A Shields Brig Wrecked at Whitburn
A Barque Ashore
On Friday night about six o'clock, the Margaret and Jane, laden with Esparto grass, belonging Mr Jouers, of South Shields, and bound for the Tyne struck upon the rocks at Whitburn. The Whitburn fishermen, immediately on seeing the danger in which the. vessel was placed, manned their lifeboat, and, under the guidance John Purvis, proceeded to the assistance of the crew. Though a very heavy sea. was rolling, the lifeboat succeeded in saving the crew. It was fortunate assistance was so near at hand, for in a very few minutes after the crew were taken from the brig she fell to pieces with great rapidity. We understand that the captain (Mr Shield), in is his statement to the coastguard says he was misled by the appearance of a revolving light off Whitburn, which he took for Tynemouth Lighthouse. Part of the wreck was washed northward, a quantity of Esparto grass coming ashore at Cullercoats, off which place a fisherman, named John Taylor, picked up, on Saturday morning, a mahogany writing desk, in which he found a ship’s papers. He gave the desk and its contents to the North Shields police.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 3 December 1866
TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION, on Tuesday 11th Day of December, 1866, at 11 o’clock in the Forenoon, at Whitburn. Mr J. NICHOLSON Auctioneer, the whole of the STORES and WRECK Salved from the Barque MARGARET & JANE, of Shields, 417 Tons Register, consisting of Lower Masts, Bowsprit, Spars, Ropes, Sails, Anchors, and Chains, a Good Life Boat, a Large Quantity of Wreck, and Sundry other Articles.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 6 December 1866
The Loss of the Margaret and Jane
Board of Trade Inquiry
Yesterday morning, an inquiry was opened at the Police Court, South Shields, to inquire into the circumstances attending the loss of the barque Margaret and Jane, which was wrecked upon Whitburn Steel on the night the 30th of November. Capts. Harris and Height attended as assessors on behalf of the Board Trade, assisted by the Mayor and Ald. Glover. Mr Hamel, of London, conducted the case on behalf of the Board of Trade, while Mr Kewney watched the proceedings on behalf of Captain Shield, who was in command of the vessel the time of the disaster.
Mr Hamel in opening the case said the Margaret and Jane was a barque rigged vessel of 408 tons, and built Groningen, in the year 1840. and was the property of Mr Jours, of Shields. The vessel left Alicante for Shields on the 3rd November with a cargo of Esparto fibre, and was in charge of Captain William Shield, who held a certificate of qualification. Her crew numbered eight men, all told, when she left Alicante. She had previously had a crew of 13 hands, but one man died in Genoa, and the mate and three of the crew were arrested by the authorities at Alicante for some disturbance with the police of that place. The mate referred to was the only one on board, and consequently after his arrest the only certificated officer left with the vessel was the captain himself. After leaving Alicante she did not touch anywhere upon the voyage. There was a boy on board—a son of the owner—who seems to have acted as a sort of clerk to the captain during the voyage, but who was rated as ordinary seaman. Nothing important seems to have occurred after leaving Alicante until the day of catastrophe. The vessel made the North Foreland all right, and the first land she sighted after that was the New Warp Light She then put off to sea. This was upon Wednesday evening the 28th of November. After leaving the coast her head was turned towards the Tyne, and on Friday, the 30th ult, as would be shown by the witness Jours, an observation was made which showed they were some 21 miles to the southward from the Tyne. The wind was then from the southward and westward. At about 4 p.m. on that day land was seen on the port side, distant six or seven miles. The vessel was then steering N by W. On this point there was a difference of opinion. Between five and six o'clock a light was seen by some the men who were aloft, which seemed to be some two points on the port bow. The vessel’s course was then N by W. and a cast of the lead having been taken at the same time gave a depth of sixteen fathoms This light that was seen was taken to be as revolving light: when the captain heard of it he went aft, took its bearings with the compass, and came to the conclusion that it was the revolving light at Tynemouth. He put his vessel about seaward in order to wait for the tide. Directly after this the water became very smooth; it had not been very rough previously, but it suddenly became very smooth, and one of the men reported a "ripple” caused by the wind, - in other words a disturbance of the water. The captain not liking the appearance of this smooth water put his helm hard a port, to hold off the shore, when the vessel almost immediately struck among the breakers.
The Mayor said the water could not have been very smooth when there were breakers.
Mr Hamel said there was a little sea running in. The vessel struck upon the rocks known as Whitburn Steel between half past six o’clock at night, and efforts were made to get her off; which proved abortive, however, and in about an hour the crew were taken off by the Whitburn lifeboat. A steamboat was near the vessel during the time she was making for the port, but had not offered her services to tow the vessel into the Tyne. This tug was said to be the Ellen, of North Shields, and he (Mr Hamel) had tried get her captain as a witness since he came here, but could not hear anything of her. After the vessel struck the steamer went away to sea. On finding that the light seen was not Tynemouth light, Capt. Shield came to the conclusion that this must be the mysterious light which had been seen at Whitburn, for the removal of which they might try to find some means placing light at that point or otherwise. He (Mr Hamel) did not appear here to-day to prosecute any one, but merely to inquire into the circumstances attending the loss of the barque Margaret and Jane, and to bring out any means that could be suggested for the removal of the light in question.
John Frater, boatswain of the Margaret and Jane, was the first witness called, and gave evidence in confirmance of the statement advanced by Mr Hamel. After taking a cast of the lead he hauled up the mainsail and stowed it, in doing which one of the men upon the main yard sung out "Alight upon the port bow." The vessel then steering N by E, which the captain had directed them to do when heard of the light. The man on the lookout afterwards observed the ripple upon the water, and having told the captain the latter sung not for the helm to be put hard, a port. The look-out man was the cook, who had gone to sea again. When they saw the ripple the light was on the port side of the bow. They could not see very far, and at that time they could not see the land. The vessel struck where they had observed the ripple, which turned out to be breakers, and they lost sight of the light, but about a quarter of an hour afterwards they saw it again, more abeam of them, which was probably caused by the vessel slewing round a little. Whenever they saw the light it always appeared to revolve, and it appeared to be well up the cliff and higher than the ship's mast in the position they were then in. The light appeared to be a goodish distance from them, say two miles, and they saw it two or three times before leaving the ship. When they struck he saw a steamtug upon the port shore side nearly abeam of them.
Mr Hamel here said that had just heard that the captain of the steamboat was in court, and should call him the next witness.
Witness said he heard the captain of the vessel speaking to the captain of the steamtug previous to the former striking.
The Mayor remarked that it was a very strange thing that the steamtug should be inshore of the vessel, and in consequence upon the rooks.
Witness: Perhaps was like us, and did not know, where he was. (Laughter).
Alexander Bertram was then examined by Mr Hamel, and said he was master of the steamtug Helen, of North Shields. He was in the company with the Margaret and Jane on the night she got on the rooks, and had been dodging her down from the southward for the purpose of being engaged to take her into the Tyne. They fell in with her about three o’clock in the afternoon off Seaham, the high land of which bore W by N. No bargain was made between them, but he spoke to the captain who told him the date of his leaving Alicante. They were astern of the vessel when she got on shore, but they ran close to her on the port side, and then backed out again. They did not see the land until they ran close to it; the night was dark. They supposed they were a little to the southward of Souter Point, which they recognised when they ran up to it, but they did not know they were so close. They saw the bright flashing light upon Souter only once. They were than steering N by W, and the light bore NW. They had seen a light frequently there perhaps the same light, but a similar one. He was not aware there was a coastguard station near Marsden Rock. He spoke to the captain of the vessel during the time they were running down, but nothing said as to towing in. —By Captain Harris: He had heard the subject of the light spoken of among the steamboatmen, who said they had seen the, light in question often before—it was a shame for any one to exhibit it. it was impossible for them to see the Castle Light at Tynemouth over Souter Point in the position that the vessel was in. He had no idea what this light was. He had seen the light since the ship got there. The flash might be seen for a moment, and then was gone. When they came up from the sea in making the land this looked very like Tynemouth light and vessels were thus caused to alter their course. The steamboatmen knew it well, and called it Souter Light When they first saw the land the vessel was held NW by N, but when she got further down she was hauled out further to the N. He thought that she was too close, but believed that she was merely trying to get hold of the land. The ship was then going along at the rate of about five knots per hour. When she altered her course the ship was then well in towards the land, and would be about abreast of Sunderland, and they then hauled off to about N. by W. In the position they were in they would have had to haul out more, and about N. would have cleared her. He thought they merely wished to get hold of Souter, in keeping so close, and steering a "shy’ course as they were doing. The vessel’s head was due NW at the time she struck, and the reason of her altering her course seemed to be on account of sighting the light, for at that he heard a man on the deck call out to starboard the helm. They were about 30 yards astern of him at that time, in company with another tug. He saw the vessel was standing into danger, but that was no business of his and he gave them no warning (Laughter.)
Captain Harris thought his conduct was almost as bad as the false light.
Witness could not tell how many times those in the only saw the light; he only saw it once. They remained by the side of the vessel an hour and a half after she struck. They saw no lights before they saw this light, but they got a glimpse of Sunderland light. It was quite right for the vessel to starboard her helm if this light had been the Castle light at Tynemouth. He did not warn the barque when saw her running into danger, but acted like many more. They went and asked them if they would be taken off, but did not get their services engaged. If they had got the towage of this vessel up to Jarrow Dock they would have got £3 14s, but he could not say what they would have got if they had get her off the rocks- perhaps £130. The light was a high one, well up on the land, but he could not say how far it was up. He had never seen the tower at Cleadon at sea during daylight.
Capt. Harris thought this tower was not to be seen in the offing it was not likely to be seen when close in shore.
A pilot here stepped forward and said that about a mile out in the offing they could see the tower of the water works at Cleadon. They had seen lights in the vicinity of the tower, but none that could be mistaken for the Castle light. He had heard many complaints from the masters of ships with respect to the mysterious light.
Andrew Jours said he was an ordinary seaman on board the vessel in question, and this was his first voyage as a sailor. He wrote the log on the voyage home in consequence of their having to leave the mate behind in Alicante. The first light they saw after leaving the North Foreland was the Newarp Light, which they were sailing to and they now put off from the sand. The vessel’s head was put for the Tyne on the Thursday, and upon Friday at noon he made an observation and found the vessel 21 miles south of the Tynemouth Castle light. The helm and the vessel’s head was NNW when they sighted land, but he could not tell at what part of the afternoon it was. Land was on the port bow, and they hauled her off. When the light was seen he was on the mainyard arm, on the port side of the vessel. The yards were then squared. When he came down on the deck he saw it again revolving, just as he saw it when he was on the yard. The light was a bright one. He had been brought up at Tynemouth, and the light was in every respect like that of the Castle light., both as to the light and the revolution. The light grew very dim at times, and then grew very bright- (Mr Kewney stated that this was the exact appearance of the Tynemouth light) They took a sounding after the light was seen. He thought it was the second mate. He passed the rope forward from amidships, and the boatswain hove it in over the bow. The captain took the bearings of the light, which bore N and by W ½ W and the vessel’s head was hauled out N and by E. That was the position of the ship head by the compass after she struck – By Mr Kewney: He heard the cook say “Yonder’s Tynemouth Light. That’s the bonniest light I have seen for a long time; I will soon be under the lee of my bonny wife” He never saw the light after getting ashore.
By The MAYOR: He knew the coastguard station above Marsden Rock, but did not the light came from it.
The Court then adjourned until next morning(today.)
The inquiry was resumed this morning at eleven o’clock.
Sir Hedworth Williamson was present on the bench during the hearing of the evidence today.
Mr Hamel stated that he had tried to find Mr Wilkinson, surgeon, Sunderland, who had stated that he could account for the lights, but he feared that he had gone to Dublin.
George Drake, carpenter of the Margaret and Jane, was then called, and said that on the day the vessel was lost he saw land about four o'clock. He was then at the wheel steering N W by N. The land appeared to be on the port bow. He thought the land would be six or seven miles off. It loomed high. He left the wheel at five o'clock, being then relieved by Hanson. He was at the wheel from two o’clock to five, o’clock, and had been steering the same course the whole time. He gave Hanson the course NW by N. After he left the wheel he heard the captain order a cast of the lead to be taken. Some time after heard somebody sing out “There's a light,” and on looking he saw a light. They were then about one or two miles off the land.
The Mayor; You could see Tynemouth light, from your position? —He could not say about that, but saw a light right ahead.
Mr Hamel: The light revolved, and was a brightish light. He saw it twice about an hour before they took the ground. It got brighter and then dimmer. He could not say what light it was; the weather was hazy. He could not say what course was steered after the light was seen. They then lost the light, and the ship took the ground. She got into smooth water just before that. When she took the ground, the compass was flying round, and you could not see how her head was. It was about low water at the time.
Olaf Hanson, A.B. on board the Margaret and Jane, said relieved Drake at the wheel about 5 o’clock, and got the course NNW. After steering that for a few minutes the captain changed the course to N and by E. He steered that course for about a quarter of an hour, and then the captain showed him a light about two and a-half points on the port bow. The captain then changed the course to N by W, which he steered till a few minutes before she struck, when the captain sung out hard a-port. and she had answered her helm so far that her head was NNE at the time she struck The light was a revolving light.
By Captain Height: It was a distinct light, and not a reflection on the cloud, as of a blast furnace light.
Andrew Harrison, pilot, said he had been 29 years a pilot in this district. He had seen lights about Whitburn, the same as might be seen in any town or village on the coast, but none that could possibly be mistaken for Tynemouth. Last winter he saw a flashing reflection inside of Souter, but supposed at that time that it arose from blast furnaces. At the time he was about 4 miles SSE of Whitburn, and they appeared to be in a NNW direction. He only saw that once last winter. Had never seen it before. It was a clear dark morning at the time, and the wind was southerly. The light was an occasional flash, such as he had seen on the Tyne from blast furnaces. He had seen, however, when two or three miles south Souter point, and a little inside Tynemouth light over the headland.
By Captain Harris: As soon as you get a very little inside the point Tynemouth light is shut out. But in certain kinds of weather—hazy—the reflection of Tynemouth light can be seen over the headland.
By the Mayor: He did not believe that the people of Whitburn had the skill and wickedness to go on the headland and by false lights allure vessels on to the Steel.
By Captain Harris: A ship standing in N and by W would soon shut in Tynemouth light, though the reflection would still be seen for a little over the extreme tip of Souter. The extreme range of Tynemouth light is from the north to south.
By Mr Kewney: If the light was N and by W ½ W, the course I would steer would be N by W (Mr Kewney said that was the course that was being steered).
By Mr Hamel: He knew the chimney of Cleadon Water Works, and he never saw any light from that that could possibly be mistaken for Tynemouth. He thought that if they were two miles S and by E from Souter, the chimney could not be seen.
Sir Hedworth Williamson who had just come on the bench, here stated that he had gone out at night and tried to see if any light about Whitburn could be mistaken for Tynemouth light. They had lately got gas introduced into Whitburn, and the lights would be brighter than they used to be, but there was none that would deceive a seafaring man.
Andrew Harmon re-examined said that an ebb tide would set a vessel off the shore, and a flood tide would set her in strongly.
By Captain Baker; If a vessel is in sight of the centre buoy off Sunderland harbour, and is steering a course N and by W, it would lead him ashore. A course due north would lead him clear. It is a custom with vessels running along the coast from Sunderland with the wind SW, to hug the land, and that with the smoke from Sunderland may often lead vessels ashore. The only way to keep clear in that case is to keep the lead going.
By Mr Kewney: Supposing a light was mistaken for Tynemouth light, and the captain supposed he was steering into the Tyne, he would not consider it necessary to use the lead. He had heard talk of the Tynemouth light being shifted to Souter Point. His opinion was taken by a gentleman from the Trinity House on the subject. If an additional light was placed on this part of the coast Souter Point would be the best place for it. It was a bold headland and quite deep.
Sir Hedworth Williamson said he understood Admiral Collinson proposed to do away with Tynemouth light, if the new light was put up south of Marsden.
Robert Blair, sea pilot, and a member of the Tynemouth Pilotage Board, said he had heard what Mr Harrison had said, and he entirely agreed with every word he spoke. He never saw a light about Whitburn that would deceive a seaman. The Tyne Pilotage Board had made an inquiry into the subject, and heard from pilots that they had seen lights which might deceive a stranger but not an experienced pilot, or a man accustomed to Tynemouth light. The projection of Tynemouth light could be seen over the end of Souter. The White Steel id about a mile inside the point. If the wind is from the SW in any direction, and is light, so that it cannot drive the smoke from Sunderland clear away, it all lodges from Roker down to Souter Point, so much so that a person cannot see the land till he is literally ashore.
By Captain Harris: A ship from the south, bound for the Tyne, with a shy wind from the south, is very apt to hug the land, and as soon as they get to Sunderland light bearing WSW if they don’t see Tynemouth Castle light clear of the point, generally to port the helm and run off until they open the light, and then they can steer direct down. Souter Point may be approached to about a quarter of a mile with ten fathoms of water. If he was within a mile of Souter, and to the S and E of it, the village lights would bear about W, there would be no light bearing NW.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 29 December 1866
The False Lights at Whitburn
The Board of Trade Inquiry
The following evidence was taken after we went to press on Saturday.
Charles Douglass, master of the brig Venus, said he was out the night the Margaret and Jane was lost. He made the lights about 12 o’clock. The first light he saw was the light they were speaking of about Whitburn. He was then steering WNW. He was steering for Souter Point The light he saw was a kind of large flashing light, and at first he took it for a fixed light. It bore WNW of him right ahead. He saw it three or four times, and then lost it altogether. He took a cast of the lead when he first saw it, and found 16 fathoms. He did not see the Tyne light at the time. The sky was clearer to the southward. When he found he was in 16 fathoms he let the ship lie to a little, and then ran out the NE. He was coming from Hamburg. He would be about a mile and a-half off land, but could not see it. He took the light for the castle light. It was after losing sight of the light that he ran out to the NNE and after running about a quarter of an hour he then saw the castle light which he thought to bear N by W. In the course he ran off he would go about two miles. He thought that the light was a flash from the blast furnaces or the chemical works at Jarrow. When he sighted the real Tynemouth light he was about two or three miles off it. He saw the light again on Wednesday night last in coming from London. It was just a glare like Tynemouth light and then dark.
By Mr Kewney: It was only when I lost sight of the light that I doubted its being Tynemouth light.
By Captain Harris: When he saw the light last Wednesday night he was about half-a-mile to the south of Souter, and the light was on the port bow. He called his mate’s attention to it, and said 'There’s the light that has led so many ships ashore.” They watched it three times flash. He was in tow. Souter Point was in sight He was past Whitburn at that time. On the first occasion be saw the light flash from behind the Jarrow Chemical works after he had made the Castle light.
Laurence Byrne, chief officer of the coast guard at Tynemouth, said he was formerly stationed at Roker, and knew the coast from that to Shields well. He stationed also at Whitburn. The Whitburn station is situated about half mile from Cope Carr Point, and opposite to the White Steel. There are no lights about there that could decoy ships. It is part of the rules of the Coastguard that no lights are to be allowed along the coast after sunset, and if the men meet with any person carrying lights, the lights are taken and extinguished. If a ship is 100 yards inside Souter it can see the reflection of Tynemouth light over Souter Point. He had seen it from the coastguard station.
By Mr Kewney: An additional light on Souter Point will be a remedy for all the disasters.
Mr Hamel intimated that be had no more evidence to bring forward. He had telegraphed to the Newcastle Trinity House in order to see if they had anything to say on the subject of the lights, but he had received no reply.
Mr Kewney then addressed the Court on behalf of Captain Shield, and urged that nothing had come out during the inquiry to show that had been guilty of any neglect of duty. The evidence showed that the first time land was seen was off Sunderland, after passing which the captain saw a light which he believed to be Tynemouth Castle light, and in that belief all of his crew concurred, and in that belief he made all preparations for getting into port. Then, on his losing sight of that light, he immediately cast the lead, and on finding he was in 15 fathoms water at once ordered the helm to he put hard a port to get out to sea, but too late. The captain would have had the lead going more frequently but that he was so short handed, having only 8 instead of 13 hands to work the ship, and two of the eight were boys. In conclusion, Mr Kewney said he had on doubt that the issue of the inquiry would be productive of much benefit by letting captains know that the reflection of Tynemouth Light could be seen over Souter, and they would thus learn to take care.
After short consultation.
The MAYOR said that in order to give the case every consideration the court would not give its decision until Monday forenoon at half-past ten o’clock.
The Decision of the Court
The proceedings were resumed this morning in the South Shields Police Court, when, as before, there were present -The Mayor, Ald. Glover, Captains Harris and Height, Mr Hamel, and Mr Kewney.
Robt. Blair, pilot, was called and Captain Harris said: When you gave your evidence it appears not to have been taken down so fully as it is desirable. I find, referring to notes, that you gave certain answers which were not put into the depositions, and therefore, with the consent of all parties, we propose to re-examine you on these points, as it will be highly important for mariners in future.
The re-examination of Blair was then proceeded with, when he stated: It is a common thing see the reflection of the Tynemouth light over the point of Souter. You cannot see the light, when yon are shut in by the Point. The White Steel is a mile within the point. From outside the centre boundary of Sunderland a N and by W course on the flood tide would take you too close to Souter Point. With Sunderland bearing WSW and not seeing the Tynemouth light I would haul out till I sighted the light. Ships with a shy wind are liable to hug the land and so get inside the Point.
Mr Kewney said that in accordance with what he understood to be the usual practice in such inquiries he had prepared a statement on behalf of the captain, which with their permission he would put in.
In this statement the captain, after noticing the fact of his being short handed, referred the voyage along the coast in hazy weather the only land sighted after leaving the North Foreland being the Newarp Light and proceeded: - That land was not seen after that until the 30th November, about four or half part four p.m. on the Durham coast, somewhere to the south of Sunderland. That about 5 p.m. a cast of the lead was taken and fifteen fathoms of water was found, and shortly after the attention of the master was called to lights by the crew which he and they believed to be the Tynemouth light, and to make sure the master carefully took the bearings of it, the result being that he was satisfied it was the Tynemouth light, and the vessel was then from two to three miles outside of Souter Point. He then altered the ship’s course, two points from N by S, to N by W, and proceeded to make all preparations for entering the harbour of Shields. He sent up the crew to take in the mainsail, and the before named light was seen by them whilst on the yard furling the sail, and it appeared to revolve, and no one board had any doubt of it being the Tynemouth light. That about six o'clock p.m., he observed a ripple on the sea, and lost the lights, and he feared that he was getting into broken water, and immediately ordered the helm to put hard aport, which was done at once, but before the ship could answer the helm she struck on the rocks. That the night was dark and hazy, and the wind was from the SW, and the smoke blowing from Sunderland in the direction of the ship, which would much increase the difficulty of distinguishing the land, and the position of the lights shore. The captain at the time was under the impression that he had been misled by lights on shore, though he did not consider that these were shown by any person on shore with intent to mislead, but he is now clearly of opinion from the evidence given in the investigation by pilots, and the chief officer the coastguard, that the ship must have drifted by the tide inside the land south of Souter Point, whereby the Tynemouth light which he had seen was shut out, and that being short handed, and all hands being engaged in getting ready for the harbour, the ship thus got on the rocks, that he was, therefore, inadvertently mistaken to his position - which he believed was in deep water leading into the Tyne, or he should have continued to heave the lead —and trusts that this honourable court will acquit him of any dereliction of duty or negligence in the unfortunate occurrence which he respectfully submits was the result of pure accident.
In conclusion Captain Shield referred to the fact that his owner had not imputed any blame to him for the occurrence, that a son of the owner’s had given evidence in his favour, and that he had since been engaged by a Shields gentleman to command one of his ships.
The Mayor then, after a few preliminary remarks to the want of nautical knowledge on the part of Ald. Glover and himself, and the assistance they had received in that matter from Captains Harris and Height, said that the Court, after considering the circumstances of the case, had arrived at the following conclusions, which were the judgment of the Court: —
The court having duly weighed the evidence, and taken into consideration the points that have been urged in the master’s defence, see in this case some extenuating circumstances; and although it does not consider the master free from blame inasmuch as should have exercised greater caution and hauled out to seaward till the Tynemouth light had become clearly defined, it is not disposed to take a severe view of the case. The Court gives the master credit for his previous good character, evidenced by the numerous testimonials from his former employers, and from the fact that he had obtained a fresh command which the necessity for attending the inquiry has compelled him to relinquish. With these observations the Court returns Mr William Shield his certificate. (Applause.)
The Mayor then said if he might be allowed speak personally, he would say that he returned the certificate with great satisfaction, and spoke in the name the other gentlemen also. (Applause.)
Mr Kewney then thanked the court on behalf of the captain and himself for the care and attention they had given the case. This concluded the proceedings.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 31 December 1866
Royal National Lifeboat Institution
To-day (Thursday), a meeting of this Institution was held at its house, John Street, London, T. Chapman, Esq., F.R.S., V.P., in the chair, Richard Lewis, Esq., the secretary, having read the minutes of the previous meeting, a reward of 15s was voted to the crew of the Palling lifeboat, for putting off on New Year's morning in a strong gale and a heavy sea, accompanied by snowstorms, and rescuing five of the crew of the wrecked brig, chase, bound from London to Shields in ballast. A reward of £17 5s was also voted to pay the expenses of the Whitburn lifeboat of the Institution in going off during a strong SE wind and heavy sea, and rescuing eight men from the barque Margaret and Jane, of South Shields, which was wrecked on the Whitburn White Steel, on the 30th Nov. A reward of £14 5s was also voted to pay the expenses of the same lifeboat for putting off on the following day and saving thirteen men from the barque Caroline Elizabeth, of London, which in a heavy sea had stranded on the South Steel.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 3 January 1867
The “False Lights” at Whitburn
The following official report has been made to the Board of Trade relative to the loss of the Margaret and Jane: —
My Lords, —We, the undersigned, two of her Majesty's justices of the peace for the borough of South Shields, in the county of Durham, have held an official investigation, assisted by Captains Harris and Hight as nautical assessors, into the circumstances attending the loss the barque Margaret and Jane, on the Whitburn Steel Rocks, on this coast, which occurred on the evening of the 30th of November. As the loss of vessel is said to have been occasioned by the exhibition of a false light, we have deemed it our duty to go very minutely into that part of the subject, and have now the honour to forward this our report: —The Margaret and Jane was a wooden vessel, built at Groningen in the year 1846, and registered South Shields of the burthen 417 tons. She was owned by Mr Jours, of the same town, and was commanded by Mr William Shield, who holds a certificate of competency as master, renewed since the loss of the ship, and dated in this present month. The Margaret and Jane sailed from Alicante for the Tyne on the 3rd of November, laden with Esparto grass. Her original crew consisted of thirteen hands on the outward voyage, but it had been reduced by sickness and desertion to eight hands, two of whom were boys. The chief mate, the only certificated officer, had been detained by the police at Alicante. Thus weakly manned, she proceeded during her voyage to England. Nothing of importance occurred during the passage, and she arrived about 4 p.m., on the evening of the 30th November, off the coast of Durham, and sighted the high land about Seaham. The weather was hazy, and the master, according to the evidence, took a cast of the lead in 15 fathoms. From this position he steered NNW and N by W for the Tyne, and at 5 p.m., or somewhat later, a revolving light was seen, first from the mainyard, and subsequently from the deck, which was taken for, and no doubt was, the light at the entrance of the Tyne. The night was very dark, and the land obscured either from thick haze or by the smoke from Sunderland—a not unusual circumstance, we find, about this part of the coast— rendering it difficult to make out the light clearly and distinctly. The course N by W, which would have been perfectly correct had the light been seen clear of Souter Point, was continued, and shortly afterwards the ship was stranded on the White Steel Rocks, inside of Souter Point. The crew were rescued by the Whitburn lifeboat, and no lives were lost. Upon making the land the master communicated with a tug, the Helen, of North Shields, which followed the vessel till she struck, and though within 30 yards of the Margaret and Jane, it does not appear that he warned the master of his danger. The loss of this ship is therefore to be attributed to hugging the land too closely, and not to the exhibition of any false light. The court having weighed the evidence carefully, and taken into consideration the master's defence, saw in this case some extenuating circumstances; and, although it did not consider the master altogether free from blame, inasmuch as he should have exercised greater caution, and hauled out seaward till the light he saw became more clearly defined, it was not disposed to take a severe view of the case. It gave the master credit for his previous good character, which has been evinced by his obtaining another ship, and which command he has now forfeited by the necessity for this inquiry. In returning Mr Shield his certificate, the court thought a suitable admonition would meet the merits of the case. It now only remains for the court to report upon this alleged appearance of lights calculated to mislead seamen on this part of the coast. This subject has already been investigated by the proper authorities, and it has also been much discussed in the public prints. It would have been unnecessary to notice the subject in this report had it not been that at the master of this ship, in his deposition made before the receiver of wreck, attributed the loss of his ship to the exhibition a "false light," which he stated had been displayed in the vicinity of Souter Point. It therefore became the duty of this court to ascertain, if possible, what grounds there might be for this allegation. For that purpose, it had before it experienced persons, pilots, and others very competent from their local knowledge to afford it information on this important subject. After the most careful investigation, it has come to the conclusion that the only foundation for the assertion “that a false light" had been exhibited in that vicinity may have had its origin in the fact that, to a vessel when too much in-shore to the southward of Souter Point (a practice which greatly prevails with a westerly wind), the glare or reflection of the lofty light at the entrance of the Tyne is visible in some states of the atmosphere over the high land of Souter Point. This appearance ought not, and certainly would not, mislead a seaman of ordinary experience or observation. The prevalence of hugging the land to the southward of Souter has led ships, both before and since this casualty, into danger, and will continue to do so as long as vessels shut in the Tynemouth light before they are to the northward of Souter Point. In conclusion, the court have only to call attention to the evidence of Messrs Harrison and Blair, both of them pilots of long standing, who are of opinion that a light on Souter Point would greatly facilitate the navigation of this part of the coast. —We have, &c., James Anderson (Mayor), and Terrot Glover, Magistrates. We concur in this report, Henry Harris, Edward Hight, Nautical Assessors. — South Shields Police Court, Dec. 31, 1866.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 8 January 1867