ACCIDENT FISHERMEN – Melancholy Coble Accident Loss of Lives Redcar

Accreditation the Redcar and Saltburn-by-the-Sea Gazette 07/07/1876


It is our painful duty to have this week to chronicle one of the most distressing occurrences which as ever taken place at Redcar, viz., the capsising of a sailing ccoble, and the drowning of four persons within sight of land. Considering the amount of boating and bathing that is indulged in here during the season, Redcar is to be congratulated on the small number of casualties that have occurred, but this is attributable more to the absence of the elements of danger than to any precautions that are adopted to guard against accidents. We do not attach one iota of blame to anyone concerned in this sad catastrophe now under notice, as we believe it to have arisen from pure accident, and we have unbounded confidence in the fishermen of the town, who let out boats during the season; what we wish especially to draw attention to is the numbers of inexperienced and incompetent men, generally but little acquainted with the sea, who have crowded the beach for the last two or three seasons with small pleasure boats, and this with a view of directing public attention to the matter, and having all boards duly registered or licensed, with the numbers of persons they are capable of carrying clearly shown on each, so as to guard as far as possible against the risk of all for loading. There almost too, should be required to pass some examination, but this is more a matter for the attention of the Legislature than the local authorities. The disaster which has led to these remarks occurred on Saturday afternoon (01/07). To commercial gentleman – Mr. J. H. Middleton and Mr. G. R. Taylor -the former connected with the ironmongery and the latter with the drapery trade both of whom had been staying at the Read Lion Hotel, has engaged with a fisherman named Richard Robson to go out in his coble on a fishing excursion. They took with them to songs of Mr. Albert Imeson, of Middlesbrough, and Albert, aged nineteen, and John Charles who is thirteen years of age. They set sail about three o’clock, and after being out about three quarters of an hour were returning having been caught in a shower. On nearing the West Scar rocks, the piece of rope nautically known as the “tack,” appears to have slipped, releasing the sale, which run up to the top of the mast out of reach of the occupants of the boat. About two minutes afterwards, the coble turned completely over. With the exception of Taylor, all on board were able to get onto the coble bottom, and from the test of any of the only survivor, appeared to have maintained this position for a considerable time, but allowance must be made for this slow passage of time to a person placed in a position of such extreme danger, for just as John Picknett – who, together with one of his sons and two other men had set sail in his own, coble, which was standing in readiness for a pleasure party – reached the overturn coble. Mr. Middleton was sinking for the third time, and the younger Imeson was with difficulty rescued. On being taken into the boat, Mr. Middleton showed signs of life, but appears to have expired before the shore could be reached. The bodies of the remaining victims of the catastrophe were not recovered on till Sunday (02/07). Mr.Middleton, who was well known in the district, was universally esteemed, and his services will be greatly missed by his employers. Mesrs. Varvill and Co., Of Manchester; Robson had been married about eight months and was a native of Redcar; Albert Imeson had been to see as a midshipman, and had boat just returned from America. As may be readily imagined the painful event has occasioned the deepest distress in the town, and much sympathy has been expressed for the friends of the deceased.


The inquest was held on Monday (03/07) at noon, at Mr .John Hall’s, Royal Hotel, Redcar, before Mr. Arthur Buchanan, coroner for the district. Mr.William Robinson, deputy coroner, was also in attendance the following were the names of the jury; Messrs. R. Jackson, J. Fleck, W. Binks, W. Hardy, H. W. White, W. Burton, W. Whitaker, R. Pounder, W. Previll, W. Preston, S. Gamble, and H. Earl, with Mr. T. A. Boyd as foreman. Having been sworn, the jury proceeded to view the bodies, that of Thomas Hardy Middleton being laid at the Royal Hotel; Richard Robson at his residence in Back Lane; Richard Robson at his residence in Back Lane; George Royal Taylor at the Red Lion Hotel; and Albert Imeson at number.8.Nelson Terrace, Coatham. They after wards inspected the coble, which lay on the¬†sands near the lifeboat house. On their return the following evidence was adduced :-
John Gent Middleton :- I am an ironmonger’s assistant, and reside at Vauxhall Cross, London. I identified the body in this house which the jury have seen, as that of my brother, Thomas Hardy Middleton, who was 33 years of age, and unmarried. He was a commercial traveller and resided when at home in White Street, York. I last saw him alive on 27th December, 1875
Frederick Taylor :- I am machine clerk in the Warrington gasworks, Lancashire. I know the body lying at the Red Lion Hotel, which the jury have seen to be that of George Royal Taylor, who was my brother. He was 24 years of age last birthday and unmarried. He was a commercial traveller and ordinarily resided at Lunebrook, near Warrington. I last saw him alive a fortnight yesterday.
John Charles Imeson :- I am 13 years of age and and the son of Mr .John Imeson, of Middlesbrough, boot and shoe manufacturer, scratch that. We are at present residing at No.8 Nelson Terrace, Coatham. The body lying there which the jury have seen, is that of my brother, Albert Imeson. He was 19 years of age, and was a sailor. On Saturday (01/07) the 1st inst., Thomas Hardy Middleton, Albert Imeson, Richard Robson, George Royal Taylor, and I, went out to sea in a fishing coble belonging to Richard Robson. I think it was about three o’clock when we started. Nothing particular happened until we were returning, after having been out about three-quarters of an hour. Robson was steering, and was also attending to the sail. I was in the middle of the boat, and my brother was on the same seat as myself; Mr. Middleton and Mr. Taylor were on the stern seat. We were all sitting quietly except Robson, go after fastening the “tack” was making his way back to his seat at the helm. The rope was similar to that produced. I am quite certain that it was Robson who fastened it. There was very little wind at the time. When the accident happened, the first thing I saw was the sail fly up to the top of the mast. This was a a few seconds after Robson had sat down at the helm. The water immediately rushed into the boat and the left-hand side, and we all got over to the other side of the boat, which at once upset. I think the upset with the water, and not with our going over. My brother, myself and I think Mr.Taylor could not swim; Mr. Middleton and Robson called, and struck out when the boat capsised. When I rose to the surface of the water I found myself just beside the boat which was bottom upwards. I managed to crawl onto the bottom of the boat, and held on. I never saw Mr. Taylor after the boat upset. My brother also got on to the boat, and either some of them pulled him off, or else the waves washed him off. I did not see my brother get onto the boat but he was on about the middle, and not where the others were. I do not know how he dropped off. We were all on one side of the boat bottom. Robson called out to attract attention of anyone on shore, but none other of us either signalled all waved. We were unable to assist one another in any way, but had all to shift for ourselves. After we had been a a few minutes on the bottom of the boat, another fishing coble came to the rescue, and took me on board. I soon after became insensible but I remember being on the boat bottom by myself before the coble came up, Mr. Middleton and Robson had slipped off, and I saw them swimming in the water. The men in the boat laid me on my stomach at one end of the boat, and I turned round and saw them getting in Mr. Middleton at the other. I remember nothing else
By the Jury: I did not notice anything concerning the ballast in the boat when the sail gave way. The sheet was fast when Robson sat down at the helm.
The Coroner congratulated the boys on the intelligent and straightforward way in which he had given his evidence after which
Thomas Hall was called. He said :- I am a fisherman living at Redcar. I have seen the body lying at Richard Robson’s residence in Back Lane. It is that of Richard Robson, who was a fisherman, and about 26 years of age. I last saw him alive on Friday night (30/06). Yesterday I was out in a pleasure boat searching for the bodies of the deceased men, and I found the body of Richard Robson about a mile-and-a-half from the shore, at the back of the rocks. I caught hold of it by a fishing hook. I and the others with me also found the body of Mr. Middleton. Robson was found about ten in the morning, and Middleton about three in the afternoon. I saw the other body (Albert Imeson’s) recovered by the crew of another boat near to our own, about half-past three o’clock. The bodies were about 50 yards apart, in 7 1/2 fathoms of water. There is no particular strong current near the spot, and I think the bodies were found close to where the boat overturned, as we fished up some ballast thanks and other things near to them.
By the coroner :- I do not know that one man on board a boat is sufficient to both manage the sail and steer her as well; he can do it, but two are better.
Dr. Bennett :- I am a medical practitioner, and reside at Redcar.on Saturday afternoon (01/07) about half-past four o’clock, I met a sailor carrying John Imeson from the water’s S edge. He was then conscious, and I think it might have been sufficiently conscious previously to have seen the occurrences which he has described in his evidence. I then came on to this house, and found Mr. Middleton laid on the floor. The body was stripped and enveloped in hot blankets, and been rubbed. The postoral method for restoring circulation was also being used. I approved of what was being done, and assisted in continuing it for upwards of an hour. It was my opinion at the time I arrived that life was extinct. The two was protruding, and there was a good deal of froth about the mouth and nostrils. He was quite pulseless, and I could not detect any sound of the heart. Yesterday I saw the bodies of Robson, Taylor, and Imeson. They were all dead, and had apparently died from suffocation by drowning. They had just got Middleton to the hotel when I arrived.
Andrew Ditchburn :- I am a boat man, and was formerly a master mariner. On Saturday (01/07) afternoon, between three and four o’clock, I was standing on the beach opposite Pounder’ s Road, just at about high watermark. Looking towards the sea I saw a boat with the sale about height of a man above the boat. I saw the sale curl round three times, and then go to the top of the mast. I said to John Burnicle, who was standing by: “Do you see your own coble? Let’s run for assistance: the tack’s gone.” In about two minutes from my saying this, the coble turned over. John Picknett was standing at the waterside in readiness with his boat and he, with his boy and two men, put off at once. The wind was.S.S.W., and was rather squally. In my opinion the boat would have been much safer with one man forward to look after the sail, and another at the helm.
By the Jury :- I have known Richard Robson for five years. He has been a fisherman along with his father and brother, and was brought up to it. I should think he was incompetent man to take charge of the boat in such weather as that of Saturday. I saw Robson and the two commercial travellers just as they were setting off, and they all seem to be fervently sober and in good spirits.
John Picknett :- I am a fisherman and reside at Redcar. On Saturday afternoon, between three and four o’clock, I and my two sons were on the beach nearby fishing coble, ready to put out, when I saw Andrew Ditchburn and John Burnicle running towards me. I solve there was something wanting assistance from their pointing in the direction of the sea beyond the rocks; and with one of my sons and two men I got off the boat at once. After I had got off, I saw that there was a boat overturned, and two bodies on the bottom of it. The boat was N.W by S.E. Just before we reached it, there came three “lippers,” which caught the boy and rolled him over; but the gentleman now lying in this house (Mr. Middleton) was washed off the stern of the boat. John Sanson and the other man in my boat got the boy off the coble, and I and my son, with the help of the other men, got in Mr. Middleton. The boys me repeatedly, and I think mentioned his brother. I told him to lie on his belly. Mr. Middleton was alive when we rescued him, and even was all so laid on his stomach, but no water came from his mouth. Another boat came up, and I called out for those on board to look after anyone else they could pick up, and then ran slap to shore as fast as I could. When we landed I assisted in carrying Mr. Middleton to this house.
By the Coroner :- I had one of my sons ready to go with me to take out a pleasure party at the time the accident happened, because I thought it proper to take it with me. I had rather not and so the question as to whether one man was sufficient to manage a boat with a pleasure party on such an afternoon is Saturday. I think it is time we had some proper regulations at Redcar for pleasure boats, and it is my opinion that there should be two competent men on board.
Richard Picknett next gave evidence as to picking up the mast belonging the coble in which the accident occurred about half-past seven o’clock on Saturday night (01/07). It had the sail and “tack” attached to it, and the halyards as well. There were seven rings or so winward on the weather hook, and seven on the lee. I have no doubt that the accident happened through the “tack” as it was not broke. There was but little sail on.
By the Coroner: I think it is safe for one competent man to take out a pleasure party in a coble such as that which the jury have seen, without assistance. I don’t think if the “tack” gave way and there had been two competent men on board, they could have recovered the sail. I say this from experience which I have had with two competent men on board. I think it would tend to avert accidents of this kind if there were proper regulations as to the management of boards carrying pleasure parties.
For the satisfaction of the jury, a second “tack” was brought from a coble riding at anchor belonging to William Boagie, which the last witness said was longer than was needed by almost 18 inches. On its being compared with the one picked up belonging to Robson’s coble it was found to be about that much longer than the latter.
The Coroner then summed up the evidence, and pointed out that it was clear that the men had been accidentally drowned, and they would have to to return a verdict accordingly; the only point for them to consider was the desirability of calling upon the Redcar Board of Health to pass some bye-laws or regulations respecting the use of fishing cobles a pleasure boats. Where there were so many visitors in the summer months, and so many pleasure parties, it was necessary that every precaution should be taken to prevent such a calamity as that which they were then investigating.
After a few words from their Foreman, the Jury unanimously returned a verdict to the effect that the deceased had been “accidentally drowned,” and depended to their verdict the following recommendations which the Coroner promised to forward to the Redcar Local Board of Health :- That it is desirable that proper bye-laws should be formed by your Board for the regulation and management of boards containing pleasure and fishing parties, and belonging to Redcar; and it is further desirable that all cobles and boards carrying sails should have not less than two competent boat men are one competent boat man and a boy, to manage it on such excursions.”
The inquest lasted nearly five hours.

The jury gave their fees to the widow of the deceased Robson, and a fund has been opened for her benefit, and the suggestion of Mr. Coleman the Middlesbrough stipendiary magistrate, towards which subscriptions are received at the office of this paper.


Lol Hansom September 23, 2014 Accidents, Fishermen