History repeats itself: South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade formation re-enacted

John Sadler from the Time Bandits, who played the role of SSVLB founding father Samuel Malcolm, the Mayor and Mayoress, Coun Richard Porthouse and his wife Patricia, and Tony Hall, who played another founding father, Joseph Crisp.
John Sadler from the Time Bandits, who played the role of SSVLB founding father Samuel Malcolm, the Mayor and Mayoress, Coun Richard Porthouse and his wife Patricia, and Tony Hall, who played another founding father, Joseph Crisp.

Members of a life-saving group took a step back in time to mark the start of its annoversary celebrations.

The Mayor of South Tyneside was among one of the key players to re-enact an historic meeting crucial to the creation of the 150 year-old South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade.

The Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Richard Porthouse, with members and supporters of today's South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade and actors from Time Bandits.

The Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Richard Porthouse, with members and supporters of today's South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade and actors from Time Bandits.

As part of the milestone anniversary celebrations, a dramatised re-enactment of the public meeting to set up a Life Brigade in South Shields, on 15 January, 1866, took place in South Shields Museum & Art Gallery.

The Mayor, Coun Richard Porthouse, followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, Alderman Thomas Moffett who as Mayor of South Shields 150 years ago, called the meeting in the Old Town Hall, in the Market Place, and 140 men were enrolled to join the town’s Volunteer Life Brigade. Coun Porthouse said: “It was an honour to follow in the footsteps of those who were instrumental to setting up this crucial service for local people and to help celebrate the brigade’s momentous anniversary.

“The South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade is a key part of the borough’s maritime heritage and continues to provide a life-saving service to the people of South Tyneside.

“As the Mayor of South Tyneside, I am very proud of the heritage and ongoing work of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade. The borough owes its member’s past and present for their hard work and commitment to keeping people safe along our coastline.”

As the Mayor of South Tyneside, I am very proud of the heritage and ongoing work of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade. The borough owes its member’s past and present for their hard work and commitment to keeping people safe along our coastline.

The Mayor, Coun Richard Porthouse

Members and supporters of today’s SSVLB and actors from Time Bandits, a historical re-enactment group, were joined by the Mayor to recall the events of 150 years ago.

The meeting recollected the creation of the brigade, which was formed to help the Coastguard prevent loss of life from shipwrecks on the south side of the River Tyne and the coast as far as Whitburn.

Tom Fennelly, who has been involved with the Brigade for almost 47 years and is its honorary secretary, said: “After months of planning and thanks to the grant of £50,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund here we are at the start of a whole year of exciting events and activities to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade.”

The re-enactment is the first of many events planned to take place throughout the year to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the formation of the brigade.

The South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade was launched after the loss of 32 lives when two ships were caught up in a storm in November 1864 when a fierce gale sprang up off the Tyne and many vessels including the schooner Friendship and the passenger steamer Stanley ran for shelter in the river.

The Friendship was driven ashore on the Black Middens Rocks at Tynemouth. The Stanley also ran in for shelter but was also driven onto the rocks.