The Call to Rescue at the Mouth of the Tyne
A False Alarm


The residents in the seaward end of South Shields were wakened from their slumber at an early hour this morning, by the booming of guns, the usual signal of something unusual and extraordinary having occurred the mouth of the harbour. This took place about quarter to six o'clock, three loud reports following each other in rapid succession, and it was naturally assumed a vessel was in distress. Although the morning was extremely dark the weather conditions were fine, notwithstanding a strong breeze from the west which had been blowing with no little force. Such a wind on the coast is not usually associated with any particularly uncomfortable feeling but the booming of the guns led to a belief in the minds many that the last day of the year was to be marked by some sad calamity. A strong tendency to increase this anxiety was the effect of the howling wind, which rattled round window panels and doors in an alarming manner. Though the first two reports had not generally been heard, the third and last one had the result of bringing a few spectators to the south pier, and aroused a good number of the Volunteer Life Brigadesmen to the call of duty. There was no excitement manifested whatever amongst the brigadesmen and the other persons who found their way towards the scene of the supposed wreck, as it was perfectly apparent that if a ship had got ashore there could be no danger as the wind was off the land, and the sea was like a mill pond. When they reached the pier promenade, nothing could be observed. The coastguardsmen who are found at their post, as usual were on the alert to render assistance, but it transpired that their aid was not required. "She's struck the Groyne," was an exclamation heard on inquiry being made as to the cause the firing of the guns. “She’s ashore at the fish pier," was a remark which followed the first. A weary trudge was in store for about a dozen persons who set off, and plodded their way across the North Sands, a most unpleasant experience, the wind and sand making the walk a very disagreeable one. The cold morning, and the solitary surroundings would have convinced a stranger that he was looking on a party of shipwrecked mariners cast upon a desolate shore. The little crowd struggled on over the broken surface. The Fish Pier was reached when the s.s. Obedient was seen in mid-channel, a tug ahead, but nothing whatever seemed amiss. A few minutes afterwards she glided through the water and passed up the river. What had happened was not quite clear, but the vessel had apparently dropped her anchor to prevent her from drifting towards the Groyne, and subsequently took the services of tug.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 31 December 1896