Tyne Area Shipping Club

People and Places

If you have a story to tell or an amusing anecdote

let the world know!

Send it to me! - JKA


Quick story links:-

*The Story of Portishead Radio

*The Engine Room Ghost

*OOPS ! - I boobed!

* A Not so Happy Christmas

* Strange Bedfellows

* A story of the s.s. Glenroy ship's Bell

* Sunk by Enemy Action - ss Talamba

* A Christmas Surprise

* Star-Struck

* At sea anything can happen

* It's all in the language

* A story of 4 Tyne-built paddle tugs

* Tyne Pilot Boat Memories

* Tyne Pilots 1865 - 2008 - Ken Lubi

* Related interest in the River Tyne Pilots

- oOo -

Here's a challenge for our Model Engineers!

How about this for craftsmanship?

Click on the link below!

Fully operational miniture engine


and one for the model aero-engineers

(An Airbus A380)


An interesting article of maritime history

We are indebted to Bill Griffiths, editor the Newsletter of the Portishead Small Boat and Sea Angling Club for the following article


1995 saw the 75th anniversary of long range maritime radio communications in the United Kingdom, which started from humble beginnings in 1920.

Broadcasting to ships had been taking place since the early days of radio; the General Post Office (GPO) long wave stations at Poldhu and Caernarvon had been conducting two way traffic with ships within a few hundred miles of the United Kingdom prior to the First World War. However, no long-range system existed until 1919 when the GPO and the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company agreed to convert a redundant Imperial Wireless Chain receiving station at Devizes in Wiltshire

for long-range maritime use. Comprising of a receiver and a 6 kilowatt valve transmitter, station GKT was opened for service early in 1920, with a guaranteed range of 1,500 miles.

The radio officers at GKT were housed in old army huts, with radiotelegrams being sent to and received from ships up to 5 days from any British port at the rate of 11d (just less than 5p) per word. Radio traffic was keyed to and from the London Central Telegraph office from the operating station for onward delivery.

This two way "long range" service proved to immensely popular, and by 1924 it became necessary to expand the station at Devizes to cope with the increased demand. The GPO constructed a second long wave transmitter and built a new receiving station at Highbridge (near Burnham-on-Sea) in Somerset, to which most of the radio officers transferred.

By 1926, experiments on short wavelengths had established that world-wide communication could take place. The GPO installed the first maritime short wave transmitter at Devizes, keyed by operators with receiving equipment at Highbridge that same year. Initials tests proved outstandingly successful, and it became necessary to construct a brand new transmitting station. This station was to be located at Portishead, near Bristol, and thus in 1927 Portishead Radio was born. Three long wave transmitters were installed, followed in 1929 by a new short wave transmitter, ultimately resulting in the closure of the Devizes station.

Throughout the 1930s this long range service expanded greatly, with a gradual decline in the use of the long wave (short range) service, however, new markets were being discovered, including the use of Portishead by the Morse Code operators on the flying boats, passing traffic from as far as South America and India. The great liners were also making heavy use of this new service, and by 1936 Portishead Radio, now with 4 short wave transmitters, was handling over 3 million words of radio traffic with a staff of 60 radio officers.

The war years between 1939 and 1945 saw great changes in the role of Portishead Radio, two way communication with ships changed to a broadcast of traffic without any acknowledgment of receipt. For obvious reasons, transmissions from ships were kept to a minimum so as not to release their positions and destinations. However, distress calls, enemy sighting reports, news of the North Africa landings and clandestine signals from Europe ensured the station was kept busy.

Early in 1943, the workload had increased to such levels that Portishead's civilian staff were augmented by naval operators from HMS Flowerdown. Many of the civilian staff were seconded to Government services at home and abroad, not only to man radio stations but to train the many new radio officers needed for convoy work. A special aircraft section was constructed to maintain communications with patrol aircraft in the North Atlantic.

Peacetime brought a return to commercial activities, and with it a vastly increased demand for long range communications. An "area scheme" was established in 1946 to enable British and Colonial registered vessels to use naval stations around the world to relay their traffic to Portishead.

1948 saw the opening of two new operating rooms with 32 operating positions, a broadcasting and landline room, and a central control room with a steel plotting map of the world measuring 36 by 16 feet. A bureau file of both ship and aircraft positions was maintained, and many were plotted with magnetic indicators.

During the late 1940s and early 1950s transatlantic liners provided a high volume of traffic, all using radiotelegraphy (Morse Code) transmissions. The development of the landline telex service enabled customers to deposit and receive traffic directly from Portishead, with high traffic users installing their own private wires. The Suez crisis in 1956 brought high levels of telegraph traffic in both the to-ship and from-ship directions, leading to increased staffing levels towards the end of the decade.

The 1960s saw the station continue to expand, with increased traffic levels and the development of a telex over radio (TOR) system. A press transmission of news was transmitted by morse to enable ships to produce their own news sheets. By 1965, 86 radio officers were handling over 11 million words of traffic per year, and communicating with over 1,000 ships each day. The introduction of the Daily Telegraph transmissions to the QE2 in 1968 by radiotelex was another first for the station. April 1970 saw the transfer of the radiotelephone service from Baldock to Portishead. This necessitated the use of extra transmitters at Rugby and Portishead, and the temporary use of an additional control center at Somerton (Somerset).

The area scheme previously mentioned was terminated in 1972, and with it the Naval presence at Portishead. However, traffic figures continued to rise, with the developing oil market and the deep water fishing industry all providing work for the station. The leisure market continued to expand, with the early round-the-world yacht races providing valuable publicity for Portishead Radio and its services. By 1974, traffic levels had increased to over 20 million words per year, now handled by 154 radio officers.

Further expansion of the present operating area was impossible, so in 1976 work commenced on a purpose-built building to house the various services then available to ships. A new computer based message handling system was installed, and the manual radiotelex service became more popular, resulting in the development of an automatic system.

The Portishead transmitting site was closed in 1978, leaving the sites at Leafield and Ongar, operating alongside the main transmitting site at Rugby. However, the famous name of Portishead Radio was maintained to provide the maritime community with a familiar and well known service. The advent of satellite communications in the early 1980s had little initial impact, and in 1983 the new control center was opened, providing new radiotelephone and radiotelegraphy consoles, with automatic radiotelex being installed later that year. Remotely controlled receivers and receiving aerials, located at Somerton, were utilized for all services, resulting in the dismantling of the receiving aerials at Highbridge. The old operating rooms were demolished, creating space for administration offices and stores.

1985 saw the opening of a new aircraft service, providing world-wide "phone patch" and flight information services. This service proved so popular that many land-based

industries based in remote locations in Africa used the aero frequencies, culminating in the opening of the Gateway service, which continues to flourish to this day. Relief agencies, military units, embassies, and industries still use the service, which acts as a lifeline to those located in countries where normal landline links are poor or non- existent.

By the end of the 1980s, satellite communications were making significant inroads into Portishead's traffic figures. It became clear that a severe rationalization program was necessary in order for the station to remain viable, which resulted in the closure of the transmitter sites at Leafield and Ongar. The number of operating consoles was reduced in line with the decline in radio traffic, and the number of staff employed fell proportionally.

Portishead Radio currently provides employment for 50 radio officers, and around 100 ships a day use the Morse Code service. This figure is expected to decline during the next few years, and by 1999 Morse Code communication is expected to phase out, although there may still be some older vessels still trading who may need to use the facility. The radiotelex and radiotelephone services still, however, maintain a reasonable level of traffic, and the bureau messaging services to our maritime customers remain popular.

Portishead Radio remains the most famous maritime radio station in the world, and the mere mention QT its name is likely to provoke fond memories by those radio officers who used the service in its heyday. Whilst the days of receiving weak radio signals from a passenger liner from the South African coast are long since gone, Portishead Radio continues to provide a valuable service to the world's maritime community. Portishead Radio closed on the 30th April 2000.



The following four articles from Club Member Brian Smith


In the Spring of 1975 I was appointed Chief Engineer of the ‘City of Hull’, one of Ellerman Lines modern cargo liners. She was built in 1971 by Robb - Caledon at Dundee and was propelled by one of the loves of my life – a 17500bhp 76J7 Doxford engine. I was really looking forward to the experience as at just four years old she would be well run in and settled down. It was Ellermans first venture into the world of automation and mine too so very exciting days lay ahead. As a point of interest, there were three of the class built, two at Dundee with Doxford engines and one on the Clyde with a Sulzer engine. I sailed on all three and my favourite would have been the Clyde built vessel with a Doxford engine – just to be awkward. I had a bit of a gripe against an unknown fellow from the Dundee yard which could be the subject of another wee tale in the future.

I joined the ‘Hull’ at the port of Hull and went through the usual handing over procedure with the chief who was a good few years senior to myself and was a splendid fellow, then in the course of the general conversation afterwards he mentioned that there was an engine room ghost – tongue in cheek of course. Evidently when at sea there was a strange tapping noise in time with the engine revs which was not obvious within the engine room but was very much so from the internal stairway of the accommodation which was adjacent to the funnel uptakes. It must not have disturbed the ‘old mans’ sleep as evidently the cause had not been investigated too closely. I made a mental note and within days we were off coastwise and eventually sailed from London on the Strick – Ellerman service to the Persian Gulf. It was some weeks later after I had found my way around the estate and settled down that ‘the ghost’ started to intrigue me again, though I was reminded of it every time I used the internal stairway – tap tap tap -115 rpm!.

The first step was an internal funnel inspection, nothing unusual there apart from the sauna effect – a canny excuse for the cold beer that was to come later. Thence to the engine room where one thing had been on my mind for a while. The Doxford was fitted with two exhaust gas turbo-chargers, one at the aft end and one for’d of the top platform. They were mounted on fabricated stools attached to the engine entablature lying thwartships and when the engine was running at full speed the forward machine had a noticeable movement pulsating to the beat of the engine – very noticeable. From there I followed the path of the exhaust uptake to the top of the engine room where just below the skylight there was an almost horizontal section prior to it disappearing up the funnel. There I observed a large steel bracket attached between the exhaust trunk and the deck head above. The normally cream paint of the bracket and deck above were blackened indicating an exhaust leak to me. The trunking was all insulated and sheathed in beautiful tin plate so the bracket attachment to the exhaust pipe could not be seen. There was no option, the lovely tin plate had to be disturbed to gain access for inspection and the trunk was found to be fractured in way of the bracket attachment, obviously a stress fracture possibly aggravated by the unacceptable movement of the turbo-charger stool.

Whilst in the port of Durban the fracture was welded and also an oval shaped doubler fitted between trunk and foot of bracket I think the root cause of the problem was stress induced by the movement of the turbo-charger stool and that in turn was due to the fact that the construction of the stool was short on stiffening brackets compared to the aft end one. After this was rectified and we next put to sea it was all peace and quiet on the accommodation stairway, exit ‘The Engine Room Ghost’.

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In the Summer of 1976 I was appointed Chief Engineer of the ‘City of Liverpool’, she was built circa 1970 at the Robb – Caledon yard at Dundee and was propelled by a Doxford 76J7 engine of 17500 bhp. Both the ‘Liverpool’ and her sister the ‘Hull’ had their faults, some major and some minor. Firstly the Bridge Control system on both vessels was totally unreliable and was never used during my tenure. I believe it was a GEC system but don’t quote me on that, after all it is some thirty six years since I last sailed on them and this is all from memory – the only thing I can verify are the dates from my ‘Discharge Book’ – oh they were the days lads !. The next item which caused a little frustration was the machinery monitoring system which was a Decca Isis, it just didn’t like the Persian Gulf in the Summer season, as soon as you stuck your nose through the straits of Hormuz spurious alarms would appear but fortunately it seemed to settle down when it became accustomed to the heat. From what I remember the fault lay in the transducer cabinets which were subjected to the heat of the engine room, they were fitted with small fans which just circulated hot air. However this wee story is about a very minor fault I came across on the ‘Liverpool’, which caused some annoyance and some laughter as it turned out.

We left the UK bound for the Persian Gulf and as we got into the warmer climate took advantage of the air conditioning – what a boon on that run. We also had the comfort of a well appointed Officers Lounge Bar, a very popular meeting place for pre dinner drinks as you can imagine. The lounge was also the starting point of my story as I soon found out, as it was very noticeable that the air flow from the AC vents was poor with a rise in temperature to match, which in turn led to mutterings of complaint. If it had been a normal pub I would have suspected the Publican of a ploy to increase beer sales but that was clearly not the case here. It was important to keep the lads happy, so I decided to investigate. The lounge was situated on the forward Starboard side of a cross alleyway and on the opposite after side of the alleyway were cabins occupied by the deck cadets. First we removed a deckhead panel in the alleyway to see the layout of the vent trunk and it was seen to lie thwartships for a few feet then turned aft into one of the cadet cabins. It also came to light that the occupant of that particular cabin had mentioned that it was always freezing in there when the AC was on and as hot as hell in the Winter when the heating was on – a major clue. Next we removed a panel from the deckhead within the cabin and it was noted that the trunk turned vertically down in the space between the steel bulkhead of the alleyway and the cabin bulkhead. It was at this point that arrangements were made for the cadet to move quarters for a while because the job was becoming a bit messy as well as exciting. The built in bunk bed was removed thence the bulkhead panel behind what was the bedhead and voila the fault was exposed. There was a section of the trunking of around eight inches long missing – that was the annoying bit and the laughter was due to the fact that someone had scrawled on the adjacent bulkhead ‘OOPS I BOOBED’. A swift repair was carried out with sheet metal, hose clips and sealant and everything made shipshape once more. The result was one happy cadet and a lot of happy shipmates in the bar and it was quite a talking point for a while deciding who to blame at Robb – Caledon of Dundee, was it the sheet metal worker or the joiner who must have seen the boob before fixing the bulkhead panel?. Whoever it was evidently had no pride or satisfaction in a job well done.

Finally, one thing that amazed me was the fact that nobody had bothered to sort it out on a ship that was then six years old!

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A Not so Happy Christmas

A tale for the engineering fraternity.

In the Autumn of 1988, I was sailing as chief engineer on a bulk carrier which was British owned, registered in Gibraltar and managed from an office in London. I had been attached to her on and off since February 1987 and had sailed previously on two others of the same class, so you could say that I knew my way around. She was one of a group originally built for Jebsens about 1972 of 22000 tons and propelled by 18PC2V Pielstick diesels. This particular vessel had been sold and chartered back to Jebsens and was carrying Jebsen cargoes at the time.

In December we loaded coal at Longyearben (Svalbard) which was very late in the season to do so, lots of ice about and very cold to say the least. We discharged at the steel works in Caen, a run we did quite often. I found out later that some of the coal was stuck to the ship side plates within the holds as it was still frozen even after the run down from the Arctic and to free it the ship sides were thumped with mechanical shovels. This practice had dire consequences within a short period which shall be revealed as this story unfolds.

On completion of discharge we sailed from Caen bound for Aughinish on the Shannon in Ireland, there to load Alumina for Norway. The trip went smoothly and all holds were cleaned prior to arrival alongside at the Aughinish aluminium plant on would you believe it – Christmas Eve. What an uncivilised lot they turned out to be because twenty four hours later we departed and headed North for Norway via Cape Wrath. I’m afraid that after twenty five years I can’t remember for which port but it was some place that had a plant for manufacturing aluminium ingots from alumina. It was blowing SW force eight, so I suppose we were heading in the best direction and things went well until we reached Cape Wrath. It was 8 am and I had just entered the engine control room for my routine check round the estate when the phone rang, it was the ‘Old Man’ on the bridge – ‘Have you seen the funnel chief you’d think we were a coal burner’. As it happens I had not seen the funnel but was about to check the main engine exhaust temperatures and sure enough one of the eighteen cylinders was way down. I suppose it is appropriate at this point to mention that apart from the captain and myself the rest of the officers and crew were Pakistani, so potential problem spotting was definitely not up to standard.

My first thought was fuel pump spring so just a simple case of lift the pump and continue on seventeen legs. I know you are supposed to be able to do that with the engine running but it was a lot easier and safer when stopped, so I arranged to do just that. I told the old man it would only take a minute and we would be on our way once again – no problem. It was twenty seven hours later when we managed to get the engine started and we continued at reduced speed like a ruptured duck and still smoking like a coal burner. The captain arranged for tugs on arrival at the pilot, we just slowed to a stop and that was it as we were unable to manoeuvre.

Now for the nasty part of the story. As you can imagine, it was quite a shock to the system when the engine would not start, it turned on air but would not pick up on fuel. Naturally with the intention to be stopped for just a minute the engine was still on heavy fuel so I quickly changed over to diesel and drained fuel from the fuel rails to no avail. Once the cause of the problem was found it showed that changing over was entirely the wrong thing to do. Fortunately the cause was fairly quickly located but the remedy took much longer to rectify. At this point I contacted the captain and explained we were in the soup and would be stopped for some hours. He was a very experienced man and was as cool as a cucumber, we were also very good friends which helped a lot. He said not to worry because we were actually round the cape and drifting away from the land, also we were drifting over a shallow patch so he walked the anchor out and there we lay for the next twenty seven hours..

Speaking with the watch keeping engineers I found out that they had been experiencing problems with the heavy oil purifier for a number of hours continuously losing its seal, at the time we were using fuel from the port and starboard double bottom tanks just forward of the engine room bulkhead. I had the purifier bowl opened for inspection and it was found choked with solids. I took a sample and rubbed it through my fingers and the reality hit me, there was the problem – ALUMINA. As engineers will know a purifier is designed to remove a small amount of impurities from a large quantity of liquid and not vice versa. Consequently the machine could not cope and alumina was passing through to the service tanks and eventually to the main engine fuel pumps, the particles so fine as to pass through all filters on its way. In effect it was like dosing the engine continuously with copious amounts of grinding paste.

The reason the engine would not start was because the fuel pump plungers had worn due to the abrasion of the alumina and when the racks were in the starting position the pumps were unable to deliver at injection pressure and the situation only made worse by changing over to diesel. We fitted a complete set of spare fuel injectors and the two spare fuel pumps and still no joy, then as a last resort decided to try the following procedure. I disconnected the engine governor and pushed the fuel racks over by hand way past the starting position and success – after twenty seven hours of play!. Once we got underway the governor was reconnected and we proceeded to our destination at reduced speed and trailing smoke. Once underway the possible extent of the damage caused became clearer, there were signs of oil leakage from the crankcase door pressure relief devices, indicating blow past from the pistons.

During the course of the stoppage we had of course been in constant contact with the London office and arrangements were already being put in hand as regards repairs. On arrival at the berth for discharge of the alumina we were met by two technicians from the UK bearing gifts in the shape of eighteen new fuel pump barrels and plungers. They immediately set to removing pumps from the engine and I with the assistance of one of the engine room hands did the cleaning and renewals. At the same time the fuel oil service tanks were drained, thoroughly cleaned and replenished from a different source. On completion of discharge it was ascertained that the source of contamination was via holed air vent pipes from both port and starboard double bottom tanks, which ran up the ship side through the wing ballast tanks to the deck – and yes I did have trouble with water in the fuel tanks on a different occasion. The air pipes must have been in very poor condition after sixteen years or so and the percussion from the mechanical shovels used to dislodge the frozen coal from the ship side in Caen caused the pipes to literally fall to pieces in places.

With the complete set of new pumps we were at least able to manoeuvre normally and were ordered to proceed to the Tyne for repairs. This we did at reduced speed due to the increased crank case pressure and eventually arrived at a lay-by berth on the North side of the river. Here the work really began, all eighteen units opened up, liners and pistons renewed as required, plus a full set of piston rings. This work was carried out by a squad from Lincoln I believe, who worked round the clock in twelve hour shifts and they certainly knew their Pielsticks. Meanwhile the fuel from the two contaminated tanks was pumped ashore into road tankers and after the necessary safety checks had been carried out the tanks were entered for inspection prior to cleaning. What a revelation, increasing amounts of what was in effect grinding paste as you moved out into the wings of the tanks and where the tank top above sloped up forming the hopper sides of the hold and you could stand fully erect, there were mounds of the stuff. It took a number of days to clean the tanks thoroughly and a good number of air pipes had to be replaced.

Notwithstanding the nightmare of the above experience she was a good ship and I enjoyed my time aboard with an excellent captain who was also a good friend. I eventually left her at the end of October 1989.

From T.A.S.C. member Brian Smith.

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Strange Bedfellows

On the Shipping Club's recent joint outing to Windermere, myself and two other members had the good fortune to share a table for lunch with a lovely couple from the Liverpool party. I think parts of the ensuing conversation are well worth recording.

We were sitting awaiting the arrival of our friends from the Anchorage Club. As they entered; we beckoned to this lady and gentleman and invited them to join us - assuring them that all three of us were fluent in 'Scouse'. That seemed to do the trick, they promptly sat down and introduced themselves as Joyce and Jim to which I replied that we were John..., George..., and before I could say Brian, Joyce quickly remarked 'And you must be Ringo!'- After that there wasn't a dull moment throughout lunch and until we departed for our trip on the lake steamer.

It wasn't long before the conversation turned to ships and the sea. Jim had joined Clan Line as a junior engineer in 1947 and his first ship was the 'Hesperia' one of Clan Houston Line vessels. I was quite taken aback and told Jim that he and I must have slept in the same bed! Albeit ten years apart mind you! I too had joined the Clan Line as a junior engineer in January 1957 and the first ship I actually sailed on was the 'Hesperia'. Fancy crossing paths with someone after more than half a century that was a complete stranger, yet felt like an old shipmate in a strange sort of way - strange bedfellows indeed!

For those who are ship-nuts like myself, the 'Hesperia' was a type 'D' Empire Boat launched in January 1946 by Bartram & Sons of Sunderland as the 'Empire Southwold' for the Ministry of War Transport. She was purchased almost immediately by Clan Line and given the name 'Hesperia' Machinery was a triple expansion steam engine of 2500 IHP, manufactured by the North Eastern Marine Engineering Company of Sunderland which was right next to the Bartram yard and was in fact where I served my apprenticeship.

From T.A.S.C. member Brian Smith.

ss. 'Hesperia'

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An Interesting contribution from Club Member Robert Hunter

S S Glenroy, built 1899 Wm Grey West Hartlepool,

Owners: Livingston & Conner,

Master: 1908-1914 John Frederick Hunter.

In 2003 in my early retirement from a career as a naval architect in shipbuilding and offshore construction, armed with only three old photographs of S S Glenroy from the family album, I decided to build a 1/96 (note the imperial scale!) model of the ship which had been my grandfather's home and his life for 6 years.

Two years after he left deep sea with Livingston & Conner to join Stevie Clarke in 1914 in coasting colliers taking coal from Tyne to Thames, he learnt that Glenroy had been wrecked on 10th Feb 1916 on the coast of what was then French Algeria at a place called Les Falaises, in ballast from Malta to Bougie to pick up a cargo of ore.

The wreck hit the UK headlines as all the crew were saved under extremely difficult weather conditions from the bottom of steep cliffs to be eventually returned to the Tyne, and an unprecedented number of bravery awards were made to both members of the crew and local people who were instrumental in effecting the rescue.

In his old age apparently the pictures of the wreck were kept out of grandfather's way in the bottom draw as they upset him greatly.

Whilst building the model I became absorbed with what little I knew of his life and decided to write a piece about him and his time on board Glenroy, illustrated with photographs, documents, and some press cuttings which had come to light, and to my astonishment it was published in Seabreezes a few years ago under the heading "Grandfather's Ashes", and also posted on a wonderful Sunderland History web site which is the life's work of one Peter Searle who has never been to Sunderland but lives in Canada, which you can access here for some   history and pictures of Glenroy. (link to page 150 of Peter's web site)

(TASC readers of these pages may recall we ran Robert's story of Grandfather's Ashes some time ago - JKA)

With the publication of Grandfather's Ashes, the completion of the model in 2004, and the completion of an oil painting of her, a ship portrait by Robert Lloyd on my wall alongside the model, I thought that to be the end of the matter, that the trail was exhausted, until to my amazement just the other day in June 2011.....................out of the blue, an e mail from Peter in Canada to say that an Algerian born Frenchman by the name of Henri Lunardelli from Lille in northern France had made contact as he had picked up the web site and page 150 specifically, and as a result he had solved a mystery which had been occupying his thoughts since 2008 when he had visited Bougie (now called Bejaia) and the Algerian coast at Les Falaises, and had noticed and photographed what appeared to be an old ship's bell hung on the wall of a school inscribed:-

"S S Glenroy-1899-West Hartlepool"  

Apparently nobody at the school could shed any light on the history of the bell or how it had got there, as it had been there for so long.

As Henri had visited West Hartlepool in the past he wondered for 3 years how on earth a ship's bell dated 1899 from West Hartlepool was in pride of place in 2008 on the wall of a school in Bejaia, still being used to call the children to classes.

He eventually researched the internet, saw page 150 of Peter's web site, solved the mystery and contacted Peter with the further information we now have, in terms of the bell, the school, and the site of the wreck.

What a result!!! I am overwhelmed. What a demonstration of the power of the internet to bring people together who would otherwise never meet, for without it non of this would have been possible.

Now of course, I do wonder whether the school would be prepared to part with it?

Robert S Hunter     

Glenroy wreck off the Algerian Coast (just east of Les Falaises)

(approx 36deg 39' N 5deg 23' E)

School at Bejaia home of the Glenroy bell


Pictures of the Glenroy bell

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We are grateful to TASC Member Paschal Gunawardena for this fascinating story written by his late uncle Stan Fernando

The following article was written by Stan Fernando, a Junior Engineer from Sri Lanka (Ceylon as known then), who was serving on S.S. Talamba at the time when disaster stuck.

The article was first published in 'The Sunday Times' news paper (Sri Lanka) 24th February 1980 issue and again sometime later in the Institute of Marine Engineers'- Sri Lanka Branch bulletin.

This is his recollection of events on that fateful night.

Sunk By Enemy Action - SS Talamba

By Stan Fernando

The night of July 10, 1943 and its events are indelibly stamped in my mind and although over thirty years have passed, no power can make me forget.

The British India Steamship Company's vessel 'Talamba', then converted into a hospital ship was a happy ship which I had recently joined with strict medical instructions that I was to be on light duties as I had only just recovered from a very serious illness. What made the particularly pleasant was the fact that there was a full complement of medical staff including nurses on board and practically all the ships officers has sweethearts and girl friends which made life worth living in spite of the dangers existing at sea in war time.

Imagine if you can a large floating craft full of casualties - mostly men wounded in battle and completely incapable of fending for themselves now imagine that one of this craft is holed and filled with water - one end only. Slowly but steadily this end sinks deeper and deeper while the other end rises up until the once horizontal craft is now in a vertical position.

Is it possible to imagine a worse fate that can happen to human beings already in the agony of desperation due to being incapacitated; and then imagine the whole craft sinking into the depths of the Mediterranean. This is just what happened when the German bombed the ill-fated 'Talamba' on that memorable night, I was one of the survivors.

The 'Talamba' was a bonny vessel of nearly 4000 registered tons with a machinery rating of 8000 horse-power. Ship's engineers of the old school will appreciate it when I say that she was powered by two triple expansion up and down engines using steam from five or six coal fired scotch boilers. The 'Talamba' carried three funnels and was painted white with red markings and large red crosses painted on the ship-side, funnels and decks lit at night with all ablaze, she could not have been mistaken for anything but a hospital ship.

The Captain was an Englishman by the name of J. D. Woods who lived up to the best traditions of his profession. Brodie a dour wee Scotchman was the Chief Engineer under whose special jurisdiction I came, while Olson a typical Geordie, was the Second Engineer and I as Junior Engineer kept the 4-8 watch with him. Big Aussie Brown was the Third Engineer and a braver man. I cannot think of, for it was he who volunteered to go down the Engine Room and put out the generators when we realized that the lights were attracting the aggressive plane. Of course Aussie Brown had extra reason to be careful as he was engaged to be married to one of the lovely nurses on the medical staff on board.

It was only on the morning of July 10 that we realized what our destination was. Even the Master of the ship was unaware of where we were heading for when we left Tripoli the night before, as he was given sealed orders which were to be opened only after leaving Port.

On the morning of the 10th we found that we were at the end of a vast convoy of ships stretching as far as the eye could see. It was only then that we realized that the convoy was heading for Syracuse in Sicily and this was the beginning of the assault for its capture.

One thing I was not happy about was the fact that the hospital ship was fully blacked out during the night, - the explanation being of course that almost secrecy had to be maintained. But on the night of the attack and sinking of the vessel the ship was flood-lit to ensure that no mistake would be made in the identity of the ship's mission.

We had an Indian crew both on deck and in the Engine Room. Right through the watch the firemen who kept the boilers fired and the greasers (oilers) went about their work quietly and efficiently, not appearing in the least bit perturbed by the fact that all around us there was the constant sound of bombs bursting. It would be no exaggeration to say that the British Merchant Navy owed a great debt to the Indian seamen who I would say manned at least 50% of the British Merchant ships.

After a gruelling four hours of watch keeping with constant manoeuvring of engines, I was glad to come up when relieved by the Fourth Engineer and his mate at 8pm. This was the high moment of sea watches for m - to come out of a hot Engine Room after four hours of sweating it out and then to know the comfort of a cool bath and sliding between clean sheets with a good book in hand and reading yourself to sleep and oblivion.

We heard the screech of an aero-plane as it raced past with machine guns blasting away and there came a booming voice saying 'put those lights out'

I must have just fallen asleep when there was a terrific bang and woosh! A great splash of water hit the boat deck, I was out of my bunk in a flash and put on a boiler suit. In a trice I was outside my cabin at the same time as everyone else; there appeared to be no sign of any damage but the boat deck was awash. We heard the screech of an aero-plane race past with machine guns blasting away and there came a booming voice saying 'put those lights out'. No one on a hospital ship is ever prepared for a situation like this. The best I could do was to take out a shoe and try to bash in some of the bulk head lights but this was a futile attempt. In a matter of minutes we were aware that the 'Talamba' had reached her doom. The vessel was now sinking quite quickly and word went round to lower the lifeboats. Aussie Brown had gone down below and put out the power supply; cutting out the lights. No sooner we knew it was 'abandon ship' then everyone put on his life jacket, popularly known as 'May West' in those days. In no time the life boat I was in charge of was lowered with assistance of search lights from ships around us. In this particular life boat we were lucky as there was no panic among the crew men. But in some life boats a few of the ship's staff (certainly no officers) had panicked and taken possession of the life boats even before any attempt had been made to unship them and some of the ship's officers had suffered severe rope burns on their hands, while attempting to lower already weighted boats into the water. Most of the ship's officers declined to get into the boats but ensured that all the crew and medical personnel were safely into the boats. About the live 'cargo' of sick and wounded humans in the ship's holds (converted into hospital wards) nobody had the time or opportunity to worry.

After seen my life boat launched and rowed off, I who had also declined to enter the boat went around trying to be of assistance where I could, but there was not much I could do as the 'aft' end of the ship was now sinking and everybody left on board had wandered to this end where the main deck was practically awash. A great sense of camaraderie existed among us ship mates and this was further enhanced by the unfortunate circumstances borne by all of us. But there was no time left to help each other anymore.

It was now about twenty minutes after the bomb had exploded and time was running out. Fortunately we were surrounded by other ships which gave us a great sense of security.

Years ago the eldest of my brothers had been drowned in the sea and the fear of the ocean was so ingrained in me that I never learned to swim. Now the time had come to jump off the ship. Walking along the upper deck I came across a solitary life buoy discarded; just dropped there by someone who later I learned was Mr. Rottenshaw an elderly Parsi who was the ship's purser and perhaps did not know what to do with it. More than anything else I think it was this lifebuoy that gave me courage and picking it up I took the leap from the ship into the water along with several others.

Now seeing in the blaze of the search lights, the ship sinking and remembering that a ship when going down sucks everything within range with it, I did really start to get scared particularly remembering my widowed mother back home in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) and prayed god to save me at least for her sake.

In the water I could hear others shouting for help; in particular and still clear in my mind was the call of the purser who kept announcing who he was and pleading for succour. Now in great panic I was pushing myself as far as possible and trying to get as much distance as I could between me and the doomed craft. When I looked back in fear it was to see the most awesome sight of my life captured in the glow of many searchlights of the surrounding ships.

The sight of this once majestic ship literally standing upright with its bows pointing skywards and all three funnels unbelievably horizontal, one by one the funnels broke adrift and tumbled into the sea and the vessel herself dramatically sank below the water surface taking with her the few hundred doomed and desperate souls to their watery grave.


(This second image is from the archive collection of the Imperial War Museum)

The Author Stan Fernando


I am sure this article might open up some debate between factual content of this article and other articles published in the internet, mainly on the number of people who lost their lives during the sinking of the vessel.

There are a number of articles published on the internet referring to Talamba as a hospital ship and five lives were lost when she was sunk off the coast of Sicily. However there is one article under the title Hospital Ships and heading Front-line Nurses, an account witnessed by a Daily Telegraph war correspondence who states that, quote: Talamba was bombed off Sicily whilst it was embarking casualties and sunk with the loss of many patients and QAs, such as nursing sister Maud Louise Johnson' unquote. (QA = Queen Alexandra medical staff). This more or less fits with Stan Fernando's account of the number of lives lost at the time. His article concludes, quote: 'the vessel herself dramatically sank below the water surface taking with her the few hundred doomed and desperate souls to their watery grave' unquote.

Up to now I have not being able to find any documentation to the number of personnel; ships' crew, wounded casualties and medical staff onboard, in all total when she was sunk. Neither shall we find this information as all most all records would have been lost with the vessel.

I take this opportunity to give tribute to all the Merchant Navy Officers and Crew - especially from the Asian subcontinent who served on British Merchant Navy ships during both world wars.

Stan Fernando was born in Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) in 1918 and after completing his schooling in Colombo he joined Colombo Electricity Board as an apprentice in 1937. After a short time with this company, he joined Colombo Port Commission in early 1938 as a Special Apprentice Engineer. On completing a four year apprenticeship, he joined BI (British India Steam Navigation Company) in 1942 as a Junior Engineer. While onboard his first ship he contracted Dengue Fever and was hospitalized in West Africa. For his recuperation from that illness he was sent onboard S.S. Talamba as a Junior Engineer, with specific instructions to be engaged on 'light duty'.

Stan Fernando continued to serve in the British Merchant Navy until 1954 when he gave up his sea going career and want back to Sri Lanka to join Walker Sons & Co. Ltd., Colombo, as an Engineer in their Marine Department and later as workshop engineer in charge of marine repairs.

During his time with the British Merchant Navy, he frequently visited South Shields and stayed at Westoe Towers. He was a 'Steam Engineer' and did all his tickets at South Shields Marine & Technical College. He had many friends in South Shields and some of the older generation members of this club may recognize his photo or may have heard of him. He used to attend services at St. Bede's church and apparently there is an alter cloth still existing at St. Bede's church with the names of all the catholic marine students who attended the church during that time, including his name.

About the author

Stanly Fernando was one of the pioneers of Sri Lankan seafarers. He encouraged many a young Sri Lankans to seek a career at sea and join the merchant navy. Until the launch of Ceylon Shipping Corporation in 1972, those who completed a shore based Special Engineering Apprenticeship in Sri Lanka, mostly joined the British Merchant Navy. Some of our members of this club (TASC), who has sailed with those old British Shipping Companies such as Bank Line, Clan Line, Blue Funnel Line etc., may have sailed with some of the Sri Lankan Engineers and Officers, some time during their seafaring days. One of his own son's and seven or eight of his nephews followed his footsteps and took up careers at sea. He passed-away in 1997, three days short of his 79th birthday.



This article is presented to the Tyne Area Shipping Club website by Paschal Gunawardena - a nephew of Stan Fernando and also a member of the club. He himself has been a seagoing engineer for 41 years and retired recently.


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Here are four short stories submitted by

Club Member and

former Tyne Pilot Tom Purvis

A Christmas Surprise

One Christmas I was on-call pilot till 9am Christmas day. Checking with the office before I turned-in. was told "all quiet- nothing doing" So off to bed and looking forward to a good night's sleep and a work-free Christmas day.

About 3am, the phone' rang and the voice on the other end said 'THIS IS NOT A WIND-UP, THERE'S A DANISH COASTER OFF THE PIERS - THE MASTER HAS INFORMED TYNE HARBOUR THAT THE COOK HAS STABBED ONE OF THE SAILORS AND HE IS LYING DEAD ON THE BOAT DECK: THE POLICE WILL BE AT THE PILOT JETTY IN HALF AN HOUR, CAN YOU BE THERE AND BRING THE SHIP IN TO THE TYNE COMMISSIONER'S QUAY'? . Once I realised I was awake and not dreaming! I got dressed, and proceeded to the jetty. There waiting, were 6 PC's all armed and wearing body armour. As we got alongside the ship we were advised that the Master had locked himself in the bridge. The sergeant said she would board first secure the scene and told me to wait. Quickly I was told that the scene was secure, the cook was sitting very calmly in the mess. 'BUT COME UP TO THE BRIDGE ON THE PORT SIDE BECAUSE THE SAILOR IS LYING UNDER THE STARBOARD LIFEBOAT AND THE DECK IS SWIMMING IN BLOOD'!!

The master was in no fit state to do anything and I took the controls and got the vessel into the river and alongside the quay. Not a lot of conversation and all I could do was get my bill signed and make my way ashore. Yes you guessed we were starboard side alongside and I forgot about the blood!!

Eventually, at home, we sat down to Christmas dinner and deciding that this year we would have roast beef I made sure it was well-done.!!

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Around October 1938, my Father, (also Thomas Hall Purvis) one of the youngest First Class pilots at that time, boarded the 'Kungsholm', one of Swedish America lines largest passenger ships. Being full of trepidation of the task in front of him, he put the vessel to anchor and a few hours later entered on the early morning tide. It was a dark October morning, and whilst concentrating very hard and aware of this particularly high profile job, he noticed out of the corner of his eye an extremely attractive young blonde girl, obviously Swedish! I n a fleeting moment he did question who she was as passengers weren't allowed on the bridge, he perhaps assumed she was the Captain's daughter. After making fast and being able to relax he had a chat to the 'blonde', found her delightful and very easy to talk to. As was customary in those days, the Captain invited my father to his cabin for a drink. 'ARE YOU AWARE PILOT WHO THAT YOUNG LADY ON THE BRIDGE WAS?' Father was now expecting 'a keep your hands off my daughter 'speech! - but the answer was....GRETA GARBO!!!

Passenger vessel Kungsholm

Word got out and he was asked to take part in the equivalent of 'In Town Tonight' a well-known radio program of its time. I have a copy of the script and a note of his fee of 2 guineas (two pound two shillings)

I've attached a treasured photo of my Father boarding a British tanker. At the time he was almost 70 years old (they were forced to retire in those days at 70 – this broke his heart) In fact within 6months of retirement he had a major heart attack and died when only 75!


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'Feb.1966....I was 4th mate on the Mobil Transporter (yes Mobil Oil carried 4 mates??) she was a 35000 ton crude oil carrier and we were to discharge at a SPM (that's single point mooring) off Fiumicino, the port for Rome. The SPM is a dolphin construction with a roller fairlead to which you make fast with 3 bites of rope from the foc'sle head. Critically this meant 2 of the bites were on the same set of bollards. A floating pipeline ran from the SPM and attached as normal to the manifold.

We had just completed discharge, totally empty with the forefoot clear of the water, when we felt the full force of the mistral blowing at force 8/10.So rapid was the blow we never had time to ballast and the order was given to let go immediately. In the panic the 2nd mate on the foc'sle let go the single rope on its own bollard which meant letting go the second rope which put all the weight onto one rope.

These were ployprop ropes which gave no warning of parting unlike a sisal type rope which starts to shred before parting. You guessed the rope parted and completely severed the Serang's leg above the knee. However although you get no warning with a polyprop as they expand they generate enormous heat and a top class hospital doctor could not have done a better job, virtually no blood or tearing of the flesh.

Chaos followed including the emergency helicopter's winch jamming, which meant it had to return to base to free same!! Eventually we cleared the berth got some ballast in and proceeded on our way. The 2nd mate was now on the bridge and a full blow by blow account of the disaster was recalled, the 'old man' turned to him and said what happened to the Serang's leg.....'WELL IT WAS NO USE TO HIM ANYMORE SO I THREW IT OVER THE SIDE!!An immediate cable was sent to the coastguard.....'IF ANYONE REPORTS FINDING A LEG ON THE BEACH IT'S OK WE KNOW WHO IT BELONGS TO'!!.

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It's all in the language!

Talking with Tom Purvis the other day, he remarked on how seeing his father's photograph on our website, reminded him of the following story...

He was piloting a small naval vessel up to Newcastle quay, and, as is the 'Navy Way' they always berth head-out, ready for a quick get-away. A Tug was ordered to help swing the sweeper and tow up stern-first from the swinging area at Tyne Main. It was common practice (and still is) for the commander to have 'His Pilot' (usually a junior officer) control the vessel. However, normally when a tug is involved-and especially when towing stern first, for the river pilot to take over.

But in this case the Captain asked my father if his pilot could carry on. As they approached the berth the officer shouted to the tug 'VARST TOW TUG' the accent not being native to the North East Coast! The Captain was none too pleased when the tug appeared to ignore his command. Father stepped in and shouted 'EEASYOwer Jimmy' To which the tug quickly responded. You can imagine the look of disbelief on the officer's face! ...He had assumed that the crew on the tug spoke English!....wrong!!

Tom Purvis

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That helped roof the world in the 19th Century

We are grateful to Philp Work for this interesting story

Tucked away in the North East corner of Cardigan Bay lies the small harbour of Porthmadog (Portmadoc), which was one of three major Slate exporting ports in North Wales during the 19th century.

Slate from the mines and quarries in the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog had originally been brought down to the river estuaries nearby on pack horses, however as the demand for good quality roofing slate grew in the early 1800's, this method of transportation became inadequate.

In 1812 a causeway was built over the River Glaslyn estuary, and resulted in the hinterlands being reclaimed for farming, and new settlements established, the major one being the town of Portmadoc, and a harbour developed.

In 1836 a narrow gauge railway was opened connecting the slate town of Blaenau Ffestiniog and Portmadoc, and hence a means of transportation for the then ever expanding slate industry. Slate now reached the developing port of Portmadoc, where small sailing ships took slate around the ports of Great Britain and nearby Europe, Africa , North and South America.

Assistance getting out and into the harbour was required, as there are hazardous sand banks and rock reefs running out in a north east /south west angle across Cardigan Bay.

The expansion of the slate industry resulted in the demand for towing assistance for the small sailing ships into and out of Portmadoc; and a small tug company was founded. The Portmadoc Steam Tug Co. Ltd.

The first steam tug was built 1860 at North Shields by Hepple & Landells. ON 28619. Wood hull paddle tug" WAVE OF LIFE" (1). One 35hp side lever steam engine. Her first owners where in Liverpool. However she was sold to the Portmadoc Steam Tug Co.Ltd in October 1862 and registered at Caernafron. This tug held a Board of Trade summer passenger Certificates to ply between Aberystwyth and Bardsey Island from 1863 to 1868. She was sold again in 1872, to William Hepple of Newcastle upon Tyne, and re-registered at the Port of Newcastle 7.8.1872.

The second steam tug was built 1864 at Willington Quay for T.A Dry & M.P. Martin of Willington Quay, and W.G Dry of Gateshead and named JAMES CONLEY. ON 49743. Wood hull paddle tug. One 30nhp side lever engine (cylinder 30" diameter) 72 gross tons. Dimensions 81.8 x 17.1 x 9.1 ft. In 1866 she was sold to TSavin of Oswestry,(a railway construction contractor) and registered at the Port of Aberystwyth in 1866.

In 1871 she was resold to the Portmadoc Steam Tug Co.Ltd, and re-registered at the Port of Caernarfon, and continued to work for this company until 1884, when she was re-sold to S.Young of North Shields and re-registered at the Port of North Shields. She was sold a further two times, and was broken up in 1890.

The third steam tug was built in 1885 by Lawson & EItringham, South Shields. Iron hull 106g/tons. Two cylinder side lever engine 27"x 48"- 200nhp. By Baird & Barnsley Co. North Shields. Dimensions 96.0 x 18.7 x 9.4 ft. ON 80242. Named SNOWDON. Registered at the Port of Caernarfon. and worked for the Portmadoc Steam Tug Co to 1900. She was sold to John Dry, South Shields, re-registered South Shields,

1900, and transferred to Redhead & Dry Tugs in 1929. Purchased by R.LCook Towage Co.Ltd of Sunderland in 1938 re - reg. Sunderland, and transferred to France, Fenwick Tyne & Wear Co.Ltd November 1947, and finally broken up after a varied career in 1950.

The fourth and last steam tug was the WAVE OF LIFE (2) built by Hepple, Newcastle. Iron hull 102g/tons. Two side lever engines 50hp 26.5" x 45" stroke. Dimensions 91.2 x 17.9 x 9.2 ft. in 1872. for the Portmadoc Steam Tug Co. registered at the Port of Caernarfon. She continued to work until 1914, when the slate exporting trade had slumped, and was never to recover. She was sold to a Liverpool firm, and her hull was converted into a canal barge. The remains of which were broken up in 1935.

These tugs evidently were delivered by sailing from the Tyne north to Inverness, through the Caledonian Canal to Fort William, then south to their Welsh destination, and likewise a reverse sailing if they returned to the Tyne. This would make fascinating reading if any logs of their voyages had been made. Hope you enjoy these brief notes on the story of four small Tyne built tugs owned by the Portmadoc Steam Tug Co. between 1862 to 1914.

The development of the standard gauge railways in the North Wales area at the same time resulted in the demise of the need to transport slate via the sea... also at the end of the 1890s the demand for slate had declined. Finally the development of the steam ship resulted in there being no need for tug assistance in and out of the harbour.

Philip Work. Treasurer Tyne Area Shipping Club

Paddle Tugs Prince and Snowdon South Shields 1910


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Tyne Pilot Boat Memories

Thanks to TASC Member and ex Tyne Pilot Tom Purvis for the following pictures and information

Caer Urfa

Built 1957 by Millers of St. Monance

On station from May 1957 and sold June 1986

(model made by Tom Purvis)



Built in 1907 by JP Rennoldson of South Shields

On 30th 1916 was sunk by Enemy Action

with the loss of All Hands (19 Pilots and Crew)

(model made by Tom Purvis)

'Queen of the May'

Ex Private Yacht of the Coates family (of cotton thread fame)

Obtained in 1917 as replacement for the 'Protector'

Sent to Forth in 1940 and requisitioned by the Admiralty in August 1943

(model made by Tom Purvis)


Standby Cutter from 1920 - 1938

Steam Drifter built 1907

(model made by Tom Purvis)

Coble 'Rebeca'

(Tom Purvis' Grandfather's coble)

This model was whittled from a single piece of wood by J.Purvis (Pilot) and dated 1910

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Which leads nicely on to.......

We are extremely grateful to Ken Lubi for permission to reproduce the following work he has produced following his many hours of study and research into this unique and magnificent service.


1865 - 2008



Ken Lubi

Tyne Entrance

Whilst employed by the Tyne Pilotage Authority, as coxswain on the pilot cutters from 1968 to 1988, I became interested in their history and decided to delve into their past.

The individual photographs of the pilots taken by myself, and also the bulk of my information, was amassed during research carried out in the early 1980's

Additional material was added at later dates

I would like to express my thanks to the various pilots who supplied photographs, licences and other paraphernalia; also the South Shields Local History Library who allowed me access to their records and old newspapers which have enabled me to compile what I have simply called 'Tyne Pilots'

Ken Lubi


(Please note: No part of this may be used for any commercial purposes without express permission of the author)



Exactly how old is the institution of pilotage on the Tyne it is impossible to say. Originally pilotage was confined exclusively to the members of the Trinity House of Newcastle which was incorporated by Charter of Henry VIII, dated October 5 th 1536, but it is probable that the Trinity Brethren had charge of the pilot service before that date, since the oldest existing Order Book of the House, commencing in 1539, not only makes several references to pilotage - the pilot dues being called 'loadmannage' - but also refers to still older entries in 'the owyld loadmannage bouke' now lost.

The powers of Trinity House were extended and confirmed by Charters of Edward VI (October 20th 1548) and Mary (May 21st 1553). Newcastle Corporation in 1584 disputed the exclusive claim of the Trinity Brethren to pilot all ships of strangers in and out of the Tyne, contending that pilotage had always been voluntary on all ships, but the Charter of Elizabeth, granted the same year, appears to have confirmed the claim of Trinity House. That of James I, dated January 18th 1606, extended jurisdiction of the House to ‘Blyth, Sunderland, Hartlepool, Whitby and Staithes, commonly called Steays' (a pronunciation still preserved amongst seafaring folk). It left the taking of a pilot optional on the owner, master, or purser of the ship, and fixed the 'loadmannage' or pilot fees at 12d. per foot draught on laden, and 8d per foot on light vessels. By the Great Charter of James II, dated 1687, the jurisdiction of Newcastle Trinity House was extended over the whole coast from Whitby to Holy Island . Trinity Brethren and pilots were relieved of the duty of bearing arms, or serving on juries, and exempted from impressments in the navy. The office of 'Pylott' was not, however, specially confined to members of Trinity House.

According to their reply to Gardner 's charges, Trinity House, from at least Commonwealth times, maintained a service of resident pilots at Shields, but with the throwing open of the port to non - members of Trinity House, the pilotage service became more and more exclusively recruited from the seafaring community of South Shields . The exigencies of their calling led to the pilots taking up their residences on or near the Lawe, commanding an outlook over the entrance to the port, while the practice of taking only sons or relatives of pilots to serve in cobles in time rendered the pilot service an almost exclusive caste, confined to the members of certain families. This practice was recognised and sanctioned by Trinity House, who by resolution directed that 'persons applying for branches to pilot ships in or out of Sunderland or Shields Harbour, unless they are of the families of the present pilots, or of Brethren of Trinity House, to be refused, it being thought right to confine the list of pilots for those places entirely to the relatives of those who have always followed that occupation.' There was originally no formal examination of pilots as to their technical skill before granting ‘branches', the appointments being made upon certificates signed by shipmasters and owners, testifying to the character and ability of the applicant to discharge the duties of a pilot. This was no mere matter of form, as a respectable South Shieldsman , Joseph Roxby, discovered. He had signed John Errington's certificate in May 1759, and was fined £10 by the Trinity Brethren on it appearing that Errington could not write his name, and therefore was unable to take charge of a ship as pilot.' The duties of the Shields or 'Barr' pilots were confined to conducting ships in and out of the harbour and over the 'Barr' as it is always called in the old records, but they were not allowed to take any vessel above Whitehill Point. That duty devolved upon the town or river pilots, who were subdivided into the up-river and down-river men, whose functions are sufficiently indicated by their names, one class taking vessels from the harbour up to their berths, the other piloting the laden vessels down to the harbour. Besides the pilotage service of the port, Newcastle Trinity House issued 'sea branches' to men corresponding to the present North Sea pilots, who must be members of Trinity House, and who took charge of ships not only up and down the East Coast, but also to the Orkneys and North of Scotland, the Firth of Forth, and down Channel, and into the Mediterranean; to Continental ports, Norway, and up to the Baltic.

The Barr pilots were under the control and direction of an official known as the 'Captain of the Pilots' who was appointed from the list of Elder Brethren of Trinity House. The earliest appointment recorded is that of Joseph Reed in 1724. He was succeeded in 1738 by Loftus Danby, who appears to have held the office for many years, as in August 1754 Mathias Giles was appointed 'to look after the pilots that they keep regular turns, the pilots paying no regard to Thomas Medley, who is the orderer under Loftus Danby, who is almost blind.' At that time the pilots paid one shilling per ship as 'turn money' which appears to have gone entirely to the pilot master. Danby seems to have been succeeded by Captain William Errington, a man of prodigious strength, who was an Elder Brother of Trinity House at the time of the Pretender's rebellion in 1745, and, with several other Brethren, went to Carlisle to help to work the guns in the Royal army during the siege of that town.

He died in 1773, while holding the pilot captaincy. A strict discipline was exercised over the pilots, and breaches of rule, neglect of duty or inefficiency, were punished by fines or suspension, or even the revocation of the pilot's licence (which cost 10s 6d per annum) a sentence usually recorded in the Order Book as being broke, never to take charge of any ship as pilot again. There was a regulated system of turns, but this did not deter the right of selection on the part of the shipmasters Indeed there seems to have been some sort of a 'choice' or 'constant' pilotage system, as in December 1748 it was ordered that ‘if any master or commander of any ship or vessel desires to employ or fixes upon a particular pilot either at Newcastle or Shields, that pilot shall be entitled to the whole pilotage, not withstanding it may not be his turn' Severe penalties were imposed upon pilots 'poaching' on the work of any but their own class, Bar pilots being repeatedly fined for 'taking upon themselves to bring ships to Newcastle without having a river branch,' and river pilots for taking ships in and out over the Bar.

The 'beacons' so well known at South Shields, were erected by Trinity House for the guidance of the pilots in the latter part of the eighteenth century. In October 1772 it was proposed to plant a beacon on a part of the Herd Sand opposite the Low Lights, whereupon the Dean and Chapter of Durham, in virtue of their claim to the foreshore, required the Brethren to take a lease of the site, but 'Lawyer Fawcett' advised that as the post was in the sand, which would be overflowed every tide, no lease was necessary. It is probable that the beacon was erected forthwith, although there is no direct mention of the fact. In March 1786, the House placed a beacon on the Herd Sand edge at a cost of £15. In the following year a buoy was placed on the Mussel Scarp, and in September 1789 another beacon was placed 'upon the Spitt that runs off the Herd Sand towards the Channel' while at the same time a ring was placed in one of the great stones upon the Middens for ships to make fast to. Probably these buoys and beacons were too low to be of service, for in September 1799 we find the Shields shipowners representing to Trinity House the ‘serious necessity of immediately erecting two leading beacons on the south side of the harbour, with buoys on each side of the channel, and proper directions for taking the same' A like petition from the shipmasters of Scarborough was presented, and Trinity House promptly complied with the prayer, the beacons in the shape of two 'copes' or poles with triangles on the top, being erected on the Lawe on land purchased from Mr. green. These first Lawe beacons were replaced in 1832 by the brick pillars, still in existence, erected at a cost of £60 by John Turnbull.

Under the Newcastle Port Act of 1801 Trinity House was empowered to examine all applicants for pilots' ‘branches' to issue licences to those who gave satisfactory proof of skill, knowledge and experience, and to punish by fines, suspension, or the cancellation of their ‘branches' (pilots' licences were originally called ‘branches of Charter') pilots guilty of negligence, misconduct, etc. Pilotage was to be compulsory on all foreign ships, but optional on English vessels, the pilotage rate being on British vessels, in and out of harbour and over the Bar, 1s. 3d. per foot draught in summer (April to September) and 1s. 6d. per foot in winter; and for river pilotage, to or from above Bill Point , 1s. per foot. Foreign vessels paid 6d. per foot more in every case.

Under this Act Joseph Hogg, an Elder Brother, was appointed pilot ruler at South Shields , on March 7 th 1803, at £200 per annum. John Thompson succeeded him in 1815, William Pearson in 1845, and James Kelly, the last ruler appointed by Trinity House, in 1864. The examinations for pilotage certificates, which the Act rendered compulsory, were from an early date, entrusted by Trinity House to a committee of the most experienced pilots, under the pilot master, who ‘examined candidates as to their knowledge of the marks, currents, and shoals of the entrance or river, as the case may be' and of the proper handling of ships under different circumstances, a thorough knowledge of seamanship being a requisite qualification. On passing the examination they received ‘Acting Orders' enabling them to take charge of a ship not exeeding 12 keels burden, in the absence of a regular pilot, and were admitted to the class of full pilots as vacancies occurred. The pilots were required to make periodical soundings of the river and report thereon. Upon the appointment of each pilot, he entered into a bond with two sureties, to Trinity House, for the due performance of his duties, undertaking to obey the orders of the pilot master, serve in the lifeboats etc. Every pilot was required to make a return to the pilot master of the vessels he had piloted and the amount of dues he had received, and to contribute 6d. (subsequently increased to 1s.) on each ship he piloted into or out of the harbour, or in the case of river pilots 1s. on each ship taken up and down the river.

Pilots who were freemen of Newcastle paid only half these amounts. Out of the funds so contributed the salaries of the pilot masters at Shields and Newcastle were paid, and the surplus Trinity House, ‘aware of the inconsiderateness of the class men appointed as pilots' (to quote from their own books) invested in the public funds, applying the interest in behalf of disabled or superannuated pilots, and of their widows and orphans, according to circumstances. The River and Sea Funds were kept distinct. Every pilot , on attaining the age of sixty, had a claim to a pension of £6 per annum, with £2 for his wife. The surplus of the fund amounted in 1803, the first year of its institution, to £119 3s. 9d.; in 1804 to £ 189 4s. 8d.; in 1805 to £195 17s.; in 1806 to £197 8s.; in 1807 to £153 10s. The administration of this fund gave rise to grave dissatisfaction on the part of the pilots, who were in no way represented in its management, and who , not being freemen of Newcastle , could not become members of Trinity House, while the Brethren refused all information on the subject.

Another long-standing grievance of the pilots was in reference to what was known as the Reciprocity Money. Down to 1824 pilotage was compulsory on all foreign ships. In that year Lord Liverpool's Government carried through Parliament the Reciprocity Act, which provided that when any foreign country opened its ports to our vessels on the same terms as its own, its ships should have equal privileges with our own British ports. This of course, amongst other things, precluded such vessels being charged higher pilotage rates than British ships paid. To compensate for the loss the pilots would thus sustain, Government paid each year to the Newcastle Trinity House a sum equal to the difference between the pilotage actually received upon foreign ships trading to the Tyne under Reciprocity Treaties, and the full amount which would have been chargeable under the old system. The Trinity Brethren charged the Treasury with the full difference between the rates on foreign and British ships for both bar and river pilotage, on all vessels entering the Port under the Reciprocity arrangement, although many never went beyond Shields Harbour, but the pilots were paid ‘Compensation Money' or as the pilots termed it, Reciprocity Money, only on the Treaty-free vessels actually piloted by them, as shown by tickets signed by the master or agent, while many ‘commissions' for the payment of various officials of Trinity House were deducted from that amount. The difference between the sum received from Government and that distributed to the pilots, Trinity House called ‘unclaimed' pilotage

and proposed to hand it over to the respective Superannuation Funds of sea and river pilots. The pilots contended, however, that Trinity House had no right to retain any of the money; that the whole amount received from Government should be distributed amongst them or at least full accounts should be given of the surplus devoted to the pilots' funds. But no accounts of the funds were published by Trinity House. In September 1846 the South Shields pilots presented a memorial to Trinity House, asking assistance towards building cottages for old and infirm pilots, to which they proposed to devote their Reciprocity Money. Trinity House agreed to head the subscription with £200, provided that the Master of that body be one of the trustees. This benevolent scheme, which was probably suggested by the founding of the Master Mariners' Cottages by Dr. Winterbottom, was for some reason or other never carried out. The pilots also requested Trinity House to assist them in making some provision to get to sea in bad weather, when their cobles could not leave the harbour. The pilots had already constructed ways and erected a winch at Manhaven for launching and hauling up their cobles, but they found that this was insufficient, and asked Trinity House to purchase from the accumulated funds in their possession, a steamboat capable of taking them to sea in heavy weather. Trinity House, however, refused, and the pilots themselves eventually provided a steamer, which was launched from Woodhouse's Yard, South Shields, on January 23 rd 1852 and christened the ‘Pilot' while a second steamer, the ‘Robert Ingham' was obtained in May 1855.

It was really over the question of the Reciprocity Money that the open breach between the pilots and Trinity House took place, which eventually resulted in the pilotage jurisdiction of the latter being entirely abolished. The Harbour and Passing Tolls Act of 1861, which abolished differential dues on foreign ships using English ports, also discontinued the payments from the Treasury of the Reciprocity Money to pilots, already described, but as compensation, the pilots were to receive for ten years a sum equal to the Reciprocity Money paid in 1861. Under this arrangement a sum of about £6400 per annum was handed over to the Trinity House of Newcastle, in respect of Tyne pilotage, of which £3302 was on account of river pilotage and the balance for sea pilotage. The Trinity Brethren, however, declined to distribute to the pilots any more than the sums actually paid over to them in 1861, namely, £1138 to the river pilots and £2187 to the sea pilots, retaining the balance of over £3000 as ‘unclaimed pilotage' while the pilots still had to pay out of the sum handed over to them, the ‘commissions' to Trinity House officials, amounting to about £340 per annum, and including 3 ½ per cent. to the secretary, and 5 per cent to the Receiver and Collector, the latter an Elder Brother of the House, whose sole duty was to obtain from the Custom-House a list of the foreign vessels entered and cleared, and to convey the Reciprocity Money quarterly from the Custom-House to Trinity House, while the river and sea pilot-masters each received 5 per cent commission on the sums they paid over to the pilots. The pilots, acting under legal advice, declined to send in tickets, and claimed that the whole amount of Compensation Money received should be distributed. John Hutchinson and Robert Blair, ‘ two of the most respected pilots,' were in October 1862 deputed by their fellows to once more request from Trinity House the distribution of the Compensation Money in full, and also information as to the state of the Superannuation and Widows' Funds. On attending they were ordered by the Brethren to lay down their ‘branches' and on so complying, were told that their licences were forfeited for insubordination, and that the Trinity Brethren refused to give any information as to the fund.

The general body of pilots took up the cause of Hutchinson and Blair, and consulted the ‘Pitman's Attorney,' Roberts of Manchester, and also Mr. Hobbhouse, Q.C., with a view to taking proceedings against Trinity House to compel the distribution of the whole of the Compensation Money. Twelve South Shields pilots were thereupon summoned to appear, in November the same year, before the Elder Brethren, ‘ to answer any complaint,' and were further told to bring their ‘branches' with them. The whole body of pilots determined to resist what they considered an attempt to overawe them and more than a hundred accompanied the twelve to Newcastle . The summoned men were ordered to lay down their ‘branches' but refused, and the whole body announced their determination to stand by them, and not send in the foreign tickets. Trinity House retaliated by dissolving the Pilots' Committee, which had hitherto conducted the examinations for licences, and transferred that duty to a Committee of Elder Brethren. The new examining authority proceeded to licence as inward pilots a number of Cullercoats fishermen, who had not served the apprenticeship in the pilot cobles hitherto required of all candidates. This was done ostensibly on the ground that the Cullercoats men could put to sea when the Shieldsmen could not, but, as the pilots believed in reality as a punishment to the South Shieldsmen for their agitation. The pilots despatched Hutchinson and Blair to London to lay their case before the Board of Trade. Mr. Ingham raised the whole question in the House of Commons, and in the session of 1863 succeeded in obtaining an order for a return to be made by Trinity House, showing the amount in hand to the credit of the Superannuation and Widows' Funds, and also the manner in which the Compensation Money had been distributed. The returns showed that the Superannuation Fund at the end of 1862 a balance, on account of River Pilots Fund, of £11,166 16s. 10d. the income for the year having been £601, and the expenditure, for salaries and expenses, £245, and in pensions £231. The balance to credit of the Sea Pilots' Fund was £8915, the yearly income being £793, and the expenditure, in salaries and expenses, £249, and in pensions £596. The items of ‘income' returned, however, did not include the sums retained as ‘unclaimed pilotage' in either case, although Trinity House still declined to distribute more than the £3207 obtained by the pilots in 1861.

The Merchant Shipping Act of 1862 empowered the Board of Trade to transfer the pilotage jurisdiction in each port to a representative body. Under this Act the pilots, in May 1863, petitioned Parliament for the creation of an elective Pilotage Board for the Tyne , including representatives of the pilots themselves. In the same month Mr. J.C. Stevenson carried a motion in the Tyne Commission in favour of the control of the pilotage being transferred to a committee of that body, with advisory members appointed by the Local Marine Boards, the Shipowners' Societies, and the pilots, the cost of administration to be borne by the Tyne Commissioners, thus saving to the Pilots' Superannuation Fund the £500 a year then charged for administration. Early in 1864 the South Shields Corporation, in conjunction with the Shipowners' committee and the pilots, applied for a Provisional Order for the creation of a Pilotage Board, and the transfer to that body of the pilotage jurisdiction and the licensing and control of pilots in the Tyne, together with all funds in the hands of Trinity House properly applicable to such jurisdiction or belonging to the pilots. The Board was to consist of seventeen Commissioners, of whom three were to be appointed by the Board of Trade, two by the Tyne Improvement Commissioners, and three each by the pilots and the registered shipowners of Newcastle , North Shields and South Shields . The Commissioners were to examine and license fit persons as pilots, who must have served five years in the cobles before being licensed. The pilotage rates were to remain unaltered. Compensation was to be paid to any Trinity House servants whose services were dispensed with. The Bill confirming the Order was strongly opposed by Trinity House, but a Select Committee of the House of Commons passed it with amendment, giving Trinity House three representatives, one each being taken from the Board of Trade, the Tyne Commission, and pilots.

The House of Lords on July 26 th dropped the Bill on the plea of lateness of the session, but it was revived in the following session, and became law on June 19 th 1865, as the Tyne Pilotage Act. It created a Commission of seventeen members, five appointed by Trinity House, and two each by the Tyne Commissioners, the Board of Trade, the pilots, and the shipowners of Newcastle , Tynemouth and South Shields . The first Pilotage Board, elected July 10 th 1865, was constituted as under:-

Appointed by the Board of Trade; Thomas Salmon, Mathew Hall Atkinson.

By the Tyne Improvement Commission; J.C. Stevenson, John Ormston.

By the Pilots; John Hutchinson, Robert Blair.

By the Shipowners of Newcastle ; Henry Milvain, Thomas Kemp Belts.

By the Shipowners of Tynemouth ; George Cleugh, John Morrison.

By the Shipowners of South Shields ; Matthew Cay, John Lawrence Hall.

By Trinity House; J.J. Robertson (Master) Thomas Brown Bell (Deputy Master) Richard Swan, Joseph Swan and George Arnott.

At the first meeting on July 21 st Mr. J.C. Stevenson was elected Chairman; Mr. T.C. Lietch, Town Clerk of North Shields, was appointed Law Clerk at £50 per annum; Mr. George Lyall, Secretary, and Mr. John Osbourne, Pilot Superintendent, each at a salary of £150 per annum. The official seal of the Pilotage Board, was designed by Mr. Lietch, ‘the witty North Shields neighbour, learned in the law,' whose puns Mr. Salmon envied, represents the mouth of the river, with Tynemouth lighthouse in the background, and a ship in full sail, with a pilot boat in the foreground. It bears the punning motto, ‘In Portu Salus.' An examining Committee of twelve pilots was appointed, with a nautical member of the Board as chairman, on whose recommendation all licences were granted. It is worthy of note that the Tyne Pilotage Commission was the first of such authorities on which direct representation was given to the pilots themselves, a course since generally followed; while it was also the first pilotage authority to entrust the examinations for certificates to a committee of pilots themselves. The disestablished officials of Trinity House lodged claims for compensation for the loss of office, the total amount of salaries and commissions they had been receiving from the Pilotage Funds amounting to £1465 per annum. At that time there were only 161 pensioners, 19 widows, and 2 children on the Pilotage Fund, receiving in annual pensions a total of £342; while there were contributing to the funds of 77 river pilots, 139 Shields sea pilots, 20 pilots under acting orders, and 24 pilots at Cullercoats – a total of 183 sea pilots. A long battle of legal wits ensued before the Pilotage Funds in the hands of Trinity House were handed over. In October 1866 the committee appointed to effect a settlement recommended that, in view of the expenses and delays of Chancery proceedings, the Board should accept the Trinity House statement of accounts in regard to the funds, on condition that the Compensation Money there shown was also handed over. The accounts showed the Funds to be:-

Sea Pilots Superannuation £8,101 5s. 6d.

River Pilots Superannuation 11,962 7s. 9d.

Unclaimed Reciprocity Money 4,336 3s. 4d.

Total £24,339 16s. 7d.

From this Trinity House claimed the deduction of £3490 11s. 11d., the cost of opposing the two Bills. The amount actually handed over in the final adjustment was £19,675 9s. 9d. The pilot-masters received pensions of £113 per annum for life, the other claims of Trinity House officials being ignored. Shortly afterwards, in 1867, the last was heard of the Compensation Money. The pilots decided to avail themselves of an offer of the Government of that day, to compound for the remaining four and a half years' allowance. The total amount distributed (Government having deducted 12 per cent.) was to sea pilots £9,176 14s. (154 pilots obtaining £54 6s. each, 23 Cullercoats and 7 young pilots £27 3s. each) and to river pilots £6,185 12s. 10d. (71 pilots obtaining £86 10s. 3d. and one young pilot £43 5s. 1d. ) the balance, that is, the portion represented by the ‘unclaimed pilotage' of old days, going to the Superannuation and Widows Fund

The most difficult task which confronted the Commission was to introduce such a system of pilotage as would, while leaving shipowners freedom of choice of pilots, at the same time prevent any class of men being deprived of the chance of earning a fair livelihood, and encourage as many pilots as possible to cruise out at sea for the purpose of ‘seeking' ships, thus ensure that any vessel approaching the port should always have a reasonable chance of obtaining a pilot.

Two factors rendered the Commission's task one of great difficulty. The advent of steam had largely decreased the earnings of the river pilots, especially since the extension of the sea pilotage district, in April 1881, as to include the entrance to the Tyne and Northumberland Docks, vessels only going to the docks having then no necessity for taking a river pilot. It was decided to create no more river pilots. The general use of steam had also give rise to a privileged or ‘constant' class of pilots, who earned large incomes by piloting all vessels of certain firms, and who, consequently, knowing almost to an hour when their vessel would be due, did not need to go to sea ‘seeking.' The system was objected to on different grounds, both by the Pilotage Commissioners and the ordinary or ‘seeking' pilots. To the former the existence of ‘ choice' pilots seemed likely to endanger the primary object of the pilotage service, namely, to ensure that all vessels should be able to count with certainty at all times on obtaining the service of a pilot before reaching the entrance to the harbour. The free pilots objected to the system on the ground that it was unjust that one class, no more efficient or capable (since all pilots had to undergo a like apprenticeship and pass a similar examination) should be making large incomes with little risk and labour, while the cruising men, who had to undergo the most dangerous part of the work, could barely earn a living. The Pilotage Commission, to remedy these evils, proposed in 1870 a new bye-law, providing that the first Tyne pilot who offered his services within the limits of the pilotage district, should if refused and another pilot taken, be entitled to the whole inward pilotage of the vessel, thus recognising the principle that a pilot who went ‘seeking' to offer his services to incoming vessels, rendered a public service by being in the way to assist a ship, and therefore was entitled to some consideration even if his services were refused. The constant pilots, and those shipowners who employed them, opposed the scheme strongly, and the Board of Trade refused its sanction to the bye-law. In October 1873 the Commissioners proposed a similar bye-law, but with the difference that the first pilot offering his services should receive two thirds of the inward pilotage should he be refused and another accepted. The Board of Trade again refused its sanction.

Various other attempts were made to solve the problem. In March 1874 the free or non-constant pilots propounded a pooling scheme,under which the pilots were to take regular turns for inward or outward service, and the whole of their earnings to be pooled and equally divided. The Pilotage Commissioners declined to accept so sweeping a change, but in order that the number of pilots might be reduced in accordance with the smaller demand, they resolved for the future to fill only one vacancy in three. In 1877 another attempt was made to induce the Board of Trade to sanction the bye-law originally proposed in 1870, but again without effect. Another pooling scheme, involving the maintenance of steam cutters at sea upon which the pilots should regularly take their turns, was proposed in 1884, when it was stated that in the previous year the fifty four ‘constant' pilots and their thirteen assistants piloted 10,053 vessels, receiving a total of £11,109 in fees, while the ninety three free pilots only had 4,723 vessels, receiving amongst them £5,602. The Chairman, Mr. J.C. Stevenson, proposed as an alternative, that the whole pilotage earnings should be collected by an official of the Commissioners, the pilot, instead of collecting the money himself from the shipowner or broker, simply handing in his ticket to the pilot-office and receiving the amount at once, less five per cent deduction for the Superannuation Fund and the management expenses. He also proposed that instead of purchasing steam cutters a suggested, a Boarding Fund should be established, out of which a suitable steamer should be hired to serve as a pilot cutter whenever the weather was too rough for pilot cobles to go out of the harbour.

On April 5 th 1884, the Pilotage Commission adopted new bye-laws embodying the system of pooling the earnings, the official collection of all pilotage fees, and the establishment of a Boarding Fund. The Board of Trade deputed Sir George Nares, R.N. the Arctic explore, to hold an inquiry into the whole question of pilotage, which opened at the Town Hall, North Shields, on September 30 th and lasted over four days. Sir George reported against the equal division of pilotage earnings, which would practically put an end to the whole of the constant pilotage system and lower the general standard of ability, but suggested that the constant service inside the river should be recognised and efficiently regulated by the Commissioners, that the practice of constant pilots engaging assistants should be prohibited, and no pilot permitted to engage to conduct more than a given number of regular trading vessels. He approved of the clause for the collection of the pilotage fees by the Commissioners, and of the proposed Boarding Fund. Acting on this report, the Board of Trade declined to sanction the bye-law for ‘pooling' the pilotage earnings, and eliminated everything from the proposed new bye-laws in any way tending to the abolition of the constant pilotage system, but approved experimentally, for a period of two years from May 19 th 1885, the new bye-laws in regard to the official collection of dues and the establishment of a Boarding Fund.

These reforms proved so satisfactory in operation that the experimental bye-laws were made permanent without opposition in 1887.

Another attempt to secure a bye-law giving the first pilot who hailed an incoming vessel half the pilotage fees, should his services be refused and those of another taken, was made in December 1887. The Board of Trade again declined to sanction the bye-law, but suggested that, as Parliament had appointed a select Committee on Pilotage, the matter should be brought before this body, of which Mr. J.C. Stevenson, M.P. and Mr. Craig, M.P. for Newcastle, a shipowner, were both members. This was done, Mr. Stevenson, Captain G.C. Coates, then Chairman of the Pilotage Commission, and Mr. John Purvis, now pilot-master, giving evidence on this special subject before the Committee. The evidence showed that the pilotage earnings on the Tyne for the previous year had averaged £168 9s. net per effective pilot, out of which the ‘seeking' pilots had to pay 4s. 6d. to their apprentices for each vessel boarded. The three highest net earnings for constant pilots, after deducting payment to helpers and the percentage retained by the Commission, were £891 10s. 9d. and £710 9s. 8d. respectively, while the three lowest net receipts were £39 15s. 3d., £47 3s. 5d. and £49 12s. 4d. respectively, all by free pilots regularly following their occupation. The Committee in August 1888 reported in favour of the Tyne proposal, and a bye-law giving the first pilot offering his services half the fees was eventually approved by the Board of Trade in February 1892.

Meanwhile the Commissioners had effected several minor reforms in the pilotage system. In February 1871 a new bye-law made the contribution by pilots to the Superannuation and Widows Fund 1s. per ship, while on all vessels above 500 tons the charge was payable on both inward and outward pilotage. The opening of the Swing Bridge , admitting sea-going vessels to the upper reaches of the river, in 1876, necessitated new bye-laws levying an additional 6d. per foot pilotage on all vessels going above the bridge, while the increasing size of steamers, which was not attended by a proportional increase in the registered tonnage, led to an additional charge of a farthing per ton on the excess above 500 tons register, on each ship piloted to or from the docks, and of a halfpenny per ton on vessels taken farther up the river. A more important change came into effect in 1880, in the shape of the amalgamation of the two classes of sea and river pilots. The work of the latter had decreased as the docks came more and more into use, the improvement of navigation and the introduction of steam enabling a vessel to leave any part of the river and get to sea on the same tide. Under the amalgamation the sea and river pilots' funds were combined, but, to compensate the river men for a change in some respects to their disadvantage, it was provided that all river pilots then in receipt of a pension, or upon attaining the age of sixty years, should receive £30 per annum instead of the much smaller pension paid to sea pilots, while each river pilot between the age of forty-five and sixty obtained a pension of £18 a year. No more river pilots were to be licensed, but holders of existing river licences were not to be interfered with, and might obtain sea ‘branches' if qualified. Acting pilots were to be abolished, and only one class created in future, capable of taking charge of vessels of any tonnage, the sea service required of candidates for licences being two years in the coal or Baltic trade and one year in steam. Under this amalgamation thirteen river pilots at once received the full pension of £30 per annum, twelve received the £18 per annum, and there were eighteen others who would qualify for it on reaching the age of forty-five. In 1885 the system of apprenticeship was abolished, pilots' assistants, who were to serve a five years probation, two years in the cobles, one year in sail, and two in steam, being substituted for apprentices. It is interesting to trace, from the official statistics of the Commission as published annually in the form of a Parliamentary return, how the various reforms achieved by that body have improved at once the present income of the pilot and the provision for his future in the shape of the Superannuation Fund.


Tyne Entrance 1773

Tyne Entrance 1773

Tyne Entrance


Smiths Dock Monthly March 1923

Launching the Lifeboat - South Shields Pilots

Shields Harbour

Shields Harbour before the piers were built

Tynemouth Bar at High Water from a painting by William Garthwaite 1853

The Tyne

In the early years of Queen Victoria 's reign, the Tyne was a vastly different river to what it is today. In fact it was a tortuous stream, full of sand banks and curious currents, and possible to ford at Newcastle at low water.

At its mouth in spring tides, the harbour had sufficient water for vessels of 500 tons, but local records show that on August 26 th 1824 there was the lowest tide ever remembered on the Tyne, and three pilots, R. Burns Jnr., J. Harrison and W.Tully walked across, from the south to the north side on Tynemouth Bar, a circumstance believed never to have occurred before.

At high water that day there was 24 feet 8 inches on the bar, and when the pilots walked across at low tide, there was only 2 feet…

The Tyne in those days wasn't fitted to be the highest way of commerce, which its position in a great coal-field demanded.

Even at Newcastle , starting at was then its navigable reach, it twisted and turned until its final charge past the Narrows at Shields, into the sea beyond.

It was navigable, and only with the greatest difficulty, for a few miles from the sea, and it was common enough for a vessel to lie a month, waiting for sufficient water to get past the Middle Ground and Dartwick Sands…

The dangers of navigation were clearly portrayed by the evidence of Henry Oates, a pilot, during an Admiralty Inquiry in 1849 into the merits of the Tyne Conservancy Bill; He said that the screw steamer CONSIDE on her voyage from Newcastle to the sea, drawing about 9 feet of water, first grounded at the lower part of Newcastle Quay and lay there for half an hour. She then stuck fast on the Tyne Main Shoal at one and a quarter miles below the bridge, got clear across Hebburn Shoal by giving her full speed over the ground, but in doing so sunk a small craft and went against a lighter and sunk her also, then she went to sea. The pilot ended by saying that she was considered an unlucky vessel…

The harbour and entrance at Shields also presented a different picture to the port of today.

The force of the waves seething over the Black Midden Rocks on the north side and the Herd Sands on the south was not broken up by the sheltering arms of the piers, and the act of crossing the bar in a north easterly gale required a feat of seamanship, compared to which entry into the port today, is but childs play…

The chaos wrought by a storm in 1854 is described in Fordyces Local Records; On the 3 rd the wind changed suddenly from North West to South East and the temperature rose considerably. The change of wind however had a disastrous effect on the shipping near the coast, about 1500 vessels had left Yarmouth Roads for the North, and attempts to reach their destinations became extremely hazardous, owing to the violence of the storm. On the 4 th the fleet was off Tynemouth and although some hundreds entered the harbour safely, a great number of others got stuck on the Herd Sands and opposite rocks. The scene was described as one of the most exciting character. The tempestuous sea dashed its foaming billows over the venerable ruins at Tynemouth; the noise of the vessels braking up, crash after crash, mixed with the distant screams of the sea fowl in the Narrows …

Indeed, the Tyne was a notoriously dangerous place to be in a storm, and many mariners considered themselves fortunate to run their vessels onto the sands, rather than risk the bar.

Even at a much later date, after the construction of the piers, the Tyne was still considered a dangerous harbour. Owing to the great strength of the tide on the ebb, meeting gale force winds from the east, made the seas so short and steep that there was no control over ships; many were carried onto the Black Midden Rocks inside the breakwater, and others were knocked right under…

This then was the world of the Tyne Pilot; the coast, the bar, the harbour with its black rocks, the tides, the shoals, the river with its sandbanks, inlets and outlets.

South Shields ( Tyne ) Sea Pilots of the latter half of the nineteenth century, the real aristocracy of the river's work force. These men could genuinely afford to dress well, and long retained their distinctive ‘stove pipe' hats when afloat.
These they knew, with a knowledge born of generations of men who, with little other than skill, had brought countless ships to a safe anchorage, the work involved great responsibility and was fraught with many difficulties requiring coolness and ability. This they had in plenty as is witnessed by the innumerable sailors who daily entrusted them, without so much as second thoughts, with their lives.

South Shields ( Tyne ) Sea Pilots of the latter half of the nineteenth century, the real aristocracy of the river's work force. These men could genuinely afford to dress well, and long retained their distinctive ‘stove pipe' hats when afloat

Tyne Pilots

John Hutchinson

(great, great, uncle of Metcalfe Tinmouth on mother's side)

Acted as pilot for the Italian Patriot Garibaldi, when his ship the ‘COMMONWEALTH' came into the Tyne in 1854.

Certificate of Competency

A Short History of River Tyne Pilotage

By John Bone (Jr)

Just how far the Institution of Pilotage upon the River Tyne goes back, it is not possible to trace, but from early records we find it was originally confined exclusively to members of the Trinity House of Newcastle upon Tyne , which City for long held a stranglehold monopoly upon everything connected with the river. Pilotage was incorporated in a Charter granted by Henry VIII, on 5 th October 1536, but it is probable that Trinity House had control of pilotage prior to that date, as the oldest existing order book of the ‘House' commencing in 1539, while making several references to pilotage dues termed ‘Loadmannage' in those distant days, refers to still earlier entries in the ‘Owyld Lodmannage Bouk' now lost.

The powers of Trinity House were extended by Charters of Edward VI, 1548 and Mary I, 1553; in 1584 the Corporation of Newcastle disputed the exclusive claim of the Trinity Brethren to pilot all ships of strangers on the Tyne , but the Charter of Elizabeth I confirmed in the same year, the contention of Trinity House that pilotage was compulsory.

A Charter of James I on 18 th January 1606, extended their jurisdiction to cover the coast from Blyth to steays (now Staithes ) in Yorkshire, it left the engagement of pilots as optional, and fixed the ‘Loadmannage' at twelve pence per foot draught on laden, and eight pence per foot on light vessels. In 1672, the restriction of pilotage to Brethren of Trinity House was amended by Charter a of James II, which also directed the Corporation of Newcastle to elect as Free Burgess, one James Ayre (a name still borne by a family of South Shields pilots) pilot of his ship St. Michael.

By the Great Charter of James II, on the 1 st July 1687, the jurisdiction of Newcastle Trinity House was extended embracing the coast from Holy Island to Whitby, but the office of ‘Pylott' was not specifically confined to members of Trinity House.

The Licences granted in those early days absolved the holders from Impressment in the Navy, bearing arms or serving on Juries. In 1760 it is recorded the Press Gang did impress a number of pilots, but when the vessel put to sea the pilots took possession and sailed into Scarborough, there released themselves and returned home.

From Commonwealth times Trinity House had maintained a service of resident pilots at Shields, but with the throwing open of the port to non-members of Trinity House, the pilotage service became more generally recruited from the sea-going community of South Shields, the exigencies of the service led to pilots taking up residence on or near ‘The Lawe' a high district overlooking the harbour entrance and coastline, at which place they flourished as a community within a community, and more or less apart from the rest of the town. Similarly the practice of taking only sons or relatives of pilots to serve in their ‘cobles' made the service an almost exclusive body, strictly confined to members of certain families.

This system was dictated by Trinity House who by resolution ordered that applicants for Licences be refused unless they are relatives of the present pilots or Brethren, as it is right to confine it to those who have always followed that occupation.

At this period approved applicants were not subject to examination, as to proficiency, for Licences or ‘Branches' (i.e. Branches of the Charter) as they were known, the appointments being made upon the recommendations by certificates of Shipowners or Shipmasters who testified as to the character and ability of the applicant to discharge pilotage duties.

This was no mere formality, as a respected Shieldsman John Roxby discovered, he was fined ten pounds by Trinity House for, ‘That he did sign the certificate of one John Errington, who it appeareth doeth not write his own name, and therefore is unable to take charge of a ship as pilot.'

The duty of the Shields or Barr Pilots as they were known, was to conduct ships in and out of the harbour, over the bar, but were not permitted to above Whitehill Point, a distance of about two miles. That duty was delegated to the Town or River Pilots, who were sub-divided into up and down Rivermen.

Trinity House also issued to members ‘Sea Branches' which correspond to the present North Sea Pilots. The Barr Pilots were under the supervision of an official known as the Captain of Pilots, who was one of the Elder Brethren of Trinity House, the earliest appointment being that of Joseph Reed in 1724, he was succeeded in 1738 by Loftus Danby, who held office for many years, as in 1754 Mathias Giles was appointed to look after the pilots that they keep regular turns, the pilots paying no regard to Thomas Medley who is the orderer under Loftus Danby, who is nearly blind. Danby was succeeded by Captain Wm. Errington, who during the 1745 rebellion, helped defend Carlisle . He died in 1773 while Captain of Pilots. A strict discipline was exercised over the pilots and neglect or inefficiency was punishable by fine or revocation of Licences which cost ten shillings and sixpence per annum. One punishment is recorded in the order book as ‘Broke never to take charge of any ship as pilot again' The regulated system of turns did not dabar the right of selection by shipmasters, and as early as 1748 a rule was passed permitting choice pilots to claim pilotage out of their turns, this was the beginning of an evil which had repercussions over a long period.

Apparently there were on useful Harbour Marks or Buoys at this time, and those that were erected between 1772 and 1789 were either misleading or too low to be of use. In 1799 the Shipowners of Shields implored Trinity House to immediately erect two leading Beacons on the South side of the harbour, with buoys in the channel and proper directions for taking the same. The Shipowners of Scarborough added their weight, and Trinity House built two Beacons shortly afterwards.

By the Newcastle Port Act of 1801 Trinity House was empowered to examine all applicants for Licences, and to inflict punishments, fines etc., for misdemeanours. Pilotage was compulsory on all foreign ships, but optional on British ships, and the rate to be one shilling and threepence per foot in summer and one shilling and sixpence in winter, for pilotage in the sea section. These rates continued in force until 1936, when summer pilotage was abolished. For River Pilotage too, or from above Bill Point one shilling and sixpence per foot was fixed, and below Bill Point one shilling per foot, while foreign vessels paid sixpence more per foot in each case.

In 1803 Joseph Hogg was appointed Captain of Pilots, and John Thompson succeeded him in 1815. Wm. Pearson was appointed in 1845, and James Kelly in 1864, the last Ruler appointed by Trinity House.

The examinations for pilotage certificates which this act made compulsory were, for the first time in the history of the pilotage, entrusted to a committee of pilots, of most experience under the Pilot Master, upon passing this examination applicants were made Acting Orders, qualifying them to take charge of vessels not exceeding twelve keels burthen, a keel being the coal measure then employed on the river and approximately twenty two tons, and as vacancies occurred , they were promoted to full pilots or ‘Branches.' In addition to these obligations they also promised to serve when necessary in the ‘Lifeboats.'

About the year 1803, Trinity House established and managed two funds respectively called the River Pilots Fund and Sea Pilots Fund, these funds were created by payment by the pilots of one shilling per ship (i.e. sixpence each way on all ships, employing them entering or leaving the Tyne) it was known as ‘Turn Money.' By certain returns made to parliament, it would appear these funds were applied to the payment of fixed allowances to retired pilots, widows and children of deceased pilots, and salaries of the Sea and River Pilot Captains. The Sea Pilots had no representation in their management however, and not being Freemen of Newcastle could not become members of Trinity House, and this caused much dissatisfaction among them.

In 1824, Mr. Huskissons reciprocity act enabled the Government to enter into Treaties with other Nations for affording mutual facilities with respect to pilotage, and other matters, the effect of this act and of subsequent Treaties with foreign Nations was that vessels of such Nations were no longer compelled to employ pilots, and if they did voluntarily employ them, they paid the same rates as British vessels. To compensate for the loss pilots would suffer in consequence, the Government provided for the payment to Trinity House of an annual sum, equivalent to any differences. The sum paid to Trinity House however differed considerably from the amount paid as reciprocity money to the pilots. This difference Trinity House called ‘Unclaimed Pilotage' and placed it to the funds of the River and Sea Pilots. They repeatedly refused to disclose accounts of the amounts so accumulated, or distribute them among the pilots.

In 1846 the pilots requested Trinity House to purchase from the funds in their possession, a steamboat for the purpose of taking them to sea in heavy weather, this was refused, and the pilots themselves eventually provided a steamer which was launched from Woodhouse Yard at South Shields on 23 rd January 1852, and named ‘Pilot' while a second vessel the ‘Robert Ingham' was obtained in May 1855.

In 1885 the system of apprenticeship was amended, and pilots assistants were to serve a three year probationary period, one in cobles, one in sail and one in steam.

Between 1852 and 1855 the pilots had out of their own pockets, provided at different times, the cost of four steam vessels to act as Pilot Vessels in bad weather. During the time they were not thus employed, they acted as tugboats, though it would appear that income from this source was credited to management expenses. Eventually the Board agreed to provide a steam vessel when necessary and pay for it out of the boarding fund instituted in 1885. After paying each year for the hire of a vessel which in one year alone amounted to fifteen hundred and fifty pounds, this fund by 1906 stood at eleven thousand pounds, when it was decided that the time had arrived for a steam cutter to be obtained for the whole time use of the pilots.

In 1907 the pilot cutter ‘Protector' was built to the order of the Commission, by J.P. Rennoldson, South Shields , and the system of seeking in cobles abolished. Assistants now had to serve five years in this vessel, one in sail and one in steam, the ‘Protector' was 110 feet long with accommodation for 19 pilots, and gave very satisfactory service during her short life; about the same time the twin screw vessel ‘Miner' was purchased from the War Dept., to act as an outward tender and relief vessel.

Owing to the growth in the size of ships using the port it was decided that the step from Acting Order 500 tons to Branch Licences was too great. In November 1904 Second Class Licences were introduced limiting pilotage to ships of 800 tons, and these three classes continue to the present day. A candidate must now apart from the present probationary period of six years as assistant, serve at least two years each as Acting Order and Second Class before applying for a First Class Licence.

The outbreak of War in 1914 made the Tyne along with others a compulsory pilotage district, and saw the passing of constant pilotage, except for new vessels built on the river.

On the 31 st December 1916 during the early hours the ‘Protector' whilst on station was sunk, presumed by enemy action with the loss of all hands.

In 1917 the Commission purchased the ‘Queen of the May' a steam yacht originally owned by the Coates family of cotton thread fame; this vessel has proved particularly suitable as a pilot vessel and though expensive to run, has given yeoman service throughout her 22 years of piloting.

In 1920 the ‘Miner' was no longer considered suitable and was sold, at the same time a motor launch was obtained for the outward service, this vessel the ‘Tertia' was lost shortly afterwards. To relieve the ‘Queen of the May' the Commission purchased the steam drifter ‘Britannia' which after conversion was found to be a wet and uncomfortable sea boat.

To replace the ‘Tertia' the ‘Sheldrake' was next obtained, this vessel was also unsatisfactory, not being sufficiently strong for the rigours of the service, and in 1925 J.G. Mitchison of South Shields was commissioned to build two motor launches, the ‘Tyne' and ‘Team' to work the outward service.

In 1925 the ‘Queen of the May' was involved in a serious collision, following this accident the vessel was re-boilered. A fire in the ‘ Tyne ' led to her being re-built in 1936 and fitted with a diesel engine. In 1938 the ‘Britannia' was sold for scrap and a new diesel motor launch to be named ‘Vigilant' ordered from Walter Reekie of St. Monance.

In 1905 A.L. Ayre followed John Purvis as Pilot Master, and retired in 1908 when Capt. Chas. K Sergeant was appointed, he was followed by Capt. L.M. Lamb in 1915, and on his death in 1932, Wm. Marshall succeeded after 25 years as deputy.

Pilot Licence

Pilot Cobles

Before the advent of steam cutters, each pilot had his own coble, manned by himself and his apprentice. In these they cruised up and down the coast on the watch for ships bound for the harbour of Shields . This was commonly termed as ‘seeking' and it was a common occurrence for cobles to sail as far south as Flamborough Head and in some cases Yarmouth Roads, when vessels were reported making for the Tyne.

After the pilot had boarded his particular vessel the coble was taken in tow stern first, an unusual procedure but the reason is apparent when the peculiar lines of a coble are analysed. A coble has a very big foreward sheer with a consequent considerable depth of forefoot. At the same time, the lines or form of the bow and forepart of the boat are extremely fine, in comparison with the shallowed and more rounded form of the after part, so that when towed stern first the knife like bow sinks further into the water acts as a rudder or fin, and keeps the coble on a seaworthy course by its grip on the water. They were about 26 feet in length and about the middle of the nineteenth century cost about £30. Each boat had its official number painted on the bow and its name on the stern.

At best they were regarded by outsiders as a difficult boat which required delicate handling in rough weather. All in all they were a craft which it was essential to grow up with. Needless to say, they were managed in this case with great skill.

As stated it was not uncommon to find Tyne Pilot cobles as far south as Whitby , and the following account from Mr. John Bone in 1961 – a retired Tyne pilot aged 93 – is of such a trip taken in 1883, when he was fifteen years old.

‘My father woke me just after midnight and by 1.0 a.m. we were moving down river towards the bar. We intended to ‘seek' south as the ‘North chance' had been no good for the last week or two. The weather was good and before long we fell in with another boat – a Cullercoats fisherman but also a licenced pilot. (12 Cullercoats fishermen had been licensed by Trinity House in 1865 in retaliation for the so called insubordination of the Tyne Pilots.) The fish must not have been biting so he'd decided to look out for a ship. There were four in the boat, probably his sons. We were about half a mile apart and both keen to keep in front of the other. After three or four hours a full rigged French ship came in sight but because of our distance apart, the Cullercoats' man got her. We decided to, or rather my father did, to sail on south. Then the wind shifted from South West to North West so we made for the shore. We landed at Rosedale about 9 miles north of Whitby . There was a lighter bound for the Tyne and they offered to tow us back.

After climbing 300 or so steps we reached the village and bought some bread and cheese but on arriving back at the top of the steps, we saw the lighter all set to sail. I remember clearly being almost hysterical with laughter at the sight of my father who was a heavy man, rushing down these steps which were of irregular height, as fast as his legs would carry him. Red in the face he made it and we got our tow as far as Sunderland where another Shields coble was ‘seeking.' Not long after slipping the tow a steamer, the ‘Arch Druid' appeared and after a race I put my father aboard and handed the tow rope astern.'

For that day's work he received a 3 shilling (15p) assistants fee which he maintained could in those days ‘buy the town'. Apparently railway porters earned at that time a weekly wage of 18 shillings (90p) and dock labourers 23 shilling (1.15p)

Mr. John Bone comes from a very old pilot family. In fact he maintains that as long as there have been pilots on the Tyne , there has been a John Bone doing the job, and St. Hilda's churchyard still boasts one tombstone dedicated to the memory of a John Bone, pilot who died in the year 1706.

The Bone family provide a perfect example of the typical Tyne pilots who lived, moved and married amongst their own class. His mother was a pilot's daughter, his grandmother, his great grandmother and his great, great grandmother. No doubt, further research would only provide further examples of inter marriage.

Amongst the family heirlooms is a most interesting letter written by his grand father in 1842. After sailing abroad ‘seeking' as far as Whitby bad weather had driven them into the shelter of Robin Hoods Bay , where they had been held three days. In order to allay family worries, he wrote the letter and sent it by coach, folding the letter in the fashion of the day to serve as an envelope. From it we can imagine some of the worries and fears of a pilots wife, and one is left with an impression that, money when obtained, was not to be squandered.

Unfortunately, John Bone, the writer of the letter was one of the twenty pilots who lost their lives when the lifeboat ‘Providence' capsized attempting to rescue the crew of the ‘Betsey' on December 4 th 1849. (A full account of the tragedy is given in the section on lifeboats.)

Dear Wife,

I write hoping to find you and the family well

you will excuse me for not writing to you before this because i put off till yesterday expecting that the wind would moderate so that i might have a chance to get the London Packet.

We landed here on Thursday at 6.0 clock completely tired went to bed got up at 3.0 clock next morning went

to sea expecting to fall in with the City of Hamburg Packet while waiting for her the gale came away from

the N.N.E. with rain we tried to get back to Whitby but the

Gale increasing we had to run to Robin Hoods Bay were with

great difficulty landed about 6.0 clock we hauled our boat up

were she still remains till weather turns fine we hear there is

several ships in the Bay so that you may expect us down the first fair wind we walked to Whitby Rodges at Apletons

My Dear you must not distress yourself about the

expense we will be at for if we be here a week it will not

exceed 10s each for we are living very economical that

is free from drinking i attended Divine Service in the

Church on Sunday last wich i think you will be pleased to

hear give my kind love to my Children and all my friends

Hills desires to be remembered home likewise George and let

them no that we are in good health

I Remain your affectionate

husband John Bone

Pilot Cobles

Before steamers came on the scene, pilots used cobles like the above, to go ‘seeking' for ships bound for the Tyne, and would cover an area from Holy Island in the North to Scarborough and Flamborough Head in the South.

A cruising range of thirty miles was quite common.

Serving in cobles was not only difficult but extremely hazardous in bad weather; the following accounts taken from local records / Shields Gazette show to what cost…..

October 14 th 1838

A Shields coble with five pilots onboard, left Cullercoats trying to make Shields Harbour . However, the coble was overturned and all five were drowned, their cries for help could be heard by the sentries on Spanish Battery, but no assistance could be given.

December 23 rd 1853

On Thursday afternoon last week three pilots; John Harrison, Ralph Harrison and Thomas Tindle had a narrow escape from drowning, while they were lying within the Bar. A high sea came in and overwhelmed their coble, turning it bottom up and throwing the pilots into the water. One of them, Thomas Tindle was under the boat some minutes and the other men were almost exhausted when some other pilots came to their assistance.

January 3 rd 1856

About 4.30pm Wednesday afternoon, as Thomas and John Chambers (pilots) belonging to South Shields were returning from sea in their coble, and when near the Bar a heavy sea struck the boat and capsized it, precipitating both men into the water. The accident was fortunately observed by a number of pilots from the Lawe, who immediately launched the lifeboat and proceeded to the assistance of the two Chambers. Before however they arrived at the place, John Chambers had become exhausted and sank, Thomas Chambers who was clinging by the boats' yard, was rescued. John Chambers who had met his death under such distressing circumstances had but recently been married and was only 22 years of age.

October 19 th 1860

We regret to have to announce the painful fact of the loss of two South Shields pilots and their apprentice by the upsetting of their coble at sea. About midnight on Wednesday George Tinmouth senior, and James Purvis, pilots together with George Tinmouth junior, a young man of nineteen years of age, son of George Tinmouth senior, an apprentice, left Shields Harbour in search of vessels. About noon yesterday the coble was seen at sea off the Trow Rocks, bottom upwards, by the steam tug ‘Engineer.' The steamer at once proceeded towards it, but in endeavouring to right it, the rope broke and the coble sank. It is supposed that during the night, which was stormy, the wind blowing fresh from the s.s.w., the coble had been caught in a squall and upset, those onboard being precipitated into the sea and drowned. The bodies of the unfortunate men have not been recovered.

March 5 th 1869

Three pilots; John Heron, John Houlsby and Lancelot Burn, (who were lifeboatmen themselves) were rescued by the lifeboat ‘Tyne' when their coble was swamped off the Herd Sands in heavy seas.

November 3 rd 1870

The s.s. ‘Alice' entering the Tyne , struck the pilot coble, cutting it in half and throwing the three pilots into the sea. One of them, James Stewart, was drowned.

October 14 th 1881

Thomas Young, John Ramsey and Thomas Tindle (assistant) lost their lives alongside the South Pier when their coble foundered in Northerly gale.

October 1881

Three pilots; John Landers Burn, Arthur Landers Burn, William Clarke Stephenson and apprentice John Bone, in danger of being swamped in a gale, were picked up from their coble ‘Argo' by a passing schooner and taken to Bridlington.

February 15 th 1889

Two pilot apprentices were rescued from their swamped coble by the lifeboat ‘ Bedford '

November 27 th 1890

Respecting the drowning of two South Shields pilots; Thomas Stephenson and David Young, offthe Tyne on Monday morning, information has been received from Marsden stating that some wreckage has come ashore on the beach at that place, belonging to a pilots' coble. A portion of the wreckage bears the number of the coble, it is stated that an oar has been washed up at Souter Point.

November 11 th 1902

The pilot coble ‘Victory' was lost at sea whilst James Carter and Philip Young were returning home. The wind was SSE, a sea struck the boat about 300 yards outside the harbour and it sank. The tug ‘Rainbow' picked up James Carter but Philip Young was lost.

January 24 th 1859

A distressing accident occurred at sea off Marsden Rocks on Sunday by which Joseph Chambers (pilot) belonging to South Shields was drowned. Joseph Chambers and another pilot, Thomas Tinmouth were in their coble off Marsden waiting for vessels requiring their assistance, when a sea struck the boat and upset it, both men being precipitated into the sea. Thomas Tinmouth got hold of one of the oars of the coble, and so succeeded in reaching the shore; Joseph Chambers after struggling for some time sank, his body has since been recovered and brought home.

Model made by George Ayre (Pilot)


Trinity Tower

Trinity Tower erected 1810 at a cost of £2000 by the Master and Brethren of Trinity House Newcastle , as a watch tower for Shields Pilots.

The Coat of Arms ‘Deus Debit Vela' means God will give the sails.

It was purchased by South Shields Corporation in 1890 and used as a home for under gardeners in the park.

During World War II it was used by the Military and in 1946 became a Radar Training Station for South Shields Marine & Tech. College .

It was demolished in 1969 and a stone monument with plaque now marks the once well known landmark.

Pilot Watch House

Pilot Watch House. Lawe Top.

The original Look-Out House for the use of the South Shields pilots was completed in March 1890 (Shields Gazette 22 nd March 1890) standing near the top of the embankment on the Lawe, within a few yards of the ‘Old Beacon,' giving a full view of the harbour entrance and beyond.

Designed by local architect Mr. J.H. Morton, it consisted of a room on the ground floor measuring 30ft by 20ft and a smaller room above measuring 26ft by 10ft.

Several changes have been made over the years including the addition of extra rooms (above photo)

Pilot Office

Pilot Office in Green's Place 1890

Shields Gazette Saturday 5 th December 1885.

The Green's Place property. At a meeting of the Tyne Pilotage Commission held at No.17 Market Place the clerk, J.P. Dodds, reported the completion of the purchase of the property in Green's Place. It was agreed on the motion of Mr.Cay that the finance committee should be instructed to put the property in order to fit it for the office purposes of the Commissioner's.


The Pilot Watch House at North Shields is no longer in use.

The ‘Official Seal' of the Board was designed by Mr. Leitch of North Shields, and depicted the Tynemouth Lighthouse with a ship in full sail and a pilot boat in the foreground and dated 1865.

Lawe Beacon

A popular meeting place for pilots, rivermen and seafarers. (pre 1910)

The Beacon on the Lawe, one of two brick pillars still to be seen, erected in 1832 by John Turnbull at a cost of £60, was used as a navigational aid to vessels entering the Tyne .

This Beacon and its companion replaced the 18 th century structures and compliment the High and Low Lights at North Shields.

The gun cannons on the Lawe were Russian trophies from the Crimean War, and presented to the town in 1858.

They weighed four hundredweight and measured eight feet two inches in length. They remained on the Lawe for 82 years until removed for scrap metal in 1940.

The Beacons on the Lawe (14.03.1977)

Built 1832 as a navigational aid to ships entering the Tyne



Joseph Reed 1724 - 1738

Loftus Danby 1738 - 1754

Matthias Giles 1754 - ?

Capt. Wm. Errington ? - 1773 Died

Joseph Hogg 1803 - 1815

John Thompson 1815 - 1845

William Pearson 1845 - 1864

James Kelly 1864 –? ( Last Ruler appointed by Trinity House. )


John Purvis 1893 - 1905

A.L. Ayres 1905 - 1908 Retired

Capt. Chas. K. Sergent 1908 - 1915

Capt. L.M. Lamb 1915 - 1932 Died

Wm. Marshall (Twaddles) 1932 - 1944 ( Served 25 years as Deputy Pilot Master. )

Capt. Henry Row 1944 - 1946

Capt. George W. Graber 1946 - 1964 Died

Sydney Johnson 1964 - 1981 Retired. (Last of the Pilot Masters)

Captain L.M. LAMB

Taken on board "Queen'o the May" 3rd July 1931

Commander Henry Row, R.D. R.N.R. (Retired)

Pilot Master 1944 - 1946

Capt. George Graber

Pilot Master 1946 - 1964

Taken onboard pilot cutter 'Helm' 1947

Sydney Johnson,

(Taken outside Pilot Watch House 6th May 1981)

Last of the Tyne Pilot Masters.

Deputy Pilot Master 1955, Pilot Master 1964 Retired in June 1981


List of Pilots 1746



MAJOR Robert

SUTHERN Cuthbert


Wright John




LACEY Samuel


MANN Edward






BROWN George

GIBSON William





















Names of Pilots

Licenced to pilot vessels throughout the entire District on the Tyne in the year 1909

Charles Pearson
Martin Purvis (2)
James Purvis (3)
William Marshal
Heny Duncan
Matthew Houlsby
William Tinmouth
John G Stewart
Henry purvis
Robert Young
Henry Y Marshall
Edward C Burn
John Peat
George B Morrison
John Phillips (2)
John Hutchinson
James Purvis (3)
Robert H Burn
William Strachan
John G H Thurlbeck
William Young (2)
John Brown
David Marshall
Bryson Taylor
John Bone (1)
James W Carter
Thomas T Houlsby
Thomas Young (1)
Charles Burn (2)
James Morrison
James Wright
Alexander Leslie
Robert Young (2)
Robert Purvis (1)
Lancelot Burn (2)
James Morrison
Heslop Wright
George Burn
Philip Y Tinmouth
Charles Chamber
John Whale
James Wright (2)
Robert Philips (1)
John Burn (2)
Thomas W Stephenson
Jacob Harrison
Ralph Burn
William H Tinmouth
Thomas C Purvis (1)
Richard Thurlbeck
Matthew Young
James W Mackey
Matthew C Reid
Thomas Bone
James Purvis (1)
William Purvis (2)
Thomas Heron
Richard Harrison
Henry Leslie
William Purvis
Anthony Emmerson
John Marshall (2)
Alex W Harrison
John Phillips (1)
John W Marshall
William O Purvis
Arthur L Burn
Robert Leslie
Beckworth Purvis
Henry Young
John Young
Thomas Y Purvis
Joseph O Moffat
William Purvis (3)
James A Ramsey
John T Cree
John H Tinmouth
John Nevens
Lancelot Burn (1)
Robert Phillips (2)
Joseph Marshall
William M Young
Thomas Young (3)
Fred Peat
James Young (1)
James Burn
William S Morrison
Robert Pickering
Robert Cowell
Annthony H Nevens
Robert Ramsey
John Bone (2)
Ralph P Sloan
Anthony Hogg
Robert Chambers
John G M Houlsby
John Burn (1)
Robert Heron
William P Duncan
John Duncan
William Young
James W Purvis
James Young (2)
Thomas H Purvis
John B Young
Anthony Thurlbeck
Thomas Tinmouth
Joh S Y Bone
John W Purvis
Joseph Wright
Ralph Phillips (2)
Robert Duncan
George W Burn
John H Pickering
Samuel Stewart
Thomas L Wright
John H Duncan
Amos L Ayre
Robert Purvis (2)
Robert W Purvis
Ben Heron (2)
Ralph Phillips
James H Mackey
John Chambers
Jacob Bone
Joseph Watson
William Thurlbeck
John A Peat
Thomas H Marshall


Anthony Thurlbeck
John T Harrison
John Duncan
John Thurlbeck
Richard Tinmouth
Robert Leslie
Peter Purvis
Thomas Reed
Stanley Purvis
Thomas Purvis
Thomas A Strachan
Robert Pickering
Richard Duncan
W C Stewart
Robert Chambers
Robert Ramsey
Robert Cowell
Jacob Harrison
James Duncan
Edward Ramsey
George Purvis
George Ayre
Stanley Phillips
Arthur L Burn



AYRE Arthur H
AYRE George
BURN Charles
BURN Charles H
BURN Joseph Wm.
BURN True Britton
BURN Malcolm N
PURVIS Charles
PURVIS James (1)
BURN George Wm.
PURVIS James (2)
BURN W. Alan
BURN James
PURVIS John (1)
BURN Richard C.
PURVIS John (2)
BURN Arthur L
PURVIS George Wm
BURN Morris F
PURVIS William
BURN George P
PURVIS Thomas Adrian
PURVIS Michael
DUNCAN Richard
DUNCAN Alexander
REID Matthew
DUNCAN Stanley
HERON Benjamin
HOGG Thomas
TINMOUTH Ronald (1)
TINMOUTH Ronald (2)
MARSHALL John Anderson
WATSON Leonard W
NEVENS Anthony H
PHILLIPS Stanley (1)
PHILLIPS Stanley (2)
WHALE William M
WHALE Sydney
YOUNG William M
YOUNG William W




AYRE George
BURN Charles H
PHILLIPS John Downie
BURN John Hart
BURN James
PURVIS William
BURN Richard C
PURVIS Thomas Adrian
PURVIS Alan Young
DUNCAN Stanley
TAIT Robert
MARSHAL John Duncan
TINMOUTH Philip Young
MARSHALL John Hanson
YOUNG Thomas
YOUNG William F



In 1988 the Port of Tyne Authority became responsible for providing pilotage on the Tyne and the Pilots were given the opportunity of being employed by them. However the Pilots refused, preferring to remain a self-employed independent body. At that time there were 27 Pilots working for the Tyne Pilotage Authority. This then reduced to 12 (listed below) to form Tyne Pilots Ltd.

John Hart Burn
Ralph P Sloane
David Duncan
John D Marshall
Philip Y Tinmouth
Thomas H Purvis
George Winter
Alan Y Purvis
Edward Cowell
James Purvis
Jeff Egon
George W Purvis

In 1998 only 8 Pilots remain

John Hart Burn
Ralph P Sloane
David Duncan
John D Marshall
George Winter
Thomas H Purvis
Jeff Egon
Alan Y Purvis

In 2008 John D Marshall and Alan Y Purvis - the last two remaining Tyne Pilots retired; marking not only the end of their long family tradition, but also the end to the long established Tyne Pilotage Authority. A service that had spanned 143 years.



Pilots outside of Watch House

(Photograph dated between 1895 and 1905)

- left to right -

John Cree John Phillips John Purvis (Pilot Master) Ralph Shotton Anthony Ramsey

Alex Leslie Thomas Purvis Larry Harrison Anthony Hogg John Whale

- left to right -

Robert Duncan True Britton Burn Richard Young George W Purvis Anthony Ramsey

- left to right -

John H Duncan Richard Young Bob Ramsey Anthony Ramsey Anthony Reed

- left to right -

Anthony Ramsey George W Purvis Thomas Pickering

- left to right -

Thomas Tinmouth Thomas Houlsby Thomas Purvis Unknown James Ramsey

Outside Pilot Watch House. (left to right)

Back Row: John Cree, J.H. Tinmouth, J.W. Stephenson, T.H.Purvis.

Front Row: W.O. Purvis, Harry Purvis, Robert Morrison, Jim Morrison, W.S. Morrison


Outside Pilot Watch House. (left to right)

Back Row: T.Y. Purvis, Wm. Phillips, James Wright, E.C. Burn.

Middle Row Harry Purvis, Robert Ramsey, Harry Young, A.L. Ayre, T.H. Purvis.

Front Row: Joe Marshall, W.O. Purvis, John Cree.

Onboard the PROTECTOR. (left to right)

Alex Leslie or Phillips, E.C. Burn, T.Y. Purvis, John Bone, Harry Purvis, W.H. Morrison ? John Cree (sitting)

Onboard the PROTECTOR.

Jacob Bone, Vivian Bone, James Purvis, William Young, John Purvis, Anthony Thurlbeck, Richard Young, Ralph Phillips, Ralph Sloane, Richard Duncan, T.Y. Purvis.


Pilots Allotments

Foreground. Pilots Richard Young (white cap) and John Burn tend their allotments on the Lawe 1918 - 19

Background. Lawe Harbour showing the old seaplane sheds on the south beach prior to dismantling and shore improvements.

Friday 3 rd July 1931

The Tyne Pilotage Authority and their guests onboard the pilot cutter ‘Queen O' the May' during their annual river trip.

Alderman Thomas Sykes Chairman, Captain Lamb Pilot Master (in uniform) and pilot George Purvis (2 nd from right front) among those present.


Arthur Henry Ayre
James Stanley Ayre
Born 1899 Died 1969
Born 1896 Died 1963
Amos L Ayre
George Ayre
Born 1860 Died 1930
Born 1892 Died 1928

George Ayre last of the 'Ayre' Pilots collapsed and died of a heart attack while on duty on the bridge of the TRAQUAIR on the 18th June 1985

Four Generations of the Purvis Family

Four generations of Purvis's representing the family tradition of piloting

Top Left: James Purvis, who in the 1920's at the age of 73, was the oldest working pilot on the river. He had three sons, George William, James and Thomas, all pilots.

Top Right: George William Purvis, son of James (top left)

Below Left: George William Purvis, son of George (top right) and grandson of James,was piloting on the river from 1947 until his retirement at the age of 70 in 1980.

Below Right: George William Purvis, son of George William (below left) grandson of George William and great grandson of James, was piloting from 1966 until 1998.

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Related interest in the Tyne Pilots

Ken Lubi's very interesting history of the River Tyne Pilots has sparked off a number of interesting questions and stories. Should anyone be able to answer questions or be able to comment on the stories please do so through the contact page of the website.

We are indebted to Angela Conroy for the following contribution.

Subject1: Richard Young Photos

Comments: I have a great x 2 grandfather who was a Tyne pilot. He had a son Philip who was an apprentice to a pilot called James Carter and drowned when their coble Victory sank in 1902. Philip, who drowned had a brother called Richard and I wonder if anyone can tell me if the photos on this website are of him. The family mostly lived in Cockburn Street, South Shields and I think Richard was born 9/8/1881.

I would be very grateful to hear more and would be willing to share the several articles which I have about the drowning accident. - Angela Conroy

Webmaster's note: I requested Angela to kindly let me have these articles, as I am sure that they will be of interest to our site visitors. - So here they are - Thanks Angela!

Here is my written narrative as promised about the sinking of the coble 'Victory' and the drowning of my ancestor Philip Young (who was the son of my great, great grandfather, also a Philip Young) and the rescue of the Pilot of the coble who was called James Carter.

At about 2 pm in the afternoon on Tuesday 11 November 1902, two men in a coble named 'Victory' were endeavouring to get their craft into a position of safety. James Carter the Pilot and his apprentice Philip Young were only about half a mile from the Tyne harbour but there was a strong south-south east gale blowing and the sea was tempestuous. Turning their vessel round, they got broadside on to the sea and a huge wave crashed over them. Now in a state of alarm, both men stood up and began waving their arms frantically for help, trying to get the attention of anyone in the several vessels in the neighbourhood. Another wave crashed over them and the boat went down beneath them suddenly. The tug 'Rainbow' made all speed to get to them men and it took all their skill in approaching the men in the water who were both clinging to one oar. A ladder was put over the side and Captain Graham let himself down and managed to secure a line around James Carter enabling him to be pulled on the tug. Unfortunately, there had not been enough time to save Philip Young who was lost as the rescue of James Carter was taking place. With all speed the Rainbow sailed to the North Shields fish quay with the semi-conscious Pilot and there first aid was rendered. He was then brought over the river in a small boat and conveyed to his home whereupon he was confined to his bed on the instruction of his medical attendant. Once recovered, James Carter placed a public notice in the Shields Daily Gazette Tuesday 2nd December 1902 naming and thanking all who had been instrumental in saving his life. Then on Tuesday 30 December 1902 James bestowed medals to his rescuers at a presentation ceremony at the Golden Lion Hotel in South Shields. The gathering was a large and enthusiastic one, according to a report in the Shields Daily Gazette the following day. Mr John Purvis Pilot Master had presided and he was supported by the Mayor (Coun. Grant) Ald. Lawson, Councillors W. A. Hedwith, George Laing and J. W. Henderson. Ald. Lawson presented the medals - gold medal for Captain James Graham and silver medals for each of his crew, George Shields, William Purvis, Albert Duell and George Weatherhead.

Philip Young, the apprentice aged 22 had only been married for a couple of months when he had drowned. A sad little memoriam notice was later placed in the Shields Daily Gazette by his grieving parents which ended with a sad little poem:

'You are not forgotten, Philip dear,

Nor ever will you be,

As long as live (sic) and memory lasts

We will remember thee.'

I will be sending more emails in which I will type up the articles and notice information that I have as I think these will be of interest to the member of the Tyne Area Shipping Club, as I get time. Please feel free to forward my email to anyone who may have an interest in the story of what happened e.g. the Purvis family members or other descendants.

This article started with a two line title: Rescue in Shields Harbour Interesting Presentation:

'Last night, an interesting presentation took place at the Golden Lion Hotel, South Shields, the recipients being the crew of the steam tug Rainbow, who performed meritorious work in rescuing Mr James Carter, a pilot, in Shields harbour, after his boat had been swamped and he was left clinging to an oar. Unfortunately, as is well known, an apprentice named Philip Young, who was in the coble at the time of the lamentable occurence, was drowned. The presentation consisted of a gold medal for Captain Graham, and silver medals for Geo. Shields, William Purvis, Albert Duell and George Weatherhead. The donor was Mr Carter, who took this form of publicly expressing his gratitude to his rescuers. Each medal bore a suitable inscription. The gathering was a large and enthusiastic one. Mr John Purvis, pilotmaster, presided and he was supported by the Mayor (Coun Grant), Ald. Lawson, Councillors W. A. Hedwith, George Lain, and J. W. Henderson, Mr Carter, the donor, and others. The presentation was made by Ald. Lawson, who remarked that on the last occasion they met in that room he had to present a medal to a pilot for personal bravery. On this occasion he had the honour to present medals given by a pilot, Mr Carter, as an expression of his deep gratitude to the men who rescued him from what in a few more moments would have been certain death. The circumstances, briefly stated, were that about 2 o'clock on the afternoon of the 11th Nov, Mr Carter and his assistant were about half-a-mile south east of the harbour. There was a strong wind blowing, and what seafaring men would call a choppy sea. Unfortunately, in turning round to get to a vessel not far off, they got broadside on to the sea, and one sea broke upon their small craft. Mr Carter endeavoured to get his boat into a position of safety again, but another wave following closely upon the other, broke over them, and their boat went down beneath them. There were several tugs in the neighbourhood, and the men shouted for help. By commendable manoevring the crew of the Rainbow were able to get their boat sufficiently near to rescue Mr Carter. It required exceedingly careful handling of the tug to approach the unfortunate fellows in the water, both of whom were clinging to one oar, and they had to regret that only one could be saved. He was sure no-one regretted that more than the tug boatmen themselves. They were however, just in time to save Mr Carter, who was pulled on board by a line which the skipper of the tug fastened to him while in the water. The tug made every speed to the fish quay, where, with the help of Mr T. McKenzie, the fish quay master, P.C. Spindles, Mr Sidney Smith, and Mr Willitts, first aid was rendered and the rescued man restored to life. It was not one of those cases where a man has risked his life to save another, but, nevertheless, he thought it was essentially one of a humanitarian and manly character (Cheers.) The opportunity presented itself of rendering a humane service, and they responded to it nobly and for that they were deserving the admiration of their fellow townsmen. Ald. Lawson then handed over the medals, the recipients of which were enthusiastically cheered. The Mayor and Coun. Hedwith afterwards complimented the men, and also the giver of the medals. Mr Carter in acknowledgement, thanked the company in warm and grateful terms for their presence. During the evening a capital programme of songs was rendered, Mr J. W. Wood presiding at the piano.'

The narrative I have sent to you today is based on this and another account which I will be sending to you shortly when I get time.


Here is a write up of the article which is one of two I based my narrative on. This starts with a four line title: Heavy Weather Off The Tyne Pilot Coble Founders A Plucky Rescue One Man Drowned (By the way this and the other article I sent can be viewed on 'British Newspaper Archives')

During the prevalence of a strong south-south-east gale and heavy sea a most distressing occurence took place off the Tyne yesterday afternoon when a pilot's assistant named Philip Young was drowned, while Mr James Carter, pilot had a marvellous escape from sharing a similar fate as that of Young. The rescue of Mr Carter was due to the plucky conduct of Captain James Graham, master of the North Shields tug Rainbow, whose conduct under the circumstances is most praiseworthy.

The weather was very tempestuous when the sad affair took place. Captain Ralph Forster, of the tug Lord Warden, who witnessed the incident gives information to the effect that while his vessel was guiding a steamer towards the harbour mouth, they saw there were two men, evidently in a state of alarm, standing up in the boat signalling for assistance. They at once made an effort to render help, but having a steamer to assist, the other tug, the Rainbow, which was steaming out of the harbour at the time, was the first to arrive on the scene and effect the rescue.

The cobel was observed to founder, going down, says the crew of the Lord Warden, just like a stone. The unfortunate man Young appeared, from what could be seen, to have been sorely hampered by his oilskin jacket suddenly being blown over his head, and was thus crippled from assisting himself from this encumbrance and becoming exhausted in the heavy seas, he soon disappeared.

The Rainbow quickly as possible came up to Mr Carter and threw him a line. He was apparently in the last stage of exhaustion, but held onto the rope till further help could be extended to him. Captain Graham very dexterously brought his vessel close enough to the struggling man when a ladder was put over the tug's bows and by this means Captain Graham, at considerable risk, let himself down and clutched hold of Mr Carter, and succeeded in securing a line round his body. Mr Carter was by this time just about done, and would not have had the strength to hold on to the line many minutes longer had this prompt assistance not been rendered.

It is quite evident that had Mr Carter been possessed of his oilskins there would have been very little chance of saving himself, for his life was spared by clinging to one of the oars of the coble till that assistance was rendered by the captain of the Rainbow. Mr Carter was in a semi-conscious condition when he was got on board the tug and quickly taken to the Fish Quay, North Shields, where many willing hands did their utmost to restore him, after which he was brought over the river in a small boat and conveyed to his home, where he is now confined to his bed.

Last night Mr Carter could not give his friends any account of the accident, as he was too ill and ordered complete bed rest by his medical attendant. The circumstances surrounding the untimely end of Mr Philip Young are extremely sad. He was a comparatively young man and had a promising career before him. He had only been married a few months, and resided in Pearson Street, South Shields.

Writing later, our reporter says on making enquiries at the residence of Mr Carter this morning, he was informed that although Mr Carter had very much improved in his condition, he was strictly forbidden to see anyone. Ths rescue was just effected in time, for, from what can be gathered up to the present time from the friends of Mr Carter, he had lost consciousness whe he got aboard the Rainbow, and he appears to have lost all recollection of having been dragged into the boat. The loss of his assistant is deeply regretted by Mr Carter.'


This is the public notice that was placed by the Pilot James Carter in the Shields Daily Gazette on Tuesday 2nd December 1902 following the sinking of his coble 'Victory' and the drowning of his assistant (and my ancestor) Philip Young:

'" Will you allow me through the medium of your valuable paper to express my sincere and heartfelt thanks to those who were instrumental in saving my life, when my coble foundered off the bar on Tuesday 11th November., on which occasion my assistant, Philip Young, jun., most unfortunately lost his life. To Capt. Graham and the crew of the tug Rainbow. To the foyboatmen who were on the South Pier and informed the Captain of the Rainbow, who immediately came to my assistance, and landed me at the Fish Quay, North Shields. Also to Messrs T. McKenzie, junr., and John Willits who rendered first aid. To P.C. Spindler, Tynemouth Borough Police, and foyboatmen, Messrs Sidney Smith, and Thomas Wilson I also wish to express my grateful thanks. I am, sir, JAMES CARTER Pilot, 5 Green's Place, South Shields, Dec 1st 1902.'

I think this notice together with the bestowing of medals demonstrates how supremely grateful James Carter was to his rescuers.

Angela Conroy

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From Gillian Wood

Subject1: Tyne Pilots

Comments: I am descended from Robert Phillips (born 1846) who was a River Pilot and am researching the family. Do you have anything that may be of interest especially photographs please. Would be much appreciated.

Gillian Wood

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