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Tyne and Wear HER(14031): Tynemouth, Black Middens, Betsy Cairns - Details

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N Tyneside

Tynemouth, Black Middens, Betsy Cairns



Maritime Craft

Transport Vessel


Early Modern



1827 wreck of English collier which stranded on the Black Middens on her departure from South Shields for London and Hamburg with coal. This wooden sailing vessel went down in contemporary legend as having been the ship that had brought William of Orange over during the Glorious Revolution of 1688, although this does not appear to actually have been the case. Ex.PRINCESS MARY; ex.KING WILLIAM OF ORANGE; ex.QUEEN ANNE; ex.GEORGE I. (1)(3) She began her career as the PRINCESS MARY in the King's Yard in 1699 and served as the Royal Yacht during the reigns of William III, Anne and George. In the mid 18th century as BETSY CAIRNS she sailed the West Indies and at the turn of the century was used as a Tyne collier until her destruction in 1827. On 17-FEB she set sail from the Tyne for Hamburg in a heavy south easterly gale, but had to turn back the next day. She hit Tynemouth Bar and was driven back onto the rocks near the Spanish Battery, where she was smashed to pieces. Her crew were saved by the NORTHUMBERLAND. (2) There is something of a mystery concerning this vessel. A newspaper account in the Northumberland area Herald Express of 23.03.1973 states that this was an old frigate, purchased by a Mr Walters of London, who changed her name to BETSY CAIRNS, and who sold her on again to Messrs. Carllow of London, who in turn sold her to a Mr G W Wilson of South Shields. The same article states that when in service as a Royal Navy frigate, this was the vessel that brought the Prince of Orange to Brixham in 1689, but this is not true. Supporting evidence can only be found in SRN.Vol.2, the PRINCESS MARY being a royal yacht [NB: This reference not found]. The newspaper account states she lasted until 1827 as a mercantile vessel named BETTY CAIRNS. (3) Source (3) indexes the vessel as BETSY CAIRNS. `North Shields, 18th Feb. Yesterday afternoon the wind shifted from NW to SE and blew a heavy gale, with thick showers of snow. This morning the BETSEY CAINES, Wilson, which sailed yesterday morning, put back; struck upon the Bar and afterwards got upon the rocks near the Spanish Battery and bilged. Crew saved by the DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND lifeboat. Most of the materials saved, but it is feared the vessel will be wrecked. It continues blowing a hard gale from ESE.' (4) `N Shields, 22nd Feb. The BETSEY CAINS, -, bound to Hambro, which was driven on the rocks near the Spanish Battery 17th instant, it is expected will be got off, as her apparent damage is inconsiderable.' (5) `On the 17th inst., the BETSY CAINS sailed from this port with a cargo for Hambro', but in a heavy gale from the East South East the following morning, was obliged to bear up for Shields harbour; and when on Tynemouth Bar (where the sea was breaking exceedingly heavy) she struck, and was afterwards driven upon the rocks, near the Spanish Battery. The crew were taken out of the vessel by the NORTHUMBERLAND lifeboat, which went off to her through the breakers in a most gallant style. In 1688, the BETSEY CAINS brought over to England William, Prince of Orange, and was then called the PRINCESS MARY; for a number of years she was one of Queen Anne's Royal yachts, and at the same time was considered a remarkably fast sailing vessel.' (10) [Quoted in (6) with the spelling BETSEY CAIRNS throughout and other transcription errors.] `Thursday 22nd, noon. The weather is very severe, with frost and snow; the sea is high; yet should it shortly moderate, hopes are entertained of the BETSY CAINS being got off, her apparent damage being inconsiderable.' (10) `The BETSY CAINS, bound to Hamburgh, which was driven on the rocks near the Spanish Battery, at the mouth of the Tyne, on the 17th ult. has been sold as a wreck; great part of her cargo has washed out of her bottom.' (11) `The BETSY CAINS, noticed in our last as being on the rocks near Tynemouth, has since gone to pieces, the weather to the present, being very tempestuous. In relating the loss of this (supp




(1) United Kingdom shipwreck index [pre publication typescript] (2) by Peter Collings 1988 The illustrated dictionary of north east shipwrecks Page(s)23 (3) Richard and Bridget Larn 1997 Shipwreck index of the British Isles, volume 3. The east coast of England : Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, County Durham, Northumberland Section 6, County Durham (CF) (4) Lloyd's 1969 Lloyd's list 20-FEB-1827, No.6196 (5) Lloyd's 1969 Lloyd's list 27-FEB-1827, No.6198 (6) Boswell Whitaker 1979 Preservation of life from shipwreck, volume 1 : Skuetender lifeboat Illustration on p49 Page(s)49, 51-53 (7) Lloyd's 1969 Lloyd's list 02-MAR-1827, No.6199 (8) Lloyd's 1969 Lloyd's list 06-MAR-1827, No.6200 (9) Durham County Advertiser 24-FEB-1827, No.651 Page(s)3 (10) Newcastle Courant 24-FEB-1827, No.7846 Page(s)4 (11) Durham County Advertiser 03-MAR-1827, No.652 Page(s)3 (12) Newcastle Courant 03-MAR-1827, No.7847 Page(s)4 (13) Durham County Advertiser 10-MAR-1827, No.653 Page(s)3 (14) Newcastle Courant 07-JUL-1827, No.7865 Page(s)4 (15) National Monuments Record (1031974)

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