Robin Hood

Severe Gale
Steam-Tug wrecked at the Mouth of the Tyne
Three Crew Drowned


Shortly after twelve o'clock this afternoon the alarm guns boomed forth the painful intelligence that some unfortunate craft was in difficulties at the mouth of the Tyne, and in an incredibly short space of time thousands of persons had gathered near the North and South Piers. Enquiries soon led to the information being obtained that a sad and fatal calamity had occurred. It appears that, about the time stated, the steam-tug Robin Hood, of South Shields, was seen making for the harbour, and when between the piers, she was struck by a heavy sea on the beam, which heeled her right over. The waves were breaking very high and the assistance that was promptly rendered of little avail. The only person who was rescued was the captain, who was standing on the paddle box and was thrown headlong into the sea. He was fortunately rescued by the crew of the steamtug Toiler, and safely landed at North Shields. The remainder of the crew went down with the vessel and were never seen again. They include the captain’s son, one man, and a boy. The Robin Hood was owned by Mr W. Wright, Dean Street, South Shields. The hull of the steam tug is still to be seen near to where the catastrophe occurred.

Captain, William Patton, (saved).
Engineer, Anthony Lawn.
Fireman, William Perry.
Fourth hand, William Patton (son of Captain).

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 14 October 1875

Capt. Patton, the only survivor of the crew of the ill-fated steam-tug Robin Hood, is well known and highly respected as one of the most careful tug captains belonging to the Tyne. Great sympathy expressed towards him for his sad bereavement, as well for the great loss sustained by the families of the engineer and fireman. Joseph Laws, the engineer, resided at the Bull Ring, and has left a widow and two children; Wm. Perry, fireman, Bedford Lane, North Shields, widow and five or six children. A subscription to alleviate the sufferings of the widows and orphans was commenced in South Shields yesterday, and a respectable sum had been realized. Respecting the casualty it may be added that the Robin Hood was returning to the harbour after being outside in search of vessels making for, or requiring assistance into, the Tyne. When on the bar she was struck by a heavy sea on the port quarter, which brought her broadside to the heavy and mountainous waves. Before the unfortunate crew had time to put the vessel into a safe position another sea broke completely over her, and she was carried down beneath it. At the time of the disaster the captain was steering with lines from behind the funnel He had just given orders to Laws to ease the engines, but before the order could be obeyed the boat was caught and capsized. Mr Patton, when he found the tug turning over, leaped from the quarter into the sea, and when he came to the surface again he saw an oar ahead him, for which he swam and fortunately reached. He clung to the oar until he was rescued a few minutes after the accident the crew of the crew of the new steamtug Toiler, which with others was riding inside the harbour ready to render assistance in cases necessity. Two lifeboats also put off and cruised about the scene of the disaster, but failed either to rescue any of the unfortunate persons or to recover their bodies. The captain's son was about 14 years of age. When the heavy weather was encountered, his father, fearing the boy might be washed from off the deck, ordered him to below into the cabin, where he was when unfortunately the tug was overturned.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 15 October 1875

The Disaster at the Mouth of the Tyne

The following is the report of Captain Cook, of the steam tug Toiler, which rescued Captain Patton, of the steam-tug Robin Hood, foundered on Thursday at the mouth of the Tyne: -" 12.30 —From steaming slowly down, watching; her chance get outside the bar, I observed steamtug, which I knew to be the Robin Hood, of this port, steaming into the harbour. I was watching her coming in, and in less time than I can tell she ran on a very high sea, and appeared to go under water forwards, and a large escape of steam appeared come from the engine house, and at once the boat seemed to turn over and disappear. I steamed towards the spot at once, and found one man on an oar, which proved to Captain Patton, the only survivor of the melancholy accident. Three times we hove our lines to him without success, but the fourth throw succeeded, and he got hold of it and took several turns round his hand. We then threw another rope, which passed over him and got round his arms, and succeed in getting him on board. From the manner in which the wreckage floated about, and the second large escape of steam, which blew everything into the air, I feel inclined to think that the boilers must then have exploded, as the boat was sinking."

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 18 October 1875

The Loss of the Robin Hood
Board of Trade Enquiry at Shields

A Board of Trade enquiry was opened yesterday morning, at the North Shields Police Court, to enquire into the circumstances attending the loss of the Robin Hood on Shields bar, on the 14th Oct. The Court was composed of Mr Emanuel Young, Joseph Spence, Capt. Cassell, nautical assessor; Mr L. V. Hamel appeared for the Board of Trade, and Mr W.H.  Bell, on behalf of the owners.

Mr Hamel opened the proceedings by detailing facts already fully known to our readers, after which he proceeded to call the following witnesses:-
William James Patton, Clive Street, said: I was master of the Robin Hood, and am part owner. I had been in her about seven years. We always had a crew of four hands. We have been out often in rough weather, but never had any difficulty with the vessel. I remember the 14th of Oct It was fine when we went to sea in the morning, at about four o clock. There was about a foot and half sea. About 12 30 p.m. we got to Shields bar. We were coming in consequence of stress of weather, a storm having come on rapidly, about nine o’clock, when we were six or seven miles north of the Coquet. When we got to the Tyne bar, and I was steering, we shut off steam to allow her to come quietly, for fear she would run away upon a high sea.  It was a high sea, as high as ever I have seen.  The wind was ESE a strong gale. I was steering right in in from the entrance to the harbour. When we got to the bar, between the piers, the broke over her and lifted her stern up, and her stem head right into the water. The next sea which came struck her on the quarter. This sea which came in less than half a minute, and before she recovered herself, pushed her head to the northward, turning her over bottom upwards. I was picked up afterwards by the steamtug Toiler, and others were drowned By the Court: Toiler was waiting for any other vessels. There was no ballast the vessel; but we had about 16 tons of coals; half on one side and half on the other in the bunks. I attribute the capsizing the boat to the heavy water. By Mr Bell: With regard to ballast, it is not usual carry it in those steam tugs we never had more than four hands in the crew. We bail gone to the northward to look for ships, and considered everything was safe and right in the morning. I have nothing to complain with regard to engine, machinery, &c. The boat was in every respect in good order and fitted for work. I had a share in it, and the boat was insured. By Mr Young: I have been master of a steam-tug about 18 years, and have never lost one before. By Capt. Cassell: By shutting off the steam I mean easing it.

Joseph Cook, master of the steam-tug Toiler, said: On the 14th October, just before 12 o'clock, I was lying with my tug just inside the piers about abreast Percy Square. There were three vessels coming in with tugs, and found some difficulty coming in, the sea was so heavy. It was our intention to go out when they had cleared away. The tug boats then came in ahead of the Robin Hood, and got in all right. They appeared to get a lot of water, and pitched a good deal. All of them kept as near the centre as possible. I noticed Robin Hood coming round the pier from the north. She did not round the pier nearer the pier than the others, but as nearly in the centre the others. I saw a very heavy and extraordinary high sea take her aft, when she was about half-way between the North Pier end and the Spanish Battery end, and strike her aft. It appeared to rise of the water altogether aft, and took her out of my sight altogether, and drove her head down, when fell away with the port shoulder and “wrapped right flash over." I think, as far I could see that it was this sea that upset her, and that she did not recover it. It all occurred in about one minute, or two minutes at the outside. As soon I saw her turn over, I proceeded to the spot to see if anybody was afloat, and saw the master, William James Patton in the water, and picked him up. He was on the high side of the wreck. We looked for the rest of the crew, but saw nothing of them. I had noticed the Robin Hood. She was a good boat, and I attribute her loss to the extraordinary high sea. The tide was then half flood, and the wind was blowing a complete hurricane about ESE. I had been out that morning, coming from Hartlepool, and there was no sea at all there. We arrived on the bar about 11 o’clock and had a good deal of trouble to get in. The sea continued to increase very rapidly, and at half past 12 I could scarcely believe my eyes, there was such a tremendously high sea. By Court: The Toiler was 28 tons: she is 163 feet and twice as large as the Robin Hood. We did not go outside that afternoon. I question whether I should have gone out to sea after I saw the state of the sea. In my opinion Captain Patten did all that he could possibly do, in the placing of his boat. By Mr Bell: I don't know names of the vessels that came in before her. By the Court: My vessel was from 150 yards to 200 yards from the Robin Hood when she capsized.


John Grey, engineer of the Toiler, corroborated the statement of the previous witness, and added the effective horse power was 200, the nominal horsepower was 85. By Mr Bell: In shutting off the steam when coming the hour the Robin Hood did what was perfectly right.


James Campbell foreman boat builder for Messrs Rennoldson said: I superintended the building of the Robin Hood. I have built between 40 and 50 and have great experience. I have built four or five on the same scale and plan as the Robin Hood. They were the same dimensions and on the same lines. They are all afloat as far as I know. There was nothing in the Robin Hoods construction that I know that would make her turnover. She was a very stiff boat. The Robin Hood had no ballast; these boats do not require it.  She had the same size cylinders as the other ships I have compared her with and the same stroke- a 32 in. cylinder and 4ft stroke.


This was the case for the Board of Trade.

Ball said he did not think there was anything that could say, for there could be but one opinion about it, namely, that it was pure accident. The boat was in all respects a good one, and everything that could be done was done.

The  Court, without leaving their seats, gave their decision in the following terms :—We have carefully considered the evidence laid before us in this case, and are of opinion that the loss the tug-steamer  Robin Hood was solely owing to the exceedingly heavy sea, which came away so very rapidly on the morning of the 14th October, and was not due to any defect in the vessel, or default on  the part of the master or any of the crew. The court is further of the opinion that great praise is due to Mr Joseph Cooke, the master of the Toiler, for his promptitude and energy in rescuing Mr Patton, the master of the Robin Hood.

The enquiry then terminated.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 30 November 1875