Terrible Disaster on Shields Bar
Schooner turns Turtle
All Hands Lost
In Sight of Shore
A Painful Spectacle

The boisterous weather which prevailed off the Tyne last night was followed by one of the worst south-easterly storms which have been experienced for many years. The wind after midnight blew with terrific force, and there was every appearance of a continuance of the storm, the members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade mustered in goodly numbers at the Look-out House for all night duty. The officers present were Capt. G. R. Potts, Capt. Page, House-Capt. Henderson and Deputy Capt. Scrafton. Their numbers were supplemented this morning by Captains Robson and Buckland, and Deputy- Captain Newby. Fortunately, what few craft ventured near the harbour during the darkness managed to make the piers safety and the night passed off without disaster. There was little improvement the weather at daybreak, but the wind shifted a point to the south and came away with greater fury than ever. During the forenoon the storm was raging at its height, and the scene at the harbour's mouth was one of almost indescribable awe and grandeur. The south pier end came for the worst of the buffeting. The seas completely buried the lighthouse, the spray rising hundreds of feet into the air, falling in fearful torrents all along super-structure. Tons of sand were lifted in incessant cloud from the south to the north side, which made the journey along the pier, even as far as brigade house, as perilous as it was disagreeable.

About mid-day, the storm raging with unrelenting force, the sound of the alarm guns spread the melancholy intelligence of a disaster at the harbour's mouth. Thousands of people left their work and their homes and crowded towards the pier and the bank tops, and there was evident dismay at the sorrowful tidings that a schooner had foundered on the bar, carrying to the bottom with her all her crew.


About quarter to twelve the little craft was sighted making from the south. She was carrying only a small portion of sail, all being closely reefed excepting her top sails. She bore bravely on, but ever and anon as she dipped into the trough of the seas she was lost sight of. Her struggle with the fierce elements was watched with considerable excitement the men on duty at the Brigade House, and by large numbers of people who had collected near the place. As she rounded the south pier she was washed again and again by the broken seas, and some of the sightseers almost despaired of her then. But she survived the ordeal, although she appeared soon afterwards to become helpless prey to the terrific seas which broke clean over her, and finally beat her out of her course. She drifted too far to the north, and seemed utterly unable to recover herself again. Mounted on the crest of a wave, she was carried a considerable distance at a terrific speed, but she gradually fell away and another sea broke with deadly force over her stern before she could right herself. The weight and force combined of the water was too much for the unfortunate craft. She was pooped and went down stern first, carrying every soul on board with her. The men had evidently given themselves up as doomed and were seen to climb the rigging just before the fatal sea struck her. Three men were in the mizzen rigging. Soon afterwards the two South Shields and one of the Tynemouth lifeboats, which had been hastily manned, passed over the spot, but nothing was seen of the poor fellows. The keel of the boat appeared above the surface every now and again, helpless, drifting wreck, and she ultimately cast up on the Black Middens on the north side. The vessel is stated by pilots and coastguardsmen, who were watching her, to be the Rupert, of Faversham a small coasting schooner.

Our Tynemouth reporter writes.—There was a large beat up of life brigadesmen at the Look-Out House at Tynemouth. A close watch was kept upon the harbour by Mr E. Jones, chief officer of coastguard, and his staff. The sea and harbour mouth presented a scene of turbulence which has rarely been surpassed. The strong wind from the E.S.E. grew and grew in violence, causing a very nasty cross sea to run.

As nearly as our representative was able to ascertain the vessel which has now met her doom, and which was the brigantine Rupert, of Faversham, was first noticed at twenty minutes to twelve coming down from the south. It was the opinion of many who saw her she was bearing two far north of the harbour. The consequence was that the crew were obliged to bring her round very close to the wind, and it is thought very probable that being thus brought broadside on to the strong sea, she may have had her after hatch carried away. This supposition is borne out by the circumstance—noted by several spectators—that she appeared to be in a distressed condition upon entering within the piers. In fact before the catastrophe, at least one person was heard to remark, “That ship is sinking!" She undoubtedly appeared to be settling down astern. Then a huge sea was seen to strike her and when the vessel had cleared herself the steers - man was seen no longer at his post, and four of the crew took to the rigging. A second sea struck her and all was over.

The Rupert was built at Hempstead in Gloucester 1867, and was 163 tons register and brigantine rigged. She was owned by William Foreman, of Whitstable, Kent, and was a frequent trader to the Tyne. She is supposed to have carried 7 hands.

Body Cast Ashore

Between one and half-past one o'clock, the body of a seaman—who, there appears no room to doubt, was one of the crew the Rupert—was cast ashore on the Long Sands, Tynemouth, and was removed to the mortuary in the haven.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 24 December 1895

The Storm
All Night off the Tyne
Wreck Schooner Rupert
Another Body Found

Last night and the previous night as well as throughout Christmas Day, the captains and a large number of members of the life brigades Tynemouth and So. Shields were on duty, but all the appearances last night went to show that they had seen the last of the storm. From North Shields, Newcastle, and up river, people flocked to the seaside yesterday to see the storm and inspect the relic of the sad calamity of the previous day. Tynemouth was crowded all day long in the vicinity of the seashore and a similar state of things prevailed at South Shields, where an evidence of the long continued force of the wind was afforded by the vast quantity of sand which had been blown from the shore, and lay feet deep upon the pier, and almost buried portions of the park. During the night the storm had borne the hull of the Rupert from the spot at the Battery rocks, where she was first cast up, and she had eventually become lodged upon the Black Middens, well towards the Low lights, Early yesterday morning the head of man was found on the rocks near the scene of the disaster by a coastguardsman. The head appeared to have been severed from the body, presumably by a wire rope. It was placed in the mortuary at Tynemouth Haven, beside the body which was found on the Long Sands on Tuesday. Late yesterday afternoon the trunk was discovered near the breakwater at the Low Lights. On the inside of the right forearm the initials “ H.D.” were tattooed, while on the inside of the left forearm were two figures, one representing a man and the other a woman. The body was put together at the mortuary, and later John Days of the sailing vessel Resolute, lying at Pelaw Main, identified the remains as those of one of the crew of the Rupert, but he did not know the deceased's name.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 26 December 1895

The Wreck in Shields Harbour
Inquest on Two Bodies

Last night H. T. Rutherford, deputy coroner, held an inquest at the Divisional Police Station, Tynemouth, upon the two bodies cast ashore after the foundering of the Rupert, of Faversham on Tuesday. Robert Berry Burns, 8 York Street, Dover, identified the first body as that of ordinary seaman Robt McKenzie, 12, on board the Rupert, of Faversham. That vessel left Sunderland at 6 a.m. on Saturday for Ramsgate.-John Taylor, Cullercoats, stated that he found the body at the Long Sands at one o'clock on Tuesday afternoon. In reply to the coroner, witness said he thought the deceased had been washed overboard before the Rupert foundered. The first witness, Burns, next identified the second remains which were picked up in two portions at the Black Middens, as those of Robert Moir, 33 years of age, an able seaman on board of the Rupert. Deceased was a native of Scotland, but witness did not know what part. Witness belonged to the schooner Lord March, which had sailed between Sunderland and Ramsgate all summer. The Rupert was engaged in a similar trade. Henry J. Days, mate of the Resolute, of Faversham, identified the head as that of a seaman on the Rupert whom he had often seen in Ramsgate. He did not know his name. Frederick Milburn and John Smith deposed finding remains of Moir. Mr E. Jones, chief officer of the coastguard station Tynemouth, said that he first sighted the vessel about eleven o'clock on Tuesday morning. When between piers a big sea struck her, and after that three or four men took to the rigging, and the vessel began to settle down aft. Her head paid off to the north, and seeing she was disabled, witness ordered the alarm guns to be fired. When the next sea overtook her she capsized and foundered, and all hands were lost. Not a man was seen in the water after she turned over. Everything was done that could be done to save life. There was no delay whatever. Lifeboats were rowed down, the rocket apparatus was ready for use, and brigadesmen were on the rocks with lifelines and belts, but nothing was to seen. Witness believed that McKenzie was washed overboard by the first sea which struck her on the bar. —The Coroner remarked that was possibly one the saddest wrecks that had happened the Tyne for many years, because it was within a short distance of the shore, and the people there for the purpose of saving life were utterly helpless to render assistance. The witness Burns said that the men on board the Rupert, along with himself and his shipmates, attended the Missions to Seamen at Sunderland. Mr Collins, the chaplain there, took great interest in them, and the mate of the Rupert was enrolled as a member and helper. Only last Thursday night they all spent a comfortable night at the Mission.—The jury found that McKenzie was found drowned, having been washed overboard on Shields bar; and that Moir was drowned by the foundering of the Rupert.

The crew of the Rupert were: —T. Burdon, master; G. Yardley, mate; R. Moir, and W. Fleet, able seamen; W. O'Connor, and R. McKenzie, ordinary seaman and a youth whose name has not transpired.

Deep sorrow is felt throughout North Shields and Tynemouth at the sad fate of the Rupert's crew, and upon the initiative of Mr W. Brown (secretary to the local branch of the Sailors' Union) and Councillor W. Murray, a movement has been set on foot for a public funeral of the two victims whose bodies have been found, to take place on Sunday.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 27 December 1895

[To the Editor of the Shields Gazette.]


Sir, —With your kind permission I would draw the attention of the public to the interment of the bodies of the men who have been recovered from the ill-fated schooner Rupert, that was wrecked at the mouth of our harbour on Dec. 24th. We hope that the public will turn up in their thousands to show their respect to the men who met with such an awful fate. The Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade and the lifeboat crows from North and Shields have signified their intention to be present, and the South Shields Operatic Brass Band have kindly volunteered to head the cortege, which will leave Tynemouth Haven on Sunday at 2 30 prompt.—Yours, &c.

W. Brown, hon. sec.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 28 December 1895

A PUBLIC NOTICE.-THE RECENT GALE— All Seamen are kindly invited TO ATTEND the FUNERAL of the late crew the ill-fated brigantine Rupert, on Sunday. All South Shields men muster at the Mill Dam at 1 30 p.m. when they will be met by the South Shields Operatic Band, who have kindly volunteered their services and will proceed by the company's boat to the Fish Quay. North Shields.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 28 December 1895

The Rupert Disaster
Nautical Funeral at North Shields   

Some measure of the great feeling of sorrow aroused in the harbour boroughs by the loss of the brigantine Rupert and all on board was indicated yesterday afternoon in Tynemouth and North Shields, by the public funeral given to Capt. Thomas Barden, of Whitstable (the master); Robert Moir and Robert McKenzie (seamen), the three whose bodies were recovered and identified. Shields people have not forgotten the kindly and practical sympathy shown by the inhabitants of Worthing on the south coast, when the steamer Zadne was lost with several residents of this neighbourhood— how they buried the drowned men with every token of respect, and generously contributed towards the relief of the bereaved ones. The spirit of Worthing's noble behaviour will never die, and the people of Shields have not been slow to show they can follow a splendid example.

By halt-past two o'clock most of those taking part in the funeral had assembled in Front Street, and the Pier Approach, Tynemouth. The 1 45 ferry had brought a large contingent from South Shields, including the brigadesmen, who marched in orderly array to the village. Tynemouth has never witnessed a more impressive spectacle than was presented yesterday by the long lines of Naval Reserve men, artillerymen, lifebrigadesmen, Wellesley boys, all uniform, and crowds of sympathisers and sightseers. Even the elements seemed in harmony with the solemnity of the scene, —the sky quite overcast, the air filled with mist, and the sea, which a few days before in angry turbulence had engulfed the little Rupert and her crew, and then cast the broken bulk upon the harsh Battery Rocks, now lying hushed and still. Shortly before three the coffins, each covered by the Union Jack, and laden with wreaths, were borne from the Haven Mortuary, and placed in the hearses. So huge and heterogeneous a procession required a great deal of forming, but it was wrought into order without serious delay, and the slow march commenced. At the head were the South Shields Operatic and South Shields Borough Bands, playing "The Dead March." Following the hand were sixty men of the Royal Naval Reserve, in command of Instructor Henry Silk two hundred boys of the Wellesley training ship, in charge Chief Officer F. Jordan (including 40 band boys under Bandmaster Eskdale's leadership), and accompanied by Capt. Baynham, R.N.; the three hearses, followed by four mourning coaches, the first conveying Mr and Mrs McKenzie (father and mother of Robert McKenzie), the remainder occupied by friends of the deceased men. Next came a large muster of captains and seamen of the East Coast sailing ships at present in the Tyne; lifeboat crews wearing their lifebelts; representatives of the Sailors' Union, wearing the official insignia; Captains J. F. Spence, W. Hutchinson, Robert Reed, F. Hudson, and J. Anderson, and nearly a hundred members of the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade; Captains G. R. Potts, G. Robson, J. Buckland, and James Page, Deputy-Captains Scrafton, Thompson, and Newby, and, in all, nearly fifty members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade ; Major Porterfield, R. A., Chief Gunner Dawe, of Tynemouth Castle, and a score of Artillerymen; Chief Officer E. Jones, Tynemouth; Station Officer Collis, South Shields, and other representatives of the Coastguard; Supt R. Farmer, and a number of river policemen in plain clothes; and a very large number of seafaring men and townspeople. In all, the turn - out must have numbered several thousands of persons.

The route taken to Preston Cemetery, over two miles distant, lay by way of Tynemouth Road, Albion Road, and Preston Road. Along the thronged thoroughfares the procession wended its way, sometimes not with the greatest ease, on account of the pressure of the immense crowds of people who had assembled to witness the funeral. As the procession emerged into Albion Road, the bands still playing the " Dead March,” the bells of the Parish Church rang out a muffled peal, while above the tower the ensign was flying half mast high. Preston Cemetery, at the gates of which a dense throng was assembled, was reached at about four o'clock. A blending of the Church of England and Nonconformist burial services took place over the departed seamen. Canon Hicks, of Holy Saviour's, Tynemouth, who had been approached with a proposal for such an arrangement, having very readily and warmly consented. Accordingly the mourners were met, shortly after entering the Cemetery, by the Rev C. H. Newbery, curate of Holy Saviour's, and the Rey J. H. Burkitt, minister of the Whitley and Cullercoats United Methodist Free Church, both of whom led the relatives and friends into the chapel, and there conjointly conducted the services after their respective forms. A similar duality characterised the ceremony at the graveside. Darkness was fast gathering over the solemn scene ere the rev gentlemen had concluded their prayers, and upon the completion of the proceedings the large assemblage soon dispersal.

Doubtless it will be some slight consolation to the bereaved ones to know of the respect with which the remains of the strangers were treated. The movement for the public demonstration, which was initiated by Mr W. Brown (secretary of the North Shields branch of the Sailors' Union), and Coun. W. Murray was taken up most hearty spirit. The promoters secured the co-operation of the Mayor of Tynemouth (Ald. G. Armstrong), who is treasurer to the scheme, and Ald. John Foster Spence while assistance was willingly given by Mr D. Clement (secretary of the South Shields Branch, Sailors' Union), and Mr Nicholls, of Newcastle, agent for the owners of the Rupert. Subscriptions have flowed in from North and South Shields, and from the vessels in the river. Besides the three graves filled yesterday, other four spaces are being reserved alongside in consecrated part to receive the remains of the other members of the crew when they shall be recovered. A fourth body has been recovered, and should be proved to be one of the Rupert’s crew, will be buried immediately.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 30 December 1895

Sales by Public Auction

THE WRECK and STORES of the Schooner “RUPERT." of Faversham, WILL BE SOLD BY AUCTION in Lots as they may lie, at Tynemouth, on Tuesday, December 31st. 1895, at 10 30.

ROBERT M. TATE, Auctioneer.

Sale Offices: 98 Howard Street, North Shields.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 30 December 1895