Fearful Shipwreck Near South Shields
Ten of the Crew Drowned
The weather, which had been very unsettled for few days back, became yesterday afternoon very threatening, and as night set in heavy showers of rain fell, accompanied now and then by strong gusts of wind from the NNW. Later on, the wind blew a perfect gale, continuing in the same direction till about twelve o’clock, when it suddenly veered round NE, blowing in tremendously heavy gusts, whitening the sea all along the shore, and dashing it in huge volumes over Tynemouth Pier. The lowering aspect of the weather had prevented many vessels from patting to see, but unfortunately the night did not pass over without accident, the melancholy details which we subjoin.
This morning one of the saddest of the many disasters that have happened on this coast since the loss of the ill-fated Stanley on the Black Middens took place about a mile from Marsden Rock, at Manhaven, on the rocks off which a fine barque was, early this morning, dashed to pieces, and the captain and other nine of the crew found a watery grave. What adds to the melancholy nature of the occurrence is the fact that the voyage was just about to commence, the barque having in fact only quitted the harbour a few short hours before. The vessel we speak of was the barque Ostrich, of North Shields, 411 tons register, built the Tyne, the year 1545, end was the property of John Barrass, West Cramlington. She was commanded by George Jackson, residing in Church Way, North Shields She hauled out the tier at North Shields about five o’clock last night on a voyage Cronstadt, and was towed by the tug Home about a mile and half out from Tynemouth light, where the anchor was let go, as all the crew were on board This would be about seven o’clock, and the light (wind) was then bearing by N. Soon after , the tug came back with the remainder of the crew, and all hands had supper, after which the watches were arranged and the men turned in. At that time the wind was blowing from the north, but about twelve o’clock it suddenly shifted to NE. and blew a heavy gale. What next took place on board the barque we cannot learn, as it does not appear that any of the crew who were on watch at the time have been saved. All that can be said is that she drifted from her anchors , as is supposed , about one o’clock, and soon after those who were below were alarmed by the watch singing out that she was going ashore, and almost instantly they heard her crash against the rocks at what they afterwards found to be Manhaven. All hands immediately rushed on deck, but the seas were pouring over the vessel so rapidly, and with such fearful force, that it was impossible to stand, and safety was sought in the rigging, and that before they could make any sign of distress. Such was the violence of the tempest at the time that only a minute or two elapsed between the barque striking the rocks and her beginning to break up. At this time the captain, the captain’s son, the mate and the carpenter were in the main and the rest of the crew in the mizzen rigging. The carpenter, Thos. Miller, seeing that the vessel was fast breaking up, and that the boats were all stove in, resolved to make an attempt to swim ashore to get assistance. He accordingly stripped himself and the captain also, but when the son of the latter saw his father’s clothes being taken off, he cried out piteously, “Oh, father, you won’t leave me.” The cry was more than the father’s heart could withstand and, saying “No my boy I won’t” he resigned himself to almost certain death. The carpenter seeing that the captain would not go, plunged boldly into the boiling surf, and his example was followed by three other of the crew. They were no sooner in than, though good swimmers, they found themselves perfectly helpless, and were dashed about by the waves in all directions. Somehow or other they managed , battered and bruised, to reach the shore, and the carpenter rushed up the cliff and kicked violently at the door of Me Finlay, coachman to Mr Shaw. At this time (two o’clock) he was stark naked, and scarcely sensible from the effect of his buffeting with the waves. He managed, however, to let the people know of the wreck, and intelligence was at once sent off to the coastguard station at Marsden, and the two coastguardsmen, Williamson and Odgers, with Mr Snowden and his men, at once set off to the place, only reaching it, however, to find that the vessel was totally broken up, and small pieces of wreck washing about were all that was to be seen of her, while all that remained of the poor seamen who had manned her an hour or two before were four men, who had found shelter under Mr Finlay’s roof, for while the messengers were away for the coastguard the other three men also got up to Mr Finlay’s cottage, where the whole lot of them were promptly attended to-hot coffee and everything else being given them. As one of the seamen, Named Wm. Thompson, had sustained a pretty severe injury to the head by being dashed against the rocks, Mr Shaw sent in his carriage for Dr Robson, who at once went out, and rendered what aid he could, and on examination found that the wound was not all dangerous.
Several of the bodies of the drowned were seen washing about in the course of the morning, but the sea was so heavy, and there was so much wreck washing about that it was dangerous to go into the water to reach them, and up to ten o’clock none of them had been recovered. The following are the names of the crew who have been saved and lost:-
Thomas Miller, Crail, Carpenter
John M’Kenzie, Scotland, able seaman
Wm. Thompson, West Hartlepool, able seaman
Wm. Chambers, West Hartlepool
George Jackson, North Shields, captain
John Robson, North Shields, mate
John Main, Sunderland, cook and steward
Steven Buchan, Fraserborough, able seaman
Edward Johnson, Berwick, able seaman
Archibald Graham, Isla, ordinary seaman
Christopher Bell, Carlisle, ordinary seaman
Charles Brown, Glasgow, boatswain
John Johnson, Norway, able seaman
There are thus four of the crew saved, and nine drowned, or including the captain’s son, ten lives have been lost by this sad disaster.
One man, Albert Freet, had signed articles but did not join the vessel.
Since writing the above, we have learned that the body of the captain was washed ashore about eleven o’clock, and as it was then naked, the probabilities are that the complete break up of the vessel took place immediately after the carpenter had quitted it. During the forenoon there were a good number of visitors to the spot. The body of the captain was removed to his residence. There are various rumours afloat as to the cause of the disaster, and it is generally said that the crew were the worse for drink. However that may be, we will probably learn at the inquest on the captain’s body, which will probably be held tomorrow.
Source: Shields Daily Gazette 31 July 1866
The Loss of the Ship Ostrich - The Inquest
On Thursday Mr Cockcroft opened an inquest in the Town Hall, North Shields, on the bodies of George Jackson, master, Jacob Jackson, his son, and John Robson, the mate of the Ostrich, who, with seven others (including Mr Christopher Bell, son of Mr James Bell, of Warwick, near this city, were lost with that unfortunate vessel on the rocks at Marsden, on Tuesday last. Mr Jackson has left a widow and three children, and the mate is married. His eldest daughter was nearly lost with him, as he intended to take her with him to sea also, but was dissuaded by his wife from doing so.
Mr John Taylor, chemist, Linskill Terrace, identified the body of Captain Jackson, and that of his son, Jacob Jackson. Captain Jackson was about 50 years of age; his son was 13 years, and was going with his father on a pleasure excursion.
John McKenzie, powerful-looking seaman, belonging to Leven, in Scotland, said he was one of the crew of the barque Ostrich She belonged to the port of North Shields. Mr Barrass was her owner. She was 411 tons register. George Jackson was the master: John Robson the mate. Did not know the names of the crew. There were 14 all told. The vessel left the harbour in the middle of the afternoon, but he was not on board. He went off in the tug boat. The Ostrich was bound to Cronstadt, with coals. Witness went off in the tug Home about half-past four o’clock. The ship was lying about two miles off Tynemouth. He was on board before six o’clock. The vessel was at anchor then. He could, not tell how she was lying by Tynemouth Lights. He was sober when he went on board. Did not see any the crew the worse for drink. They might have had glass but they were all able to do their duty. They had their suppers about nine o'clock, after which the captain told them to set the watch, and call him at three o'clock the morning. The witness had the last watch, and Thompson, one of the survivors, had the first. The vessel was lying at one anchor, and had thirty fathoms of chain out. The sea was not high when they went to their suppers. It commenced to break heavily at half-past eleven. When the weather got bad about half-past ten, and the wind hauled to the eastward, witness told the men below that the ship was in a dangerous position, and that she might drift if the wind got any stronger. He was below in his berth at twelve o'clock, but not asleep, when one of the men on the watch shouted below that the vessel was drifting and they all rushed on deck. They had not been on deck ten minutes until the vessel struck. She struck near to Man Haven Bay. He had seen a light in Marsden cottage before dark. They had a lamp in the rigging but the sea washed it out. The boats were on deck, and when the vessel struck the seas broke them in two just as you would match wood. The gripes held, but the boats were useless. As soon as the vessel struck the men took to the rigging, but in twenty-five minutes or half an hour there would not be a bit of the vessel left. The vessel kept bumping. The coal was out of her in less than ten minutes. The cabin was swept off the deck, and she laid herself broadside on and soon went to pieces. Witness got from the fore rigging to the main rigging. He saw the captain in the fore rigging stripping himself. He saw the boy jump but he never observed the mate after he saw him run forward. He saw the captain and his son jump into the sea, but he did not see them after. He (witness) jumped just as the three masts went over the side. The boy jumped first and the captain after him, and he (witness) jumped after the captain. The wind was blowing heavily, and the rain was pouring down in torrents the time. They could not see the shore. The other men were stripped, but he had three shirts and a pair of trousers on. He was good swimmer, and he kept his consciousness all the time, else he could not have been saved. When he got ashore, he thought he was the only person saved; but he immediately after saw the other men running, half naked. They went to Mr Shaw's, Marsden Cottage, where they were most kindly treated and taken care of. When he got on deck first he found the vessel was drifting very quickly— as fast as a steamboat would go ahead. The bunt the main-topsail was loose, which caused her to drift faster. No attempt was made to get the second anchor out when he got on deck. They were all in confusion when they got there. He did not hear the captain give any orders. He did not think that they could have let the second anchor. The wind shifted to the eastward when it began to blow heavy. The captain did not come ashore in search of the crew. The vessel was fitted with patent reefing topsails. He could not tell why she was allowed to be at anchor all night. Did not hear the captain give any order after they came on deck. He heard the captain say every man must try to save his own life. They had half a pint of rum in the forecastle amongst the seamen. It was their own. He did not know whether there was any liquor on board, in the cabin.—In answer to a Juryman, he said that he would not give any opinion, whether, if sail had been put on the ship when she began to drift, she would have gone off the land.
William Thompson belonging to Liverpool said that he was an able seaman, and belonged to the Ostrich. He joined the vessel at seven o'clock on Monday evening, and went off to her in the tug. They were one hand short, and the man who had joined did not come on board. Witness was sober when he went on board. He saw no one forward the worse for liquor. The vessel was about a mile and half off the land. He did not see the anchor. Witness was the second watch. He went on at 11 o'clock. The vessel was labouring pretty hard when he went on to his watch, the wind was well from the northward. It was blowing right along the land. He did not take the vessel's bearings. There was nothing to take them by. There were no lights in the binnacle. The captain and mate were not on deck. The vessel was labouring very heavily at the time he commenced his watch. Chambers and he had the watch from 1 o'clock until quarter past twelve. They had a light in the starboard fore rigging. They saw Tynemouth lights pretty plain. About 11 o'clock the wind and sea increased, and there was heavy rain with them. They had orders to call the captain if the vessel dragged. If not he had be knocked up at half-past two o'clock to get underway. The vessel did not drag while he was on his watch. He put his foot nine or ten times on the cable during the hour to determine it. He went off his watch at quarter-past twelve, o'clock. He was sure that she was not dragging at that time. None of the men who were on the next watch were saved. In about ten minutes after he went below, one of the watch who had relieved him came below to light the anchor light, which had been knocked out by the wind and sea. Immediately after that word came down for all hands to haul the chain cable, as the ship was driving. All hands immediately turned out. But there was no more cable on deck to give her more chain. When he got on deck, he found that something had gone wrong with the anchor, and that the vessel had drifted a good deal, and was drifting rapidly. The wind had got round suddenly to the N.E., and was blowing dead on to the land. The vessel was blown rapidly towards the beach. The captain came on deck when they were called. He ordered them to haul the chain up, and give her cable from the locker. But the vessel was then within twenty fathoms from the breakers, and she struck five minutes afterwards. There was another anchor hanging to the stoppers, all ready to slip. The port anchor was the one that was gone. He did not see any cable for the one on the stoppers. He did not think that the second anchor would have held the ship when they all rushed upon deck. After the vessel struck, all hands took to the rigging. Witness was in the mizzen rigging. From the time that the vessel first struck, until she went to pieces, three-quarters of an hour would elapse. He and the other men were in the rigging all that time.
He did not see the master and mate jump. Witness jumped when the vessel broke up. When he had nothing to hold on by he jumped. His head was much hurt. The vessel must have been drifting from the time that he went below until he and his mates returned on deck again. He went on board with Mr Kenmir. It was seven o'clock, for it was after five then he left Newcastle. The pilot and foyboat men left the ship before he went board. Edward Johnson, who is drowned, and who was on the watch after him, told him that he got no body up aft. He had called, he said, of the chief officer. He had gone to his berth and called him, but he did not get up. When they took the boat in witness saw the mate, and he was sober then.
The main topsail was hanging by the quarter gaskets, when they came on board, and hung here until she went ashore. Witness complained that the wound in his head had not been dressed since Tuesday morning.
The Mayor of Tynemouth requested Sergeant Adams to take witness to Dr. Stephens or Dr. Emmerson to have the wound dressed immediately.
Mr James Shotton, artist, identified the body of the mate John Robson, who he said, was 41 years of age.
This being all the evidence the police had produced,
The Coroner said: Well, gentlemen, I do not intend to close this inquiry to-day, as I think we should have a little more information as to the condition of the ship. The persons whom I have examined to-day cannot give us any particulars as to how the vessel was found in anchors and chains, and we must have some information on that subject before we close this inquiry. I will, therefore, adjourn it till Monday afternoon two o'clock, at this place, (Town Hall, North Shields)
Source: Carlisle Journal 10 August 1866
The Loss of the Barque Ostrich
On Tuesday afternoon the adjourned inquiry, relative to the death of Captain George Jackson and Jacob Jackson, his son, and John Robson, mate who were drowned on the 30th inst at Manhaven near Shields, was held in the New Court House, North Shields, before L. M. Cockcroft Esq. Coroner for South Northumberland.
Thomas Miller, seaman, Crail, Perthshire, said:- I was carpenter on board of the Ostrich. I had been more than one voyage with the Ostrich. I was on board when the barque went out of the harbour. I was sober, but I could not say the men brought on board liquor. l am sure the captain and mate were quite sober. We went out about a mile and a half and then drew up to wait for some of the crew. I saw three of the crew come on board between half after and eight o'clock, but was too busy see whether they were drunk. Saw the crew after that and they were able to do their duty. I did not keep any of the watches. I heard the orders given to the watch. Heard the captain tell one of crew that if any change took place he had to be called. I cannot tell why the captain laid the vessel where did. I passed the captain standing at the cabin door and asked him when we would get under way, and he replied thought about three o'clock in the morning if the weather kept good. The barque lay by the starboard anchor. The port anchor lay on the forecastle deck with the cable attached to ready to be slipped. The vessel was fitted with Cunningham's patent reefing mainsail. Part of the topsail was flying loose. Cannot say why it was so. The first watch was set about eight o'clock. The anchor down was large enough and the barque was well found in chains and anchors. They were quite strong enough for a vessel her size. There were some strangers on board when we went out of the harbour, but they went away when we gave her chain. The first intimation I got that anything was wrong was when the ship struck. I believe the ship called us all up. When I got on deck the captain and mate were there. After she struck nothing could be done to save her. The sea was making breaches right over. Never saw drink on board but one day at the West Indies when taking cargo on board. When I was below I was aft and did not see any liquor down there. The Ostrich was a very clever ship to go to sea with. The captain was a sober man and knew his business well.
John Morrison, ship owner, and sail maker, North Shields: The Ostrich was in one of the Mutual Insurance Company's clubs. Mr Cleugh and myself went on board the day she sailed, and examined her stores, &c, on behalf of the Insurance Company. She seemed to have everything all right, and in perfect seaworthy order. Mr, Cleugh saw the anchors, and I saw the chains. The latter were excellent and full sized. I knew the captain for many years, and, always found him a respectable and steady man. We were on board about one o’clock I did not see anything like drunkenness on board then. The only thing we thought it necessary to order was two side lights to be put on. She had one on at the time. The crew were numerically sufficient for the vessel.
George Cleugh, ship-owner, North Shields, who was in company with Mr Morrison when he examined the Ostrich confirmed the statement of that witness.
John Carr, master of the steam tug Home, said-I towed the Ostrich out to sea. We started about twenty minutes past six at night. After towing her out to sea, we came back, bringing with us four men. About twenty minutes past seven we back to her with three men. One appeared to be “a little touched with drink," but the others were sober. I have not seen the one who was a touched since. I did not go board of the Ostrich, and can say nothing of the state the crew. I never spoke to the captain. When went out the second time I advised my men to take the bearings of the anchor, as she might be slipping, and it would be a job get it again. There was no wind at the time to do her any harm. Where she lay was where the most of ships are brought up. The distance between where she lay and Manhaven is about a mile and a half. The captain did not come into the harbour to seek the men. She was lying in ten fathoms of water, W.N.W. from the bar.
Wm. Rennoldson, foyboatman, North Shields, said he took the Ostrich to sea. The crew, as far as he saw, were quite sober, and capable of doing their duty, and were all hard at work. He was about an hour on board after she was brought up. Did not see any drinking going on then. The captain was finishing his tea when the last three men came on board; and he said as soon as the men got their supper they would get her underway. The men were all on board. Left the Ostrich about eight o'clock. There was 30 fathoms of chain out to the windward. The wind was N. W. by W. If they had put to sea when he left they would have got a very good offing, as the wind was suitable.
Robert Chambers, sea pilot, South Shields, said—l took charge of the Ostrich out. She was brought on my directions in about ten fathoms of water. I remained on board about half an hour after she got out. She was riding at one anchor. The other anchor was all right. The captain did not say what his intentions were. The whole of the crew appeared to be sober save the carpenter and another man, who seemed to the worse of drink. The two last-named were able to go about their duties. When I left, she was lying perfectly safe. She was lying W. by N. by Tynemouth Light.
James Barris, West Cramlington, said—l am owner of the Ostrich. She was about 20 years of age. I bought her about three and half years ago from Mr J. W. Smith, and I had her then classed years, A 1 red- Captain Jackson had been in command of the vessel since I purchased her. I had every confidence. I sailed the ship upon teetotal principles. I went out with the Ostrich when she sailed, and did not see any of the crew the worse of liquor. They were all capable of doing their duties. The captain said as soon as he got the crew on board he would proceed with her. I cannot account for her staying at anchor. The captain did not complain of any illness, but seemed quite well.
The coroner having briefly recapitulated the evidence given, the jury retired, and after an absence of fifteen minutes, returned a verdict of accidentally drowned by the wreck of the barque Ostrich. The foreman remarked that the jury regretted very much that vessels were allowed to go sea before they had their full complement of hands on board.
An adjourned inquest on the bodies of Charles Brown and other seamen, who were drowned near Marsden on the 31st of July, by the wreck of the barque Ostrich, was held on Tuesday, by adjournment, at the house of Mr Tinkler, Jolly Sailor Inn, Whitburn, before J. M. Favell, Esq., coroner. The jury returned the following verdict:—"That Charles Brown and other seamen were drowned by the wreck of the Ostrich, in Manhaven, on the 31st July, and that the wreck was caused by gross carelessness on the part of those who had charge of her, and that she never ought to have been anchored that night, especially considering the state of the weather."
Source: Carlisle Journal 10 August 1866