landward, and they seemed to get entangled. The ship was so great a distance from the shore that the waves had great power over them.
Meanwhile, a scene of great excitement and perseverance was proceeding in the Haven, where the most strenuous efforts were in progress to launch the lifeboat Charles Dibdin. Whenever the craft was pushed afloat, the waves caught her and threw her broadside on the sand. From twenty-five to thirty men struggled there for upwards of an hour to get the boat afloat. They waded in waist deep, they risked being carried off their legs by the incoming seas or sucked into deep water by the receding wave. The foam-covered water, lighted up by their lanterns, looked like a great sheet of snow in which dark figures dressed like Esquimaux plunged about amid shoutings heard far above the noise of the storm. Strong men left their coats and upper garments in the hands of the fringe of patient watchers who stood spectators on the sands, and plunged in, each in the certain hope that if his hand were on the boat she would defy wind and wave. But the strongest force of men that could fix themselves in any way about the craft could not prevent her swinging round as the sea struck her. The yielding sand made effort difficult and dangerous. This was a gallant struggle, and was in the end victorious, but not until different tactics had been tried. A rope was fixed to the boat and carried along the line of the pier, and she was thus literally pulled out to sea.

The brigadesmen were, meanwhile, extricating their lines from the entanglement. They had effected communication with the ship some time before the lifeboat was got off. When it was seen that the gear had been fixed all right, a strong force of men were put on the hawser, which was drawn through the block and carried along the upper pier. A red light over the ship's side soon showed that some one was in the cradle, and after vigorous pulling figure a was seen rising up from the surf into the light, and in a moment, amid cheers, the first of the crew was safe on land. He was a boy, and was taken charge of and led to the Brigade House. In quick succession four more of the crew were landed. The fifth to come ashore brought a message from the captain to say he desired to send his wife ashore next, and special efforts were made, by tightening the hawser, to make the journey as comfortable as possible. By this time it was seen that there was no immediate danger of the vessel breaking up, but this incident promised to add a new interest to work which was trying the endurance of many of those engaged in it. To hold on by that hawser, with the waves rising and falling in great cascades from the back of the pier, was no easy task. When the cradle was sent back, however, for the sixth time, there was a pause, and it appeared that the lifeboat had reached the vessel's side, and was taking off the rest of the crew. Seeing that there were twenty-two persons all, this was a great relief both as a matter of safety and a matter of time. A portion of the brigade now turned their attention to the landing of the boat, which was seen making for the haven. In response a cry from some one board for assistance on the sands a rush was made in that direction, and soon what was then believed to be the remainder of the crew, with the captain and his wife, were safely landed. Captain James and his wife were conveyed in Dr Wilkinson's carriage to Mr Bruce's Temperance Hotel.

The lifeboat waited fully a quarter of an hour by the side the ship, and then was obliged to pull off, as they were in a perilous situation, having the full range of the sea on their beam. Immediately those rescued were landed it was found that two of the crew were still on board, one named Carl Kof and the other William Stieglitz. The lifeboat did not return to the vessel, and the men were on board up to eight o'clock this morning, apparently all right.

After the crew had been comfortably attended to it was ascertained from the captain (Mr James) that his vessel was a full rigged iron ship named the Iron Crown, of Liverpool. She was in ballast, on a voyage from Hamburg to the Tyne, and had experienced fine weather until yesterday at daybreak. She had taken only forty-eight hours on her passage. The Iron Crown is a splendid ship of 995 tons register, and was built at Messrs Palmer and Co.'s, Jarrow. She is owned by Messrs Shallcross and Highman, of Liverpool. Henry & Co., of Newcastle, are the agents. The ship is lying partly aground at the Spar Hawk with anchor cast. It is feared that with the increasing force of the sea as the tide floods the cable may break and endanger the safety of the vessel. She was striking the ground at low water.

The Brigadesmen have seldom experienced such difficulty in effecting communication as they did last night. Every inch of the hawser was utilized, the ship being so far distant from the pier. The noise of the sea and wind made it impossible to hear words spoken from the ship. After the crew (numbering 21 all told) had been refreshed, twelve of them were sent to the Sailors' Home, North Shields, and the remainder stayed at the Brigade House. They are nearly all foreigners. One of, them was much exhausted, and had to be attended to by Dr Bramwell. The poor fellow had just come out of an hospital at Hamburg, where he had been suffering from fever. At half-past seven o'clock this morning Mr Anderson was relieved at the Brigade House by Mr Robert Reid till noon to-day. The sea is still rolling heavily, and the gale blows strong ESE. A watch-will be kept all day. Mr Joseph Spence at the Brigade House was well supported, over 80 members having mustered just before the Iron Crown struck.

The Iron Crown Driven Ashore

The ship has driven ashore on the rocks under the Spanish Battery.

A lifeboat put off at eleven o'clock this morning, and took from the vessel the two of the crew which were inadvertently left on board last night.

Last Night At The South Pier

Just as the saddening influence upon our minds, wrought by the experiences of Friday last, was becoming less, and the limit of the harrowing list of disasters caused by that memorable storm was being reached, we found ourselves on Wednesday threatened by another gale, and last night engaging the full fury of another storm. Happily a lengthy warning had been given, and all were prepared. The stormy weather of the previous night shewed little signs of mending throughout yesterday. A strong breeze continued to blow from the south-east, and in the afternoon there were a succession of squalls. About seven o'clock last evening there was indeed a calm, but it only lasted for brief period, and was succeeded by a very heavy breeze. Gaining strength rapidly, by half-past eight a thorough south-east gale was blowing, which has continued without abatement since, accompanied by pelting rain. Towards midnight the wind backed little the eastwards, and as daylight broke it returned again to its old quarter. Some say a little more to the southward, but if so the alteration, was very small indeed.

As is always the case during bad weather the South Pier was again the rendezvous sightseers, sea-faring persons, and the noble-hearted life-brigadesmen. In the earlier part of the night, however, there was little to satisfy the curious beyond the familiar sight of an expanse of white foam, backed by an impenetrable veil of darkness; and this view was only obtainable from odd corners where shelter from the driving rain and blinding sand could not always be obtained. The chief cover for spectators was the lee of the Brigade House, and here a group of persons pressed closely upon each other for shelter, many amusing themselves by flattening their noses against the windows and staring at the brigadesmen, who were smoking or otherwise whiling away the time inside. The wind was piping away terribly by ten o'clock, and the red glare of Tynemouth Light was blurred by driving mist. The barometer then stood at 30, having only fallen 2-10ths since the morning. It remained at that figure until well on in the morning, when it again fell a trifle. Several lights were seen from time to time in the offing, and were watched anxiously. For several hours a steamer continued to appear off the end of the pier, each journey whistling loudly and burning a flareup. It was concluded that she was a foreigner, and wanted a pilot. She was not seen again after midnight. Several other steamers' whistles were heard at different hours, but at all times lights were not discernible, owing to the thickness of the atmosphere over the water. Shortly before one o'clock, a steamer's lights were again discovered off the pier, and amongst the coastguard and brigadesmen there was some excitement, as she was supposed to be a rather dangerous position. The lights, however, disappeared, she evidently putting to sea again. At a quarter to two o'clock, at which time the storm seemed to gain additional energy, a steamer was sighted, and after a struggle passed safely into the Narrows, what was termed by onlookers as—grand style. Several other lights, principally the side lights of sailing vessels, were caught sight of, and as soon lost again, away to the southward.

The Mishap To The Iron Crown

Iron Crown engravingThe most exciting incident, however, occurred about half-an-hour after midnight. About this hour there were several members in the watch tower. It appears to be customary for the watchers, on sighting lights, not to trouble their comrades waiting below, unless there is apparent danger, When they do not fear harm to vessel, the fact is conveyed by simply calling to those below. The intimation of the proximity of the Iron Crown, however, was made by several watchers apparently trying to get down below, by jumping in a body from the top to the bottom of the circular staircase. Simultaneously, the coastguardsmen thundered with their knuckles on the window. Instantly all hands were to their feet. Slumberers were aroused by indiscriminate digs on the body. In a few seconds a crowd of stalwart fellows, tying their on their storm caps as they ran, made a pell-mell rush out of doors. A sailing vessel's starboard light, from amidst the mass of white foam, flickered across the water. In addition, huge flare ups fired on the forecastle, illuminated the surrounding water. As soon as the state of matters was realized, there was a hearty shout of "coats off, lads." In the twinkling of an eye, a dozen fellows, stripped to the guernseys, gathered behind the rocket van, through the crevices of which shown the rays of light from a lantern within, and it was rapidly receding along the dark pier. The moving figures disappeared to view. The movement was so quickly made that the onlookers seemed bewildered, and it was some moments before any one followed. Hardly a moment more had elapsed, when the scene was illuminated by flash of fire-like lightning. Then came the boom of cannon, and the vessel's distress was signalled from the Spanish Battery. The Iron Crown seemed undoubtedly to be drifting on to the sands behind the Pier. She appeared, at first, to be quite half-a-mile to the southward of the Pier, but gradually drifting towards the gearing. The brigadesmen with the van had only got a little way beyond the iron landing stage, when all lights from the vessel disappeared. "She's gone," was whispered round, but still the van was pushed on. In another moment a blue light was burned, sending a blinding glare around, but not a vestige of the Iron Crown was discerned. The blue light burned low, and yet the vessel did not reappear. Presently another red glare burst over the water. Two guns were now fired from the Battery, and then a continuous thread of fire rose into the air, followed by the bursting of a rocket. The cry of "There's another ashore" was then raised, but the puzzled brigadesmen upon whom the spray leaping up the sides of the masonry, and high into the air, fell in masses, then guessed what had became of the Iron Cross. She had drifted, with the narrowest of shaves, past the South Pier end, and across the harbour in towards Tynemouth Haven, The distressed vessel continued to fire rockets until the lights on the North Pier told that the Northumbrians were going to the rescue. There was much anxiety manifested owing to the great length of time the Tynemouth men worked at the vessel. Her huge form could be seen lifting up and down across the blue light, and every one was greatly concerned. At one time a fear was expressed that the unfortunate vessel might be a German emigrant ship, and that she might be crowded with passengers. The scene on the North Pier was intently watched until towards three o'clock, when half-a-dozen leading brigadesmen determined to ease their anxiety if possible. A suggestion that some definite information might possibly be gained at the Coble Landing, was acted upon by a party immediately undertaking a journey thither, through the pelting storm. Fortunately full explanation of the state of matters was received from a number of lifeboatmen; and the enquirers soon retraced their steps and eventually relieved the minds of their fellow watchers.

The storm continued with unabated severity, and many persons who came down to the pier upon hearing the alarm guns, returned home. Lights continued to come in view until daylight, and there were several rushes down the pier in anticipation of work. Fortunately, vessels managed to keep out of harm. When dawn appeared, the state of the sea reminded one the scene now nearly twelve months since. The wind had freshened if anything, and the outlook to windward was most threatening. Everyone eagerly scanned the north side for a sight of the Iron Crown, and much surprise was evinced at her size and, more than all, at her extremely narrow escape.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 21 October 1881