Two press articles from the Sunderland Echo are included below.  The first is of Chalie Moon who worked on the Fulwell, and the second is the story of a rescue invlolving the Fulwell.

The following 2 articles are from the Sunderland Echo :-

The first relates to a Tugboat man Carlie Moon who worked for a time on the Fulwell tugboat, this of course once was a former Nelson tugboat.

Tugboat tales


Charlie Moon’s father, also Charlie (aka "Coatie") is pictured
left with fellow tugboatmen Stan and Ernie Baister
One of the last of the Wear tugboatmen, Charlie Moon, takes us back to the days when tugs and tugboatmen alike were great characters on the river

playing a key role at launches as they towed new ships to fitting out quays, and guiding visiting ships into the harbour and docks. Now tugs are hired from the Tyne when needed. CAROL ROBERTON talked to Charlie during research for her new book on Wearside at work during the last century.

CHARLIE Moon was born to be a tugboatman. In fact, almost all the tugboatmen on the river were born into it – grandfathers, fathers, uncles, all expected the next males in the family to follow them. There was little option than to obey the calling, as Charlie found out.

Charlie's great-grandfather arrived in Sunderland in the 19th century as the skipper of a sailing boat. At that time, men owned their own tugs, and his great-grandfather bought one, calling her the Australia. The tugboat tradition was carried on by his sons and grandsons.

However, when he left Valley Road School at 14, Charlie did try to break the mould. He got a job as an apprentice joiner. "All my friends were going to be joiners. I really loved that job," he says.

It only lasted a couple of years and then at the beginning of the Second World War, he was called to the crew of the tugboat The Stag.

A lad on the Stag, Dixon Swinhoe, was in the Royal Naval Reserve and he was called up straight away in 1939. Charlie was on his way home from work when he saw his father at the bus stop. He said: "You are starting on the Stag tomorrow."

Charlie said: "But, Dad, I've got a job". His father replied: "It doesn't matter, you're on the Stag tomorrow."

So Charlie's fate was sealed. Like his father, he worked on tugs owned by the Baister family – the Stag, the Cinema Star, the Clarence.

His uncles, Jack, Alfie and Robert were also tugboat skippers and there was a lot of rivalry, particularly from Jack who worked for a syndicate rather than for the Baisters.

The tugboatmen all had nicknames. His grandfather, Jack Moon, was "Maudie" and when he was skipper of single-engined paddle tugs with limited manoeuvrability, one crew member, who was a giant of a man, was commanded to move from side to side to use his weight to help bring the tug round. The big fellow was always called Mouse.

When Charlie was called up in 1942, he went on to the Royal Navy's deep sea tugs, like a number of other Sunderland tugboatmen – Jacky Doyle, Charlie Renwicks, Billy Radcliffe and Stan Baistr among them.

Charlie served a lot of his time on the Sharon, in the Mediterranean. "There were 40 hands on deck and we lived on the tug. We used to run with the convoys and we would tow ships into harbour. If a ship was torpedoed, we would tow her in. We would meet the convoy at Gibralta and run with it down to places like Malta."

When Charlie was demobbed, France Fenwick had taken over all the tugs and he worked on the Fulwell, the Cleadon, the Ryhope, the Cornhill and ended up on the Dunelm. He finally retired in 1987.

He wouldn't let his own son follow him on to the tugs. "It was a hard life. You never knew when you were going to be called out, all times of the day and night," said Charlie.

"I remember once walking down to Thorney Close to get the miners' bus to be out for 3am. We did the job and we were locked in the dock until the next tide, so I went home and went back to bed. Later on, my wife Mary woke up and started slapping my face and telling me I'd slept in. I jumped up and went into the bathroom and then remembered I'd already been to work. I hadn't told her I was going out, so I didn't tell her I was back."

Most of Charlie's mementoes were accidentally thrown away as he got ready for his home in Farringdon to be modernised.

But one sad relic has been kept in the family Bible. It is the order of service for the four tugboatmen – Billy Noble, Alec Mollison, Ron Wigham and William Brown – lost when the Stag, Charlie Moon's first tug, sank in a great storm in 1950.

Charlie's uncle Robert Moon was the skipper of another tug at the scene and had to watch, unable to help, while his nephew Billy Noble drowned. It was the only time the family saw him cry.

* Charlie's memories are among those which enliven the history of the changing face of local industry in the book Wearside At Work in the 20th Century, Carol Roberton (TUPS Books, £12.95) which is available from Echo outlets, Sunderland Museum, local bookshops or direct by post for £15 (including reduced postage) from TUPS Books, 38 Hutton Close, Crowther Industrial Estate, Washington, Tyne and Wear, NE38 0AH, tel: 0191 419 0446. Cheques or POs to TUPS Books.

Publish Date: 15 June 2005
Sunderland Echo

The second story also from the Sunderland Echo


Tugboats are a typical part of
OUR story actually starts on August 9, 1949, at the North Sands shipyard of Joseph L. Thompson and Sons with the launch of the 10,000-ton cargo ship City of Manchester for Ellerman Lines.About six months later she was towed to the River Tyne where she was fitted with her main engines at Wallsend Slipway and Engineering Company.
The fateful day of Saturday, February 11, 1950, arrived and across the United Kingdom gales, floods, and rain were sweeping the country.Strong gusty conditions were being experienced nationwide with wind speeds of nearly 90 miles an hour recorded on the Isle of Man.A fleet of seven tugs were involved that day in bringing the City of Manchester back to the Wear for completion of fitting out before being handed over to her owners but only six would returnIt was shortly before noon when disaster struck eight miles out and in sight of Roker Pier, but it was not known for some time what had exactly happened.
The shocking news was revealed to Echo reporters waiting at the Corporation Quay and members of the crew of the tug Fulwell were the first back on dry land to give the grim details.They described how the Stag was on the starboard bow of the City of Manchester with the tug Cleadon alongside.Fulwell skipper Thomas Timms said: "There was a terrific gust of wind and the City of Manchester suddenly bore down broadside towering over us on the Fulwell."We just got out of the way when suddenly the wind caught the Stag and she turned right over. She went over on her side first, then her funnel went over. Then she turned swiftly on her keel and she went straight down in two minutes."The Fulwell and other tugs closed in and tried to pick up survivors.
Two men were drifting past and we struck them in their faces with a line to bring them to their senses so we could get them aboard."I saw three men floating on their faces but they all sank at the same time and there was no hope of rescuing them."Another crewman added: "It was a terrible experience to see our mates go down before our eyes. When we left the scene the City of Manchester was being blown across the sea like a shaving in the wind. She must have been 15 miles away from the port when we left her."The master of the tug Lumley said the Stag turned to starboard in an attempt to bring the vessel into the wind. The Cleadons tow rope snapped and shortly afterwards the same thing happened to the Hendons line."The Lumley was the only tug still attached but the Cleadon and the Stag quickly reconnected. But ten minutes later she was dragged under by her own tow rope.
We could see she was still attached to the City of Manchester when she disappeared under the water."The crew of the Lumley described how they sailed over the spot where the Stag went down but there was no trace of any survivors.The two Sunderland men rescued from a watery grave were Ernest Baister, master of the Stag, of James William Street, and George Brown, fireman, of Perth Road, Plains Farm.Those who perished were William Brown, mate, of Harold Street; Wiliam Noble, deckhand, of Havelock Street; Alex Mollinson, engineman, of George Street East; and boy deckhand, Ronald Wigham, of Waterworks Road, who was only 17 years old.
The two survivors were taken to Sunderland Royal Infirmary but were soon discharged after treatment.Mr Baister said on being brought safely ashore: "I am thankful to the Lord that the Fulwell was handy to pick me up. It all happened seven or eight miles out to sea and there was nothing we could do in that wind."The tow rope pulled on the Stag and she listed heavily to port, filled up, and went down in a couple of minutes. I was on the bridge and could not get free of the vessel when she went down."My shoulder was jammed in a ladder on the mast. The Stag took me down and I said to myself Ive had it this time. Finally I got free but it seemed ages before I got to the surface. I caught hold of a ladder floating by and then I was picked up by the lads from the Fulwell."Remaining tugs finally brought the City of Manchester under control again and she was eventually towed back into the safety of the Wear harbour and berthed at the Manor Quay at 7.10pm that Saturday night.
As her temporary crew stepped ashore they were met by officials from Thompsons shipyard with whisky, refreshments, and taxis to get them home.Their adventure had lasted from before noon when the liner was twisted from the cables of the attending tugs in the teeth of the howling gale. They said the Stag got a line aboard but when the wind struck again the 53-year-old screw tug heeled over and sank in a few minutes.Sunderlands lifeboat, the Edward and Isabella Irwin, searched the gale-swept sea for miles around the scene of the disaster but had to return home after four hours having failed to find any survivors or even any wreckage.
Within hours of the tragedy a fund for the dependants of the victims was set up with one of the first donations of £200 coming from the Wear Steam Packet Trade Protecting and Friendly Society. The Mayor of Sunderland, Alderman Jack Cohen, who launched the appeal, said: "Such tragedies serve to bring home to us who live in a seafaring town the gallant service of those whose duty it is to bring our ships into the port of Sunderland often in the most exacting weather conditions."A memorial service was held eight days after the disaster in Sunderland Parish Church attended by civic leaders and the address was given by the Rev Ford, Chaplain of the Wears Missions to Seamen.More than 800 people packed into the church including pilots, foyboatmen, lifeboat crew, and tugboatmen to hear emotional tributes paid to the victims.As an added touch of sad irony about the whole affair, the tugboatmen had during the previous six months been threatening to go on strike for a few extra coppersas compensation for unsocial hours when working on Saturdays and Sundays!
Mr Baister, who spent a total of 50 years in the Wear tug fleet, continued as a Sunderland tug master until he retired in December, 1968. He would never re-live his ordeal on the Stag but recalled his lifetime of experiences when the local tugmen would sail round the British coastline even as far as the Orkneys looking for "plum" towing and salvage jobs.During the Second World War he was in the tug Snowdon and took part in the salvaging of HMS Ashanti and HMS Fame, the two Royal Navy warships which went aground on the treacherous Whitburn Steel.
Another ship which had to be rescued was the Lake View Park, which broke away from her convoy, and had to be re-floated after going aground behind Bartrams shipyard in the South Docks.In later years he was master of the tug Prestwick and attended at launches of the new generation of the big ships of 60,000 tons plus built at "JLs" in the mid-60s. He said it was easier to handle those bigger vessels as the tugs could jockey into position more easily."Id sooner mess about with a big one than a little one any day," he would say.For the record, the Stag was built in 1879 by Cummings and Ellis, Inverkeithing, for the Alexander Towing Company, and was originally named Wellington. She was bought by Wear tugowners RL Cook in 1923 and re-named the Stag. She later became part of the France, Fenwick fleet when they took over Cooks in 1946.
Published 14th December 1998
Sunderland Echo