Crew of Thankful BK54, built Weatherheads, Eyemouth 1919 for the Loughs of Spittal. L to R. Alex Patterson, Prideaux Lough, Barty Lough, Harry Crombie, Thomas Johnson. Photograph Courtesy of Berwick Record Office BRO 0426-0034-3-14 Many thanks to Graham Paul Toward for the names of those in the picture.
This month the blog comes from Linda Bankier, Archivist at Berwick Record Office. It is a reminder that whilst last year’s Berwick 900 celebrations may have come to an end the ‘Our Families’ and Greenses projects are very much on going! The research into the Burgon family by volunteers and relatives from across the world has produced so much information, specialist software has been purchased in order to create an in depth family tree. Information on the fishing community of the ‘Greenses’ and an article about Alexander Burgon, Lighthouse Keeper is available on the Berwick 900 Blogspot. However, it is believed that there are many Burgon kinsfolk still to be reached. If you are one of them, and would like to be part of this exciting project, then please contact us.
The Burgon family tree will be on display at the Berwick Family History Day on the 16th April in the Town Hall but more on that later. For now, it is over to Linda and her article concerning Burgon family connections with fishing, the Berwick Lifeboat, and in particular the heroic actions of coxswain William Burgon and his crew in 1902.
GREENSES FAMILIES by Linda Bankier
Whilst researching the Greenses area of Berwick, the Our Families volunteers came across references to a William Burgon who died in 1909 but was the coxswain of the lifeboat and had been involved in a rescue in 1902. Being curious, I followed it up in the newspaper and found the following article about the rescue of the crew of the Demetra :
Photograph Courtesy of Graham Paul Toward Photo taken at the house of Dr Fraser in Ravensdowne at a Lifeboat crew reunion circa 1926. Names, with their nicknames in brackets; Back l to r. Jas Burgon (Volunteer), Jas Jamieson (Togo), Tom Jamieson (Tucker), Bob Tait (Doldy), not known, Dick Piercy, Jas Jamieson (Frenchy), Jack Borthwick (Jacko), Peter Dixon (Kissy), Kit Jamieson, Alec Manuel (Hunter), David Borthwick (Tripe),Henry Burgon (Cockadoodle do), William Burgon (Pumps). Front L to R. Dave Borthwick (Dosses Dave), Geo Jamieson (Haggy), Richard White (Shunny), Dr Fraser, unknown, Mrs Fraser, Robert Burgon (Blue Bob), Will Jamieson, Alec Burgon, John Burgon (Sleeky). 2 Girls are Norma and Sheena Fraser.
BERWICK LIFEBOAT RESCUES THE CREWS LANDED AT EYEMOUTH
Berwickshire News, 3rd June 1902
On Sunday morning an exciting scene was witnessed off Berwick. From early a vessel had been seen tossing about in a heavy sea. At nine o’clock she showed signals of distress, and Berwick lifeboat, accompanied by the Harbour tug, Flying Cloud, went to her assistance. Dr C.L. Fraser of Berwick, local Secretary to the Lifeboat Institution accompanied the crew.
There was a big sea running at the time. The vessel, which was seen to be a barque, was about six miles off Berwick. By the time the Lifeboat arrived at the scene, a screw steamer, the Halval of Nardsund, had got hold of the barque, and was endeavouring to tow her north, a task in which she appeared to be labouring under difficulties. The barque proved to be a Norwegian, the Demetra of Christiania, manned by a crew of eight. The vessel was bound from Middlesbrough to the Shetlands, with 350 tons of salt, and had been out in the gale of the past few days, and suffered badly.
The Captain, who was an old man, was almost helpless, and the crew, many of whom were cut and bleeding about the head and face, were helpless at the pump, being thoroughly exhausted. It was evident that the barque had sprung a leak and was making water fast. Her sails were blown away, only two or three, partly in ribbons, flying from the spars. After some negotiations between the tug and the steamer, it appeared that the crew of the steamer were unwilling to let go, and the crew of the barque seemed anxious for the lifeboat to remain alongside. As the vessel was in great danger, the coxswain had a line attached to the barque, and the tug, taking hold along with the screw, an attempt was made to reach the Firth. The Captain had asked for assistance at the pumps, and three of the lifeboat crew were on board, and worked hard to keep the vessel up. The main mast and the main top mast of the barque were sprung, and every lurch of the vessel threatened to bring them down on the heads of the crew. The cable chains had also broken adrift, and the men were driven from the pumps.
About three o’clock in the afternoon off St. Abbs, the lifeboat’s cable parted, and a heavy sea struck the barque. At this time the vessels top hamper was beginning to break up, and the lifeboat signalled to the tugs to stop. After a lot of hard rowing the lifeboat made up on the barque and got another line aboard. The crew reported that they made five feet of water since they left Goswick, and that there were fourteen feet of water in the hold and the vessel was sinking. Shortly after the main top mast came away, and another big sea brought down the mizzen top mast and the spanker gaff. It was considered prudent, in view of the helpless state of the crew, and the imminent danger of the vessel sinking at any moment, to have the men taken out of her, and as they call for help the breeches were brought into play, the sea being too rough to get alongside, and all the men successfully taken from the barque to the lifeboat.
The three members of the crew who were put aboard were invaluable in greeting the sailors expeditiously put into the breeches and in the working of the lines, else the rescue might not have been so quickly and safely carried out. Johnston Borthwick was the last to leave the barque, and all of them behaved as coolly as at practice. As soon as the men were put off the tow-line was cut, and the lifeboat made for Eyemouth, which was eight miles off. The crew had a desperate hard row for it, but reached the harbour safely at 8.15, they were welcomed by the whole turnout of the town and cheered most heartily.
The crew of the barque were well cared for at Mr Hughes hostelry, and the lifeboat crew with Dr Fraser were looked after at the Ship Hotel. The same night, the crew and the Doctor drove to Berwick, leaving the lifeboat at Eyemouth. The barque, In a sinking condition, proceeded in tow. The starboard bollard of the lifeboat was sprung going alongside the barque in the heavy sea, and the boat was otherwise damaged. We think the greatest credit is due to the crew for the rescue they effected, without doubt one of the best in the history of the boat. The men were out for nearly twelve hours in a heavy sea, and without food, and bore their fatigue bravely and cheerfully. We compliment Coxswain Wm. Burgon on the rescue, and would also like to state that the courageous conduct of Dr Fraser met with much approval in the town. Hundreds of people anxiously watched the proceedings at Berwick on Sunday, and were much relieved by the news of the safety of the crew and the rescue they had effected. The Demetra is an old vessel, forty years of age, and the captain’s name is Jorgensen. She is 437 tons register, and not insured.
Our Eyemouth Correspondent writes: - On Sunday evening, considerable excitement was caused here by the landing of a shipwrecked by Berwick lifeboat. It appears that the ill-fated vessel was a Norwegian barque, named the “Demetra” of Christiania, bound from Middlesbrough to Lerwick with salt. She encountered severe weather on Friday, and as the gale continued in force she sprang a leak, and all efforts to keep the vessel aright were in vain. The steam tug “Flying Cloud” took her tow off the crew. Up to this time nothing is known of the vessel as to whether she has sunk or been taken to port.
Linda Bankier, Berwick Record Office
William’s obituary appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post March 5th 1909 and reads;
William Burgon the lighthouse keeper at Berwick, and late Coxswain of the Berwick lifeboat, has died at the age of 63 years.
And Another ...
Another Burgon of Berwick would perish at sea as reported in the Dundee Evening Telegraph - Wednesday 26 June 1946. Do you know where he fits in the family tree? If so, we would love to hear from you.
Family History Day April 16th at Berwick Town Hall.
Alternatively you can contact Linda directly through the Berwick Record Office
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