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. 

Subject: 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


One thought on “Related interest in the Tyne Pilots

  1. Hello, I have been researching my daughter in law’s family. They were almost all either ships masters or pilots from South Shields. Thomas Tindle was a pilot who drowned in the great storm of 1881. The following are reports from the South Shields Gazette. Although Thomas was 29 years old, he is referred to in one article as the ‘boy’. I wondered if this was a reference to his being a junior member of the crew.
    Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette – Saturday 15 October 1881

    WRECK OF * SCHOONER SOUTH SHIELDS. THREE PILOTS DROWNED. The full force of the gale was felt at the mouth of the Tyne, and when at its height, a three-masted schooner was seen making for the harbour. When the vessel got between the piers she became unmanageable, the waves sweeping across her decks. Gradually she was driven towards the south pier, and at length was dashed with great force against the inner front of the structure. The members of the South Shields Life Brigade, who had been on duty all the afternoon, and who remained at the Watch House all night, speedily effected a communication with the vessel by means of the rocket apparatus, and the crew, twelve in number, were got safely ashore. The schooner proved to be the Atlantic, of and from Ludvig, with a cargo of pit props. During the morning the pilot coble Pilot, having on board Thomas Young, John Ramsay, and Thomas Tindle (apprentice), left Shields harbour for sea, seeking vessels, and when the gale burst endeavours were made to regain the harbour. When in sight of the wished-for haven of safety, and just between the piers, the coble was capsized, and all hands thrown into the water. Ramsey and Tindle sank and were drowned. Young was, however, observed floating in the harbour, and he was picked up in an almost lifeless condition and conveyed to the Brigade House, where he was promptly attended to by Dr. Crease, who used every means to restore animation, but without success, and he died shortly afterwards. Young was about 40 years of age, married ; John Ramsey, over 50 years of age, married ; and Thomas Tindle, 23 [29] years of age. All resided in South Shields.

    Shields Daily Gazette – Saturday 22 October 1881

    THE BODIES OF THE TWO MISSING PILOTS PICKED UP. Last night, Wm. Duncan picked up the body of a man on the sands at the Low Lights, North Shields. was afterwards identified as that of Thomas Tindle, pilot, 29, living Edith Street, South Shields, who was drowned in the gale of Friday last. On the same night the body of man was picked up on the Black Middens. According to the description it appeared to be that of a man 55 years of age, 5 feet 11 inches in height, bald on top of head, grey hair on back of head, stout build, dressed in grey serge trousers, grey stockings, sea boots, and a white long flannel. The skull is broken, and the arms are very much cut. The body, which was conveyed to the dead house, and has since been identified as that of John Ramsey, pilot, Baring Street. An inquest will be held.
    Seafaring ws a very dsngerous life and scarcely any of the family seem to have lived into old age and retirement.
    Brenda Crowcroft

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