Storm off the Tyne
Wreck at Shields
Two Lives Lost
Harrowing Scenes

A heavy storm came away along the North-east Coast on Saturday, and continuing the whole of Sunday, a very tempestuous sea prevailed, huge waves breaking over the piers at the entrance of the Tyne. To the southward, as far as the eye could reach, the water was one mass tossing foam, and much anxiety was felt concerning incoming vessels. Many craft, outward bound, put back when the state of affairs outside became known, and the members of the Volunteer Life Brigades on both sides of the harbour were early on duty, and the lifeboat crews got in readiness, for such sea it was known that their services might necessary at any moment. The wind was from the southeast, and it was accompanied by heavy rain showers. It was very aptly described as "dirty weather." About 5.30 in the evening, just when the tide was at its height, a brig was seen to the south. She was watched closely from the rocket van on the South Pier, as she seemed to be driving too closely to make the entrance of the harbour. The brigadesmen were soon satisfied that she was helpless and they fired a port fire signal from the van to the coastguard on duty near the Watch House, who immediately fired the alarm signals, which were repeated by H.M.S. Castor. The vessel came broadside on before the sea, great billows sweeping over her and bringing her perilously near the pier. The anchor was lowered, but seemed have little or no effect, and in a few minutes she struck the stern of the stranded steamer Huntsman, which caused the brig to careen over with her deck toward the sea. Her head lay to the pier, some thirty yards away, and the upper portion of the steamer's stern was right over her amidships. A rocket was fired, but the crew did not seem able to fix the line, and a second rocket was fired. Just about this time the mainmast snapped clean away and went into the seething waves, and the master of the vessel, which proved to the brig Wellington, was washed overboard, and was never again seen alive. Four of the crew succeeded in climbing on to the Huntsman, but their comrades had no chance of doing so as the brig, grinding under the steamer with every succeeding wave, with the most ominous sound, was severed in two and the three poor fellows clung tenaciously to the remaining portion of the wreck. The scene from this point to those who witnessed it from the pier was of heartrending description. The seas broke high over them with tremendous energy, now and again completely hiding them from view. Blue lights were burned by the coastguard, who were under the command Mr Lorden, and they threw a weird reflection upon the tumbling waves which raced past the doomed craft with terrible velocity. Thousands of people had crowded to the beach and lined the sands, and were packed in a dense mass to the landward side of the stormgates, which were kept firmly closed by members of the Borough Police, against everyone but those who had the recognised authority to pass them. The chances of saving the remnant of the crew were every moment becoming less, the crunching of the timbers telling too plainly how perilous was becoming the position of the men, who seemed doomed to watery grave. One of them, however, had succeeded fastening a line around his waist, and called out above the roar of the breakers "Heave away," an order which was promptly obeyed. For a moment he was seen dangling over the side of the wreck and the next he went plunging overhead into the sea. Despite the hearty efforts of the men who held the ropes he was washed a considerable distance, but he was dragged steadily towards the pier, where he was shortly landed in an exhausted condition. Fully quarter of an hour elapsed, when one of the two men left succeeded getting into the breeches buoy, and he as eventually safely landed. The remaining man clung tenaciously to the wreck, which was occasionally totally submerged, having quite gone on to her broadside. He seemed unable to use the line, and as he could not be reached by his comrades on board the steamer, whose shouts to the Life Brigade could now and again, be heard above the howling of the wind and waves, there seemed no possibility of saving him. The order was given to haul away, but the breeches buoy proved to be empty and the next moment the man was seen struggling in the sea, having apparently been washed overboard. There was a desperate attempt to rescue him, one the brigadesmen, Benjamin Heron, gallantly wading into the surf with the view of throwing him a life buoy. The man was tossed about in the sea and was observed first in one spot then another. He was borne to quite half the length the steamer and was then carried back to the stern, where he for several minutes held on by a rope passed round the Huntsman. Heron was unable to give him any assistance, and was himself dashed among the rocks at the foot of the pier and sustained some slight injury to his head. The poor seaman under the stern of the vessel must, by this time have become exhausted, for he was presently carried away by the swirling waves and never again seen alive.

Soon after the brig had got into difficulties the rocket cart had been taken along the beach, as it was thought there might be a hope of effecting a rescue in that direction, and the lifeboat Willie WouIdhave was also launched, Mr Andrew Purvis, coxswain, being in command, but in such a sea it was a hopeless task to get near enough to be of any service and the craft was driven back upon the beach.

The four men who had been fortunate enough to reach the deck of the steamer were taken off without much difficulty by means of the breeches buoy. As the men were landed they were taken to the Watch House, where they received the best of attention at the hands of the brigade surgeon, Dr. Robertson Crease, and his assistant, Dr Goudie. Captain G. R. Potts was in command of the watch, and, like his brother officers, did effective service. The other officers were Captains Geo. Robson, Walter Ross, and J. W. Buckland; Honorary Captain Geo. Grey: and Deputy Captains Geo. Scrafton, J. W. Wood, James Henderson and James Thompson. When the roll was called eighty members of the brigade answered to their names.


Shortly after eight o'clock the body of one of the drowned men was cast up. It proved to be that of George Smith, cook of the brig. Dr Goudie was on the spot, and at once set to work to endeavour to restore consciousness, adopting the usual means for restoring the apparently drowned, but on being satisfied that death had really taken place, the body was removed on an ambulance stretcher to the mortuary at the Lawe. The name of the master of the vessel was John Arnold. He was aged 50 years and belonged to West Hartlepool and, it is said leaves, a widow and five children. His body had not been recovered at an early hour this morning. The deceased Geo Smith was aged 47 years. He was a stocker belonging Portsmouth and was working his passage to the North in order to find employment. He leaves a widow and two children. The rescued men were William Mills, mate of Sunderland; James McKenzie, of Portsmouth; Donald McDonald, of Stornoway; J. McLeod also of Stornoway; James Davis, of North Shields; and William Robson, of Sunderland. Two of the men stayed in the Brigade House overnight, and three who lived at a distance were provided by Mr Rudd, agent to the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society, with lodgings in the town, and would be forwarded by that society to their homes to-day.


Our representative at a late hour last night interviewed Mr Wm. Mills, mate of the brig. He stated they were bound from Southampton to Sunderland in ballast, having previously picked up the man Smith at Portsmouth. They came along before a fair wind, and were off Flamborough Head at daybreak that morning, the wind blowing freshly from a south-easterly quarter. The brig was drawing 9 feet 2 inches of water. She was in every respect a vessel well found and a capital sea craft. The crew consisted in all of eight hands. No mishap was anticipated, despite the heavy sea which prevailed along the coast the whole of Sunday, and they came along splendidly. The sails set were the foresail, four lower and four upper topsails, main lower and upper topsails, maintopgallantsail, and the four topmast staysails. Owing to the state of the weather it was decided to come on to the Tyne, being a much safer entrance than Sunderland. In making for the harbour they mistook the pier light, and they never saw the South Pier till they found they would have great difficulty in clearing it. A tug lying off the entrance was close by and the skipper shouted to the master of the brig "Hard-a-port.'' The master repeated the order to the man at the helm, and shouted to the tug "Come on then; we will hand you a rope," and they commenced to haul in the main topsails. It was then seen however that they could not clear the pier so as to enter the harbour, and they tried to haul her off, but the sea was too heavy and the vessel drove bodily on towards the shore. They let go the anchor, but she kept drifting till they found themselves right inside the "bight," where they were among the breakers, and soon afterwards they struck the steamer Huntsman. James Davis managed by means of a wire warp to clamber on board the steamer. He (Mills) fastened fine line round his wrist, and with the help of Davis also got on the steamer. They then let down the line to McLeod and he was safely brought up. Robson was the last man to escape by that means. He fastened the rope round his body and they hauled him up. When the vessel struck the captain was standing by the mainmast. Witness called on him to come forward as they had got a line, but for some reason he did not come, and soon after the mast went by the board and the captain with it, there being no chance of saving him. When the rocket line was fired across the brig it was fastened to the fore end top block on the port side, and it was by this means McKenzie and McDonald were got ashore.

The brig Wellington was owned by Mr J. W. Lawes, of South Shields, but was registered at Whitby. She was a vessel of 332 tons register, and was built at Prince Edward Island in 1856.



Yesterday morning a severe south-east gale broke upon the coast, and continued with increasing force during the day. Rain fell incessantly and at dusk the outlook was of the stormiest description. A terrific sea broke across the harbour's mouth, and in the offing, and during the forenoon and afternoon a large number of small craft made for the harbour for refuge. A little before six o'clock last night the alarm guns were fired from the Spanish Battery and some thousands of people flocked to the Low Lights to hear tidings of the reported calamity. It soon became known that the vessel had stranded behind the South Pier. Though the night was as dark as pitch the scene of wreck was indicated by brilliant blue light which was kept burning on the pier to aid and facilitate the operations of the life brigadesmen. Four or five rockets were fired at long intervals, and the greatest suspense prevailed as to the fate of the crew. The return of the lifeboat, which had been launched under the direction of Mr William Thurlbeck shortly after the alarm had been given, was eagerly awaited by an immense concourse of people, and the worst fears became realised when it became known that two lives had been sacrificed to the raging storm.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 18 January 1892

The Wreck of the Brig Wellington


This morning, on visiting the scene of the wreck, evidence as to the terrific force with which the ill-fated brig must have struck the stranded steamer Huntsman, was seen, in the quantity of wreckage with which the beach is strewn. The rocks alongside the pier are literally covered with fragments of vessel and spars of all sorts, while here and there along the shore are lying, some of the larger portions of the wreck. The bows of the brig are lying embedded in the sand a few yards from the stern of the steamer, the stern with part of the port side attached, is lying about 30 yards from the steamer's bows; about 60 yard further up the beach is lying nearly the whole of the starboard side. To the left and right of the latter are lying small portions of the port side, and for several hundred yards along the shore just about high water mark, wreckage is lying about in all directions. The body of the master of the brig has not yet been found, but search is being made right along the, shore, in the hope that it may be cast up by the waves. There is a large hole in the port quarter of the Huntsman, and her rudder post and rudder has been carried away and two of the blades of her propeller broken. A vigilant watch was kept up at the brigade house during the night, but although a good number of vessels entered the Tyne, the services of the brigadesmen were fortunately not required. There still a very heavy sea running on the bar and along the coast, and a stiff easterly breeze is blowing

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 18 January 1892

The Wreck at the South Pier

Congratulatory Telegram 

Yesterday Mr Lorden chief officer of the coastguard stationed at South Shields, received the following telegram from Captain Bromley, R.N., commanding chief inspector of coastguards the North-east Coast:—"l congratulate the coastguard and brigade on gallant rescue last evening. Much regret lives lost.


Coroner’s Inquest

In the afternoon an inquest was held at the Marine Hotel, South Shields, before Mr Graham, coroner, concerning the death of George Smith late cook of the brig Wellington, which was wrecked on Sunday night alongside the South Pier.

William Mills, 3 Back Emily Street, Sunderland, mate of the brig Wellington, said the vessel hailed from Whitby, and was owned in South Shields. George Smith was cook and belonged Fratton, near Portsmouth. The brig left Portsmouth on Friday week. On Sunday she took the ground near to six o'clock, and became a total wreck at the south side of the South Pier while attempting to make for the Tyne, where she was coming for shelter. There was a gale of wind from the S.S.E. They mistook the light or lights exhibited on board a tug attending the sunken steamer Crystal, lying sunk a short distance from the end of the South Pier. They mistook the light for those of a tug coming to tow them in. They saw the North Pier light, but there I was no light the South Pier end nor did they see at the time the South Pier at all. They knew nothing about any wrecks being there. When close to the tug, someone on board her shouted "Port your helm." They ported accordingly, when they for the first time saw the end of the South Pier, which was pretty well ahead. Owing to the sail they had up the brig had considerable way upon her, probably six or seven knots. They saw they could not clear the pier and they tried to haul off on the port tack to stand out to sea, but the sea was so heavy that it washed them bodily ashore. They let go the anchor on the port bow. The chain parted and they drove against the south side of the pier and then struck the stranded steamer Huntsman. Just before that the rocket apparatus arrived. They had hauled the tail block out, and made fast to the fore tack block on the port side, then hauled out the hawser. One the crew bent it round his body and was hauled ashore, so that the breeches buoy was sent out on the whip and the second man was put ashore. The breeches buoy was sent out again, and the deceased was in the act of getting over the bow into the breeches buoy when he was washed overboard and drowned. Previous to that four of them—himself and three others—got on board the Huntsman and were rescued from there by the life-saving apparatus. When the brig first struck the Huntsman the captain was holding on to the main shrouds on the port side, and as the vessel rebounded the mainmast went, and the captain went with it, overboard. Witness had called to him to come forward, but he did not come.

The Coroner, to jury: You have heard a very graphic account of what has happened. I don't suppose anybody could have given you a better account.

Mr Patrick Lorden, commander of the coastguard South Shields and in charge of the lifesaving apparatus which was used on the occasion of the wreck, said there was no light at the end of the South Pier, and far as he knew there never had been. Where harbour had two piers he did not think there should be lights on both, as, in his opinion, it would cause confusion, and he thought one was sufficient. There were two lights at the end the North Pier, one above the other. These were in addition to the Tynemouth light. There was another light further in on the North Pier, a leading light for rounding the piers. He did not think a light on the of end South Pier would be of service, but one on a lighthouse there would be. The wreck lying about 500 yards to the east of the South Pier—although not in the fairway, was a great obstruction to navigation. She had now only one mast standing. One light was formerly exhibited on the mast head, but he did not see one on Sunday night. A tug was in attendance upon the sunken steamer.

Some discussion arose as to whether the Tyne Commissioners or the underwriters were the responsible authorities in connection with the sunken steamer Crystal.

The Coroner said the point was one which it was important should be settled without delay.

The Foreman said it seemed very strange that there was not a light on each pier. At Sunderland it was so, and he saw no reason why there should not be on each of the Tyne piers. It would certainly, in his opinion, make navigation difficult to foreigners who were not acquainted with the Tyne.

The jury found that George Smith came to his death by the brig Wellington accidentally stranding on the beach south of the South Pier.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 19 January 1892

The Recent Wreck at South Shields
Coroner’s Inquiry at North Shields
Remarkable Evidence

Last night an inquest was held at the Tynemouth divisional Police Station, before Mr J. R. D. Lynn, on the body of John Arnold, which was found on the Long Sands, Tynemouth, on Wednesday afternoon. Gibson Bourne, living in Ravensworth Terrace, South Shields, identified the body as that of his brother-in-law, 50 years of age, who lived at West Hartlepool. He was a master mariner, and captain of the brig Wellington, of South Shields. He sailed from Southampton for Sunderland on the 11th inst., and his vessel was wrecked behind the South Pier during a storm on the 17th inst..

William Mills, mate of the brig Wellington, said the vessel was in ballast when she left Southampton. They encountered storm on the Downs and the vessel ran before the wind to the Wear. Owing to the heavy sea they were afraid to enter the harbour and they ran for the Tyne. Between five and six in the evening they saw a white light which proved to be a tug boat. When they got near enough the men on the tug sang out "Hard a-port." They were too close into the shore then, and saw that they could not clear the South Pier. The vessel was thereupon put round on the other tack, and they attempted to haul off to sea. The sea was too heavy, however, and they were washed ashore. They let go the anchor to keep the vessel off, but the cable parted and the brig drove under the stern of the stranded steamer Huntsman, the south side of the pier. The brig rebounded, and was again dashed against the Huntsman, and the masts went board and the captain with them. The deceased was never seen afterwards, until his dead body was recovered. Two of the crew were rescued by the rocket apparatus from the wreck. He and three others got on board the Huntsman, and were all rescued excepting the cook, who was washed out of the breeches. He afterwards ascertained that the white light he saw was that of tug marking a sunken steamer at the entrance of the harbour. Just before the vessel parted from her anchor he heard the captain order the cook to go to his bunk and get his watch and purse. The cook went below, and he saw him come out of the cabin again, but did not see him give the captain the purse. He could not say therefore whether or not the captain had his watch and purse in his possession when he was carried overboard. He knew that the captain had notes and gold on board the vessel. Previous to starting the voyage the captain happened an accident to his leg and was rather lame.

George Leslie Smith, 12 years old, living at Cullercoats, said about ten minutes to three on Wednesday afternoon he found the body of deceased lying on the shore at the north end of the Long Sands. The waves were coming over the top of it. He got hold the jersey by a boat hook and dragged the body further up the shore. He then shouted to his uncle John, who was close at hand. His uncle came, and with the assistance of other two boys be carried the body further up the Sands. He did not touch the body except with the boat hook, before his uncle came. Nobody searched the body. He went for the police and his uncle and the other two boys remained behind until he returned with an officer. Another boy told him that he had seen something floating on the water.

John Smith, fisherman, uncle of the previous witness, said his attention was called to the body by his nephew. The body was washing in to the shore, and going backwards and forwards. He went into the water and dragged it up the beach as far as possible, and then got the assistance of two lads to carry it up the sands. He did not search the body to see if he could identify it. He covered it up until the police came. No one touched the body until the policeman arrived. He noticed that the trousers pockets were hanging out over the top of the waistband from the inside, and they were the same condition when the policeman came.

P.C. Cowans gave evidence as to the removal of the body to the dead house. The trousers were gone from the knee downwards, and only part of a coat remained. He searched the body in the mortuary. The trousers pockets were turned outside in. He found nothing whatever in the pockets excepting sand.

Sergt. McKenzie said he saw the body after it had been deposited in the mortuary. The trouser pockets were turned inside out. The vest pockets were also turned out. It was not possible for the sea to turn the pockets out as he found them. With the permission of the coroner he should like to publicly state, through the press, an unusual experience he had had in connection with the arrangements for the inquest. As soon as he received the information about the finding of the body he proceeded to the Bull Ring, North Shields, when saw one of the crew who was saved from the wreck. He told the man the particulars and asked if he would accompany him the mortuary to identify the body. He refused to do so. He (witness) offered to pay his train fare, to take him down to Tynemouth in the train-car, or to hire a cab to convey him to the spot, but he absolutely refused to trouble himself in the matter to the slightest extent. He offered to fall in with any suggestion the man might make to get the body identified but persistently and stubbornly refused to do anything. As a result he (witness) was put to a great deal of unnecessary inconvenience. He had to telegraph for the mate at Sunderland and afterwards the deceased's brother-in-law proffered to come. The man to whom he referred, James Davis, was one of the hands rescued by the Life Brigade from imminent peril.

The Coroner: One of the crew saved from the wreck?

Sergt. McKenzie: Yes, sir. And everything was done for him to make his life safe and to restore him after his rescue.

The Coroner remarked that it was very shocking ingratitude. The Coroner having summed up the jury returned verdict of “Accidentally drowned."

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 22 January 1892

13 February 1892


W.I. TATE. Auctioneer—On MONDAY FEB. 15th, 1892, at 11 a.m. the wreck of the copper-fastened BRIG WELLINGTON, 222 tons reg. as it now lies at the South Pier; also (in lots) Chains, Spars, Ropes, Iron, Firewood, and other Stores salved. Any further information can be had by applying to W. I. Tate, 63 King Street, South Shields.

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 13 February 1892