Accreditation Cleveland Standard 30/01/1937
SALTBURN WRECKS AND RESCUES
Years of Gallant Service
While Redcar and its brave fishermen will ever occupy a permanent position in the story of lifeboat work and rescue, Saltburn, too, has an honourable record of service to sailors in distress, and thrilling tales are told of rescues in the fierce gales of the past.
A lifeboat station was first established at Old Saltburn in 1849. Up to that time the work thrown upon the Redcar boat was tremendous, as terrible gales swept the coast in the early years of the nineteenth century.
On October 11, 1824, there were 37 vessels ashore in a range of six miles in Tees Bay.
On September 7, 1826, the “Esk,” a Whitby whaler, returning from Greenland, was wrecked off Marske, only three being saved out of a crew of 29.
On November 25, 1830, a Dutch galliet was wrecked off Huntcliff, and the crew escaped in their own boat. The lieutenant of the Coastguards, with his men in their boat, boarded the ship. The storm grew and the Redcar lifeboat was sent for, but when she got to Saltburn it was to find the ship dis-masted and the Coastguard drowned. The body of the lieutenant was found in the Tees three weeks later.
On February 4, 1843, the brig “Liberty,” of Sunderland, was wrecked at Saltburn in a raging hurricane. Five of the crew were drowned and one saved. He came ashore in the ship’s boat, the rope having broken before the rest of the crew could get into the boat. The Redcar lifeboat reached Saltburn, with great difficulty, but could not get near the wreck, and found on arrival that the sailors had perished.
For a time the first lifeboat at Saltburn had no name but it was called “Appleyard” in 1868. It was renamed “Thomas and Isabella Fairbank” in 1878, and from 1849 to 1880 this twice-named boat reported to have saved ten lives.
The “Charles and Ann” lifeboat, the gift of Mrs. Townsend, of Tewkesbury, at Saltburn from 1880-1897, saved 29 lives, and the last, “Mary Batger,” a legacy of the late Mrs. Mary Scales, of Leeds, served from 1897 to 1922, when the station was closed, and rescued 12 lives. On Whit-Monday 1869, a short but very violent gale raged. It came on in the early morning but had blown out by afternoon. In the descriptive words of the late Mrs. Marshall, who lived at Old Saltburn for 75 years, if it had continued, “it would have blown every ship out of the sea.”
Many ships were driven ashore between the Tees and Huntcliff, and the bowsprit of one almost touched the Ship Inn that day. In a storm in June, 1870, the schooner “John” of Tain, stranded near the pier, but her crew, who had taken to their boat were lost. A dog that remained on board was saved.
On the morning of December 9, 1874, the “Caledonia,” from Rochester, was driven so far up the beach that her crew were able to walk ashore. Later in the day the lifeboat rescued the crew stranded “Grinkle,” of Jarrow.
“My First Wreck”
The first wreck that I saw at Saltburn when I was a boy of ten, was that of the brig “John and Mary,” near Hazel grove, in a heavy gale in October, in 1880. The crew reached the shore in their own boat, one man attired only in his shirt. Many vessels were lost in that gale and numerous bodies were washed up on the sands. One of the most tragic wrecks that day was that of the s.s. “Elemore,” of Sunderland, lost off Huntcliff with all hands. My Sunday School Superintendent, the late Mr. Foster Heslop, engine man at Huntcliff Mines, told me that when returning with other men from work that day they heard cries of distress from down below. Creeping near the edge of the cliff they could get, they saw the ill-fated vessel and crew. No lifeboat or rocket brigade could get near, and the men on the cliffs, powerless to help, saw the ship and crew perish – an awesome and never forgotten experience.
The crew of the “Charles and Ann” did splendid work on December 8, 1882, in saving the crew of five when the German schooner “Libra” was wrecked in a fierce storm near Old Saltburn. Another wreck that I vividly remember, as it landed many of us boys in trouble that day for playing truant, was that the barque “Samarang,” from Quebec for Shields with timber, which came ashore between Marske and Saltburn on October 10, 1884.
The Saltburn lifeboat and Free Gardeners lifeboat from Redcar were swept past the wreck by the storm tide and gale, and the rocket brigade failed to get a line on board.
Then the Redcar National lifeboat “Burton upon Trent” arrived and after an anxious time a rocket line reached the vessel. The rope athwart the lifeboat and the bowman seized it and drew the lifeboat to the ship and saved the crew of 13.
The last wreck I saw personally was that of the schooner “Vigilant” of Montrose, on October 16, 1892. On the morning of the 15th she was riding at anchor in a heavy sea, partially dis-masted. The lifeboat went off but the captain refused assistance. Later a tug came alongside and could have taken the “Vigilant” in safety to Middlesbrough, but the captain would not pay the price asked, and the tug departed.
During the night the storm returned with redoubled violence, and on the morning of 16th (Sunday the vessel signalled for help and the lifeboat was launched and save the crew of four. I left Saltburn in 1895 to enter the Primitive Methodist ministry.
An incident not recorded in lifeboat annals has been recently told to me by a friend, when some years ago a Scotch trawler, “Vanguard III,” stranded at Saltburn in a calm sea, on a glourious summer’s day.
The crew of the trawler left Hartlepool selling a heavy catch on advantageous terms, and, tired out with their labours, they retired to rest, leaving only the man at the wheel. He too, wearied out, fell asleep, and woke up to find the vessel ashore at Saltburn. She was re-floated, however, with little damage.
I believe that the last crew to be rescued by the “Charles and Ann” was from the schooner “Loch Alsh,” on November 20, 1897.
The last lifeboat, the “Mary Batger,” which was at Saltburn till 1922 saved the crew of the Honoria,” of Hull, on January 9, 1901, and on many occasions rendered valuable aid to fishing cobles and vessels in distress.
Her last rescue before the station closed in December, 1922, was to save the crew of the fishing-boat “Ever True,” of Skinningrove, on March 17, 1922.
One veteran lifeboat man, Mr. William Spragg, now in his 81st year, has recently celebrated his diamond wedding anniversary, after living in Saltburn for over sixty years. He has the proud record of having been a member of the crew of all the lifeboats stationed at Saltburn.
Former members of the crew of the “Charles and Ann,” in its early days, now living are Mr. James Simms and his brother, Herbert. There may be others but their whereabouts are uncertain. The work of the late coxswain (C. Colledge) and his second coxswain (late Robert Haggarth) is still remembered. The widow of R. Haggarth, now 85, and residing in Saltburn has a model of the “Charles and Ann,” perfect in every detail. It took her husband four winters to make it and she is glad to show it to anyone interested in lifeboat work.
June 12, 2010 Saltburn