Amid heavy gusts of sleet the schooner Margee, of Whitstable, ran in for the harbour, following, as her crew thought, a vessel which was some distance before them, but which proved only to be the brig Mary Mac, whose sails were still set and her lights burning. Under this impression the course of the Margee was shaped, and like the others the mistake was not discovered till too late. On she came, and carried by a more than usually high wave she struck the pier—a little further down than the Cora—stem on, and was carried so far up that the extreme end of her jibboom projected over the pier edge, over which the waves were pouring in an almost unbroken stream. Once more a few daring members of the life brigade risked the dangerous walk down the pier, and on getting to the place they found the vessel pitching so fearfully and swept so continually the waves, that none of her crew dared venture along the jibboom. A hand line was swung them, and from the head of the bowsprit they were all brought ashore by the whipline, save a  boy of 14 years of age, whose loss reflects anything but credit on the rest of the crew. The poor little fellow was on his first voyage, and was afraid to risk himself on the whipline, and all his comrades went ashore and left him standing at the night-heads. The life brigadesmen cried out to him to jump if he would not fasten himself to the line, and made ready to rush down the pier slope to catch him. Still he hesitated, and ere he could bring himself to jump a terrific wave struck the vessel on the starboard - quarter, and sweeping along the decks carried him high on its crest right out the ship over the pier into the deep water on the other side where he was seen no more. Several of the life brigadesmen narrowly escaped being carried away by the same wave—three of them were thrown to the ground, and for a moment their comrades thought they were gone amid the waters. Fortunately for all, there happened to be a few loaded waggons standing on the rails just behind them, which prevented them being swept off the pier. The rescued men were speedily conveyed to a place of shelter, and number of the life brigade who had received a good few injuries in their last effort went home to change their wet clothes, while the rest manfully remained on duty till morning broke, and the tempest of sea and wind lulled. Their conduct throughout was deserving of the highest praise, for they had to risk their own lives in their noble efforts to save those of the shipwrecked mariners, and they have given a grand proof of their organization. At the same time we cannot help noticing the impediments in their way- impediments which ought not to be bar to their work in future. In the first place it is evident from the experience of Saturday night, that the guns at Tynemouth cannot be always relied upon for summoning the brigade together. But for the flash being seen, all on the pier would have unhesitatingly declared that no guns had been fired. In the next place, when they came to use the rocket apparatus they found that the van in which it is placed could not be moved, owing to a waggon which had got off the line having been allowed to lie in front of it. The consequence was that they had to carry the rocket gear and ropes the whole way down the pier, a heavy task in such night to the few who were there to do it, and who had to wade knee deep in water all the way owing to an embankment of snow outside the rails retaining the water between it and the parapet of the pier. And then they had no place wherein either to take shelter themselves whilst waiting on, or to send the rescued crews to, and the latter, half dead with cold and exhaustion, had to walk more than mile in most cases before they found shelter.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 7th of January 1867

The Wrecks At The South Pier
The Captains' Statements

The following are the principal portions of the official depositions given by the captains of the wrecked vessels to the Collector Customs, South Shields (Mr Blaikie), as Receiver of Wrecks:-

Richard Friend, master of Marghee, of Whitstable, 118 tons, reports that the said ship sailed from Whitstable for Seaham on the 29th Dec. last, and meeting with severe weather pat back to Yarmouth, and then the Humber, and left the latter place on Friday last. Hove to for Hartlepool on Saturday night at 11 p.m., but the wind increasing and the sea running high could not venture in, and not being able to get into Seaham for the same reason, made for the Tyne. That on Sunday night, at about half-past 2 a.m., tide about two-thirds flood, and the weather thick, with snow and wind blowing a gale from the SE, the said ship struck on the south side of the South Pier, at the entrance to the Tyne, and about 200 yards from the outer end of it, and in about half an hour went all to pieces. That the vessel having struck the pier nearly end on the bowsprit overhanging the pier the master who had been on the lookout on the fore end of the vessel succeeded in dropping from the bowsprit on to the pier. The vessel at once rebounded, and about a quarter of an hour afterwards came on the pier again, when the remainder of the crew- with the exception of a boy- succeeded in getting on to the pier.

The vessel was drawn again from the pier by a heavy sea which went right over the vessel, washing away the boy who was lost. That at 2 a.m., when little to the south of Souter Point with the Sunderland light in view, the weather being then clear, sighted Tynemouth light to the NW. Altered the ship's course from N to NW. After getting to the northward of Souter Point made what the master believed to be the leading lights. Still steered to NW to bring the leading lights in one, and when that was done steered for them, but the snow coming on lost sight them. Sighted them again in about ten minutes, having by that time get a little to the southward, and then saw three  lights; concluded they were not the leading lights and hauled the vessel to the northward, as if possible to make the leading lights, but it came on thick again, and he was unable to make any lights. Ported the helm with the intention putting sea, but being close in thought it impossible to get to sea, starboarded the helm and made as was thought for the Harbour. Saw the sails a vessel hanging loose, believed to be on shore, ported the helm to clear her, and then saw the South Pier right a-head on which the vessel struck. That in the opinion the master the casualty occurred partly through stress of weather and partly from lights in North Shields having been mistaken for the leading lights in a dark thick night.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 8 Jan 1867

On Sunday morning January 6th 1867 @ 12-30 a.m. during a heavy gale from NNE & strong sea the brig Mary Mac of Whitstable in entering the harbour mistook the light on the South Pier for Harbour lights & ran ashore on the South Pier rocks, the “Margee” of Whitstable & the brig “Lucerne” of Blyth followed the first named vessel’s course & they all drove ashore the signal guns were fired and the “Tyne” manned by 17 hands Providence 18 hands Northumberland 18 hands all proceeded down to render what assistance they could but owing to the position of the vessels on the rocks they were unable to get alongside the crews were rescued by the South. Shields Life Brigade with the exception of 2 boys drowned, the Lucerne & Margee broke up

Tyne’s crew (17 hands)

George Smith

Geo Chambers

John Purvis

Thos Brown

Wm Wright

Thos Young

Mathew Young

John Shotton

Wm Wright 2nd 

Wm Young

David Young

Robert Purvis

Wm Tinmouth

Henry Young

John Wells

Thos Marshall

Mathew Heslop


Providence crew (18 hands)

Andrew Harrison

James Purvis

George Ayre

Wm Marshall

John Ridley

Henry Johnson

William Burn

Robert Lang

Robert Shotton

Robert Wilson

Frederick Young

George Brown

Ralph Thew

Mathew Young

William Bedlington

Robert Chambers

Thomas Stephenson

John Bone

Northumberland crew (18 hands)

Gilbert Young

John Stobbs

Henry Sadler

Magnes Almer

Thomas Mould

William Foster

Robert Amour jun

William Stevens

Michael McInlay

William Bogie

James Milton

Moses English

Robert Amour sen

James Smith

Henry Towns

James Turnbull

Peter Marshall

John Watson

Source: Tyne Lifeboat Institution Service

Fearful Scene at the Mouth of the Tyne
Total Loss of Four vessels

A hurricane, accompanied by blinding showers o£ sleet and hail, raged at the mouth of the Tyne on Saturday night. The sea was mountains high; and about midnight, as the storm was gathering in force, the preventive officer on the look-out at Shields saw a vessel driving ashore to the south of the south pier. He immediately burned a blue light, and three guns were fired from the Spanish battery to call out the Life Brigade. The preventive officer and the pier policeman got the apparatus for the saving of life down to the pier, but the gale was so strong that they had to crawl on their hands and knees to do so. By two o’clock four ships, with their sails all blown to streamers, were ashore. The vessels were the Mary Mack, of Whitstable; the Cora, of Whitstable; the Lucerne, of Blyth; and the Merghee, of Whitstable. All the lifeboats were got out and fully manned, and pulled down into the Narrows, but the force of the hurricane was so great that, after contending with it for above two hours, their crews were obliged to put about, completely exhausted, and leave the saving of life to the Life Brigade. This was a most difficult and perilous undertaking, as the lines had to be fired against a gale of wind. The piers were covered with ice, and the gale was so strong that the men could hardly stand, and the crews on board the ships were so benumbed with cold that they could make little effort to help themselves. The crew of the Mary Mack got the longboat out, and put a boy into it to steady it; but it was stove under the ship’s quarter, and, the painter breaking, it drove away with the lad in it. He was washed out, but held the gunwale until it drifted into the broken water, when he was knocked off by the seas and drowned, the boat going to pieces. The crew of the Cora, which vessel was close alongside the pier, managed to swing themselves ashore; the crew of the Blyth brig, acting under instructions from the Life Brigade, got aboard the Cora and were hauled ashore on the lines. They had not been ten minutes out of the brig when she slid over with her decks to the sea, and the waves pitched her stem end. The crew of the Merghee managed to spring to the pier, except one lad belonging to Canterbury, who was on his first voyage, and who was so paralysed with fear that he dared not follow the other men. He got into the rigging, but the vessel immediately heeled over, and after he was swung two or three times backwards and forwards in the air by the motion the ship, she broke to pieces, and he was drowned. After stilting over the sand about half mile from where she struck, the Mary Mack got into a position where communication was opened with the shore by one of the seamen throwing a lead line to a man, who plunged into the surf to get it. A “cradle” was then got off to the ship upon a hawser, which was made fast, and the seamen were all brought to land. The crew were taken to the Half-Moon public-house, where warm clothing was prepared for them, and after being comfortably refreshed with hot coffee they all recovered. The Merghee and the Lucerne are entirely broken up, and the Mary Mack and Cora are wrecks. A Whitby brig struck on the sand during the morning. Her crew were taken off by the National Lifeboat.

Source: Glasgow Free Press 12 January 1867

Wreck of Three Whitstable Vessels and Loss of One Life

Shields, Monday, Jan. 7.

The gale of Saturday night last proved excessively disastrous to the shipping on all parts of the coast, Amongst the vessels that were lost were three belonging to the port of Whitstable, all of which were wrecked off Shields harbour. We regret to add that in addition to the vessels one life sacrificed that of a boy named Paine, belonging to Canterbury. The names of the vessels are the "Mary Mac,'' Capt. Stone, belonging to Messrs. Camburn and Co., which was, we are informed, uninsured; the "Merghee," Capt. Friend, belonging Messrs. Nicholls and Co., which was insured in the Whitstable Mutual Club for £680; and the "Cora," Capt. J Strand, belonging to Messrs. Kemp. Goldfinch, and Co. which was insured in the same Club for £800.

Respecting the "Mary Mac," the captain reports that while making for the Tyne on Saturday night, he sighted the Sutherland and Souter buoys, and kept close in so as to avoid being driven past the harbour by the fury the gale, which was at that time a complete hurricane from the S. and S.S.E. The sea was rolling mountains high, and accompanied by fierce showers of blinding hail, which prevented him from distinguishing the harbour lights. He got two lights in one, and supposing these to be the leading lights, steered by them.  In a few minutes, however, he saw the South Pier (which he took to be the North Pier) right under his starboard side, and, acting on the instant, he put his helm about but before the vessel had an opportunity of altering her course she struck heavily upon the pier. The captain, seeing now the dangerous position he was in, kept his head up the pier, and drifted along for a considerable distance. Captain Stone cannot account for appearance of the lights which misled him, but asserted that every time he saw them they appeared in line—a high and low light. As soon as the “Mary Mac" was discovered, the “Tyne” under Mr. George Smith, and the "Providence" under the charge of Mr. Andrew Harrison, were manned and proceeded down to the bar. When the two boats got to the bar, the crews saw that the stranded vessel was outside of the harbour, and that it was impossible to render assistance, the sae on the bar being such as no boat's crew could master. Within the bar the lifeboats, with their crews, lay for about an hour. The two boats then put back, and most of the two crews proceeded down to the pier to assist in working the rocket lines. At 4 o'clock the unfortunate vessel struck the Herd Sand, when the pilots again ran to their lifeboats, and the "Providence" and the "Tyne" proceeded to the rescue of the crew, a work in which, we are glad to say, they were successful.

Some time after the above disaster, viz., at 3.30 a.m. Monday, the schooner "Merghee," came within the end of the pier, and struck heavily on the loose stones of the base. The signal rockets for the brigade were fired, and the force already on the pier was reinforced by several pilots and other members the life brigade The "Merghee," when she first came in contact with the pier stones, was very fortunately caught on the turn by a large breaker, which swept her bowsprit round so that it overhung the pier. Seeing this the men made for the bow for the purpose of making their escape by that means. Just as the captain got clear, and as the men were humanely assisting the boy (James Paine, of Canterbury) from the bowsprit to the pier, the vessel was again borne on a wave and the boy slewed right round. The men immediately escaped from off the bowsprit, but the poor boy was forced by the waves from the grasp his assistants, and dashed away. One of the crew (John Stones) immediately left the fore end of the ship and went to the braces, by which he set the sails, so that the head of the "Merghee" was brought once more to the head of the pier. The whole of the crew were in readiness when her head again came round, and by strenuous efforts the whole safely reached the mason work of pier. John Stones, however, sustained very severe injuries on the left arm by the bowsprit coming down upon it while he was getting up the side of the pier. The men had not long been ashore when the schooner began to break up, and she was soon a complete wreck. The crew were taken to Mr. Thompson's, Pilots' Landing, where every attention was paid to them.

On the same night brigantine "Cora," also of Whitstable, came ashore on the inside of the South Pier, a little to the east of the "Mary Mac," but fortunately very close up to the pier. The mast and crew, as soon as they saw the position they were in, left their vessel by getting over the side by aid of a rope, and waded ashore among the stones lying alongside the pier. The whole of them got safely ashore and were taken to the house of a Mrs. Heron, where they received every kindness and attention. Subsequently, the "Cora" rapidly broke up, but before she was completely gone the crew reboarded her and secured a good many of the stores, sails, &c, belonging to the vessel, and the greater portion of their own clothing.

Source: Whitstable and Herne Bay Herald 12 January 1867

The Boy Drowned Out Of The Merghee
The Inquest

Yesterday afternoon, an inquest was held the Coach and Horses, King Street, South Shields touching the death, of John Paine, aged 14, who was drowned out of the brigantine Merghee, on Sunday morning.

Richard Frend master of the Merghee, said the deceased was the cabin boy on board Marghee. It was his first trial voyage.  On Sunday morning, about three o'clock, a very heavy gale was blowing from the SE and a heavy sea was running, and the Merghee struck upon the south pier. The captain then stated the circumstances of the Merghee's going ashore, as they appeared in his official deposition, published yesterday, and further stated that he was at first deceived in the lights, but there are so many lights at North Shields that unless a person has clear weather, and time to examine them, it is impossible to tell which is which, and a person might easily be deceived. Had the leading lights being coloured he would not have been where he was on Sunday morning. Had there been a light on the end of the South Pier, after he found out he was mistaken in the harbour lights he could have cleared the pier and got the harbour. When he saw the vessel was going on the pier, he called the men on the bowsprit. He was the first on the pier. He dropped from the jibboom to the pier. The other men were saved by the same means.  Two men got hold of the boy and assisted him along the bowsprit, but the boy clung to some of the ropes and could not got from the bowsprit. The vessel in two three minutes backed round to the sea, and the boy was washed off and drowned.

John Stone, seaman on board the Merghee, said that when the vessel came ashore the master was standing on the night-heads and jumped onto the pier. The vessel veered round broadside on to the sea, and none of the men could get ashore. The master then called put to us to brace the yards up so as to press the vessel to the quay. We were all standing in the fore part of the ship. Presently the ship veered round again to the pier, and the master called out, '"Now's your time to jump off the bowsprit: bring the boy with you." The men then all went out on to the bowsprit. I was the last to leave the wreck. The boy was before me; I and another man carried him to the bowsprit end; and when we got there it was a difficult place for anyone to stand on. The master took hold of me and pulled me off, I was farthest out at the time. The other man was leaning over the boy and the Captain pulled him off, but before he could get hold of the boy the vessel receded into the sea, and they could not get hold of the boy. There was no one there with a line or anything. The ship drew astern more into the sea, and the next wave that came carried him away. He was not frightened till the sea came, and then he gave one screech. If the boy had dropped at the time he was brought to the bowsprit, he would have dropped the quay. He was a sharp lad, and did not seem to be daunted at all.

John Clark, policeman at the pier, said he found the body of the boy about half-past 6 o'clock Sunday morning. It was not much disfigured.

This was all the evidence, and the jury after a short deliberation returned a verdict of “Accidentally drowned."

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 9 January 1867

The Crew Of The Mergee

Sir, —Being one of the Merghee's crew, I write to correct a statement in your paper of the 7th, it states that once more the Volunteer Brigade Service was called upon to our rescue. We here state that not one of the Brigade arrived near our ship till the last man was on the pier. Your paper states that we were hauled on shore by the warp-line, which is false. It also states that the boy was left inside the knightheads, which we all our oath deny, as myself was the last man that left the deck, and I and another seaman carried the boy as far as the bowsprit, and I then myself dropped on the pier, and before the master could lay hold the boy the ship dropped astern, and the boy was lost. The Brigade state that they told of the boy to fix himself to the line, and if he was afraid to do that he was to drop into the water, and they would run down the pier and save him. There is not man in the whole Brigade that would have ventured down the pier that morning, as it was quite much as any man could do to stand on the top of the pier. Let those that talk put themselves in the same position as ourselves, and they would not speak as they do now. I myself have been at sea 29 years, and sorry that we are called cowards towards the poor boy. Please to put this in your paper.

I remain, your humble servant,

(Signed,)                             Richard Freud, master,
Edward Nicholls, mate,
John Stone,
F. Jezzard,                         seamen
S. Keen

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 9 January 1867

South Shields Life Brigade


Iam quite sure that your readers will be delighted to see in your columns this evening, the very noble response so many kind friends made, when called upon on Tuesday by Mr Henry Nelson and myself on behalf of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade. In all our experience when collecting for any object we never had money given us with so much good will. All we require to do, is to ask, and we will soon have a fund meet all our requirements.

Before concluding I should like correct error or two in letter signed by the captain of the "Merghee." I for one saw the men drop from the bowsprit, in fact several of the members of the Brigade kept watching and shouting to the men when saw an opportunity for them drop on the pier, and when found the boy was still there, all we could do was to shout and tell him to hold on, which he did until the ship hoisted over, and then his cries were heard no more. We did tell him to try and catch the line which Captain W. Cay and others attempted to throw, but in vain.

I never heard any man tell the boy to leap into the water, and "we would run down the pier and catch him."

The captain knows well we were not standing in such danger to talk, but to work, and he left us still there, while he and his crew went along the pier mourning, as did also, for the loss the poor boy.

I am, Sir,
Yours truly,

Joseph Crisp.

Jan. 11, 1867


Source: Shields Daily Gazette 11 Jan 1867