The Wreck of the Steam Ship Stanley
The morning of 24th November 1864 dawned with a cold, grey sky and a fresh breeze. Some of the Cullercoats fishing boats were out but as the wind grew stronger they made for the harbour. After mid-day the weather became steadily worse with the wind freshening all the time and the sea getting wilder. By mid afternoon the weather was very bad indeed with the sea extremely rough and a strong ebb tide running. Grey storm clouds were gathering and the sea showed signs of breaking in the channel between the piers. As night approached rain fell heavily and the wind increased to a gale.
At 5.15 p.m. the Steamship "Stanley" hit the Black Middens, holing her bottom and flooding the boiler fires. Boiler gauges blew but no crew were injured. She was carrying 31 passengers and 29 crew as well as 47 cattle and 30 sheep. Local lifeboats, "William Wake", "Tyne", "Providence" and "Northumberland" all put to sea but were unable to get near the stricken ship because of the tremendous seas and all returned to their stations. "Providence" had put out from South Shields but was struck by a tremendous sea which stunned the crew and carried away most of her oars, forcing them to put back to the beach.
The Tynemouth lifeboat, "Constance", had put to sea but had been mistakenly advised that the crews had been rescued and so returned to the Haven. Upon learning that the crew of the "Stanley" were still aboard they launched again.
Coastguards put a rocket over the "Stanley's" bow but the crew, in a state of panic, ignored the master's order to secure the hawser up the mast and secured it to the bow. As there was no tripod at the shore end, it was impossible to lift the lines clear of the waves and rocks and the Coastguards working the apparatus at the shore end were hampered by a huge crowd of spectators.
Four crew men and five women were seen in the ship's starboard lifeboat when one davit snapped, up-ending the boat which was then swamped by a wave. The five women and one crewman were washed away and drowned.
03-Jan-2008 © North Tyneside Libraries 2007-8