RNLI honours 20 brave Shields men

TWENTY lifeboatmen who drowned in a dramatic sea rescue in South Shields are to be named on a national memorial.

The sculpture, which will be unveiled in the autumn at the Dorset headquarters of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), will pay tribute to those who gave their lives while helping to save others.

Another man, who was washed overboard while trying to help a stricken ship that had sailed from South Shields, will also be honoured.

Twelve families suffered when the Providence capsized at Herd Sand, South Shields, on December 4, 1849, when all but four of her crew lost their lives.

She was launched in heavy winds by 24 pilots – eight more than her usual complement – to assist the brig Betsy, which had got into difficulty while making for the harbour.

As they approached, the Providence capsized, and none of the men were wearing their cork lifejackets.

The second South Shields boat, the Tyne, and the North Shields boat, the Northumberland, were sent to their aid, picking up the crew of the Betsy and four men from the Providence.

The other men – coxswain Lancelot Burn, John Burn, John Burn Jnr, John Bone, John Donkin, Robert Donkin, John Marshall, Thomas Marshall, James Matson, John Phillips, Ralph Phillips, William Purvis, Ralph Shotton, William Smith, George Tindle, George Tinmouth, John Wright, James Wright, James Young and Henry Young – all perished.

In the previous eight years, they had saved 450 lives, manning the boat as often as four times a day, as shipwrecks were frequent in South Shields before the construction of the piers.

The disaster is commemorated by a brass tablet unveiled in 1896 at St Stephen's Church, known as 'the Pilots' church', in Mile End Road, South Shields.

Their names are inscribed alongside nine other "brave and skilful Pilots" who acted as coxswains of the Tyne Lifeboats.

They will now appear on the national memorial, alongside bowman William Guy, from Redcar, who was washed overboard from the South Shields-built Zetland lifeboat on Christmas Day 1836, while trying to rescue sailors from the Caroline.

The ship, which had sailed from South Shields, carrying coal, was struck by a storm off Coatham beach.

Ten of the crew abandoned ship, but drowned when their boats cap-

sized.

Guy tried to throw a line to the sailors, but was washed overboard in the attempt. His body was found 17 days later.