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Full text of "Life of Harry Watts; sixty years sailor & diver;"

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THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 

PRESENTED BY 

PROF. CHARLES A. KOFOID AND 

MRS. PRUDENCE W. KOFOID 




LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 




HARRY WATTS. 



LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

SIXTY YEARS SAILOR & DIVER 



BY 



ALFRED SPENCER 

Author of " Dog- Watch Yarns ;" " Tales of a Tar 
&c. 



WITH A FOREWORD BY 
ANDREW CARNEGIE, ll.d. 

ILLUSTRATIONS BY 
OSWALD CROMPTON, a.r.c.a. 



SUNDERLAND : 

HILLS AND COMPANY, 19 FAWCETT STREET. 
1911. 



~*.L5> 



PRINTED BY 
HILLS AND COMPANY, 19 FAWCETT STREET, SUNDERLAND. 






v. 



FOREWORD. 



I do not see how you can have a better 
preface to the forthcoming volume than the 
words I used concerning Mr. Watts when I 
was in Sunderland last year. They came from 
the heart, and they go to the heart as I re-read 
them to-day : — 

" I have to-day been introduced to a man who 

has, 1 think, the most ideal character of any man 

living on the face of the earth. I have shaken 

hands with a man who has saved thirty-six lives. 

Among the distinguished men whose names the 

Mayor has recited, you should never let the 

memory of this Sunderland man die. Compared 

with his acts, military glory sinks into nothing. 

The hero who kills men is the hero of barbarism ; 

the hero of civilisation saves the lives of his 

fellows." 

ANDREW CARNEGIE. 

New York, Nov. 22nd, 1910. 



M309969 



VI. 



PREFACE 



On October 3rd, 1910, the Mayor (Coun. Arthur F. 
Young-) convened a meeting- of a few gentlemen in the 
Mayor's Parlour, for the purpose of considering- a pro- 
posal to place on permanent record the life and work 
of Mr. Henry Watts, then in his 85th year. 

The meeting unanimously decided that a "Life" of 
Mr. Watts should be written, and I was honoured with 
the commission to do the work. 

When, on Oct. 10th, 1910, the materials then avail- 
able for the work were handed to me, they were so few, 
so confused, and, for the most part, so contradictory, 
that the task seemed at first sight almost hopeless. But 
as the work progressed these things faded into compara- 
tive insignificance before the personality of the man they 
concerned, a personality which so impressed me, that 
what was begun in doubt was continued with enthusiasm, 
and has ended, I hope, with some measure of success. 

Apart altogether from my personal interest in the 
work, I have felt, the more familiar I became with the 
details of Mr. Watts's career, that his was a biography 
that ought to be written. Heroes of the type of Harry 
Watts are not so plentiful that we can afford to allow 
them to pass away without some attempt to record what 
they have done. But great men are like great moun- 



vu. 

tains in that, to judge them truly, we must view them 
from a distance. We are too near to Harry Watts 
to estimate his worth fully ; but it is most certain that 
had nothing now been done to perpetuate his memory, 
we should have realised our mistake in after years when 
too late to rectify it. Therefore I pay a tribute of 
admiration to the promoters of the book, because of 
their perspicuity in recognising the necessity for such a 
work, and their enterprise in carrying it through while 
it was yet possible to do so. 

With regard to the method adopted of presenting the 
various phases of Mr. Watts's life, it seemed to me, as 
explained in the text, that a list of life-saving feats in 
chronological order, would not only make monotonous 
reading, but would certainly not give, what I have 
striven to give, a picture of Mr. Watts as he was and 
as he is, and the conditioning circumstances of his life. 
Therefore the particular events belonging to each period 
of his life are placed together as far as possible, and as 
there is a full index, the reader can turn to any incident 
in a moment. 

One other word of explanation is necessary. In 
writing the details of his early life and of the time 
before his conversion, I have but carried out Mr. Watts's 
wishes, which may be summed up in Cromwell's remark 
to Lely, the painter, l * Paint me as I am. If you leave 
out the scars and wrinkles, I will not pay you a shilling." 

It is also my hope that the book may be of value 
as a work of reference in connection with some of the 
matters dealt with — Sunderland as it was in the early 



Vlll. 

part of the last century ; shipping matters at this port in 
the middle of that century ; the work of the Life-boat 
and Rocket Brigade, &c. Every effort has been made 
to secure trustworthy information on these matters, the 
original documents being consulted wherever possible. 

I tender my sincere thanks to the following gentle- 
men : — Mr. C. H. Dodds, General Manager for the 
River Wear Commissioners, for much useful informa- 
tion ; Mr. W. J. Oliver, the local Hon. Sec. of the 
Life-boat and Rocket Institutions, for the loan of 
old documents; Messrs. Siebe, Gorman, & Co., Ltd., 
for permission to quote from their book, A Diving 
Manual ; to Sir J. C. Lamb, the author of The Life- 
boat and its work, for permission to use some of the 
information contained therein ; to Messrs. Hills & Co., 
for their valuable assistance while the book was going 
through the press ; and most of all are my thanks due 
to our Chief Librarian, Mr. J. A. Charlton Deas, for 
his patience under the affliction of my persistent in- 
quiries, his perseverance in " digging out " facts 
required, and his many helpful suggestions. 

ALFRED SPENCER. 
Sunderland, Dec, igio. 



CONTENTS. 



ii. 
in. 

IV. 
V. 
VI. 
VII. 



CHAPTER. TITLE. 

I. BIOGRAPHICAL GENESIS - 

SUNDERLAND WHEN HARRY WATTS WAS BORN 

EARLY DAYS. THE STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE 

THE CALL OF NEPTUNE - 

AN EARLY MARRIAGE - - - - - 

BACK TO THE SEA - 

AN EPOCH-MAKING EVENT - 

VIII. AN INTERLUDE ------ 

IX. AFTER THIRTY YEARS - 

X. HENRY WATTS AS A DIVER - - - 

XI. RECOGNITION 

XII. A SAILORS' TRIBUTE 

XIII. A HEARTLESS ROBBERY - - - - 

XIV. THE TAY BRIDGE DISASTER - 

XV. A NOVEL USE FOR A DIVER - - - 

XVI. SOME INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT DIVING - 

XVII. DANGEROUS WORK 

XVIII. A TRAWL NET 

XIX. LIFE-BOAT SERVICES 

XX. IN HARBOUR 



PAGE 

I-II 

12-26 

2 7-34 
35-51 
52-54 

55-65 

66-82 

83-91 

92-105 

1 06- 1 19 

120-134 

135-142 

HZ' 1 * 8 

i59-!7i 

172-176 

177-188 

189-209 

210-223 

224-250 

2 5»- 2 59 



LIST OF PERSONS SAVED BY HENRY WATTS - 260-263 

MR. WATTS'S RELATIVES WHO WERE DROWNED - 263-264 
MR. HENRY WATTS's MEDALS - 264-265 

LIST OF CERTIFICATES ----- 266 



ILLUSTRATIONS. 



PAGB 
PORTRAIT OF HENRY WATTS - FRONTISPIECE 

A NIGHT SCENE IN SILVER STREET - - - - 22 

4< YE HARRY watts! FOR TWO PINS aw'd SPLIT 

thee skull wl' this shool !" - - - - 58 

"silence, gentlemen, silence! order for a 
song" 90 

"one day i came upon the engine of the 
train" 166 

"when aw got ontiv its back aw fund mesel 
in a fix" -------- 216 

harry watts settled the difficulty by dashing 
into the sea 248 



TO HENRY WATTS 

Slowly the ?narble rises to the brave, 
For Crawford lies unhonoured in his grave /* 
Yet Henry Watts is with us, whose high claim 
Is not of slaughtered foemen put to shame. 
But a life risked his countrymen to save. 

This modest hero on his bosom wears 
Trophies, unbought with men or women's tears, 
Of deeds heroic, which old Greece or Rome 
Had, sure, immortalised in some proud dome, 
And poets praised through all the coming years. 

But though no bard, inspired, his exploits sing, 
Yet shall my Muse her humble tribute bring 

To true Nobility's untitled son, 

Who from his grateful townsmen oft hath won 
Honours that shall no late repentance bring. 

Let others boast their heaps of gory slain ; 

Thine be the happier recompense to gain 
Triumphs that fill with holy joy the breast, 
Patient with Heaven's approving smile to rest 

Secure, immortal honours to attain. 

F. T. 



* The grave of Jack Crawford, the hero of Camperdown, in 
Sunderland Parish Churchyard, remained unmarked for fifty-seven 
years, but in 1888 a handsome tombstone was erected there by 
public subscription ; and in 1890 the monument to him in Mowbray 
Park was unveiled. It is obvious, therefore, that the above lines, 



Xll. 



copied from Harry's Journal, were written before 1888. The 
poem is one of several written by admirers of Henry Watts and 
preserved by him in the Journal to which reference is made in the 
following pages. It will be seen that in conception and power of 
expression the poem is considerably above the average ; and it is 
reproduced here because it reflects the deep appreciation which, 
for many years, Sunderland people have had for Mr. Watts's 
services to humanity. 

Just when these pages were going to press Mr. James Patterson, 
having read the above verses, suggested that they were the work 
of the late Mr. Frederic Taylor. Mrs. Patterson kindly undertook 
to make inquiries, and sent a copy of the poem to her friend, 
Mrs. Taylor, at Boscombe. In her reply, Mrs. Taylor says : — 
11 I feel perfectly certain that Frederic was the author of the 
poem. I remember him reading it to me before he gave it to 
Henry Watts, who was a great friend of his and used to come to 
the Square [St. George's Square]. But I have no duplicate ; I 
can only tell from memory and by the style, which is unmistak- 
able." 



LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 



CHAPTER I 

BIOGRAPHICAL GENESIS. 

Bravery never goes out of fashion. — Thackeray. 

Heroism feels and never reasons, and therefore is always 
right. — Emerson. 

THE reader is asked to go back in imagina- 
tion to a scene on the River Thames in 
the year 1854. In consequence of the great 
contamination of the Thames by the influx of 
the sewage of London and the bad odours 
emanating from it, an Act was passed soon 
after this date empowering the Metropolitan 
Board of Works to undertake its purification 
by constructing new drainage. Even in 1863, 
Mr. Leach, Engineer of the Conservators, 
reported that " The river is dreadfully misman- 
aged from its source to its mouth." 
B 



2 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

London was suffering from cholera ; indeed, 
in this year, 1854, over 20,000 persons died 
from that plague in England and Wales. 

The River Thames, then, was in this year, 
1854, neither more nor less than an open sewer, 
and possibly no part of the sewer was worse 
than that at Wapping — Wapping, famous in 
song and story. But if anything could be worse 
than the river at Wapping, it was the water in 
Wapping Dock, which the reader may conceive 
as a filthy mixture, yellow-brown in colour, and 
almost of the consistency of soup. 

Across the Wapping Dock Bridge one day in 
the summer of the year mentioned, came two 
sailors from a neighbouring vessel on their way 
to the town. As they walked up the lane near 
the Dock there suddenly rose a cry of " Man 
overboard !" 

They ran back and found that a boy had fall- 
en over into the poisonous cesspool. The 
bravest of men might have been excused if, for 
a moment, he hesitated before plunging into 
that water to rescue the lad, but one of the two 
sailormen never hesitated a moment. Without 
any thought of consequences, he hastily tore at 



BIOGRAPHICAL GENESIS 3 

his coat, while his quick eye looked about seek- 
ing to locate the place where the boy had gone 
down. 

Ah ! there he is ! For a moment a head 
showed above the water and a despairing hand 
frantically clutched at the air, then disappeared 
again. 

Curse the coat ! Would it never come off? 
The sailor tore at it, but one sleeve had caught 
somehow ; so without spending more time in 
his efforts to detach it, he leapt over the bridge 
and into the water with the coat hanging to 
him by the one sleeve, much hampering his 
movements. 

Oh, that dive into the horrible water ! Down 
into it he had to go, feeling about for the drown- 
ing boy, for no ray of light could penetrate those 
turbid depths. Down and down, feeling here 
and there, till at last his hand came in contact 
with the lad, and with the grip of a strong man 
he seized him, brought him to the surface and 
so to the shore. 

And now, as the rescuer stood panting after 
his exertions, there came to him a gold-braided 
official who said, 



4 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

44 My brave fellow ! You have done a noble 
deed this day ! Where do you hail from ? " 

44 Fra Sunnerlan', sir," was the reply. 

"Well, well, then Sunderland should be proud 
of you. Should ever you come to London 
again call at (giving him an address), and you 
shall not go unrewarded." 

14 Thank'ee, sir," said the sailor, as he returned 
to his ship to change his clothes. 

It was not the first life this young sailor had 
saved ; no, indeed, for though but a young man 
there already stood to his credit a record of six- 
teen lives saved by his individual exertions ; for 
the young sailor was Harry Watts, of Sunder- 
land, who, all unconsciously, was building up 
that remarkable record of his as a saver of life. 

But though not the first life saved by him, it 
was fraught with more serious consequences 
than any previous attempt. He had swal- 
lowed a good deal of the water, and the poison 
in it wrought havoc with him. By the time he 
had returned to Sunderland he was so ill that 
Dr. Francis was called in to attend to him. He 
lay week after week as helpless as a child, and 
for three months he fought with the illness be- 



BIOGRAPHICAL GENESIS 5 

fore he got the mastery of it. It was a very 
different-looking Harry Watts who then, as a 
convalescent, came tottering out of his house in 
Silver Street, from the Harry Watts who had 
jumped into the water at Wapping Dock. 

To make matters worse his long spell of ill- 
ness and consequent loss of wages had strained 
the modest resources of his little household to 
breaking point, and for a while he had to look 
helplessly on while his wife patiently made the 
best battle she could for the family of five, for 
there were three little children. 

Now a simple confiding faith in humanity has 
always been the heritage of the sons of Nep- 
tune, and Harry Watts was as ingenuous, as 
simple, and as frank and generous as any sailor- 
man could be. And what he was in his deal- 
ings with others, that, he considered as a matter 
of course, others would be in their dealings with 
him. 

You are asked, then, to consider for a moment 
the picture of this once sturdy sailor, now thin 
and worn, sitting by his door-cheek, weak and 
exhausted, impatiently waiting for his health 
and strength to return to him, and pondering 



6 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

how to provide for his helpless family, now re- 
duced to the most straitened circumstances. 

He had saved many lives, but no reward for 
those services had ever come to him; nay, more, 
no thought of reward had ever entered his 
mind. What he had done had been done spon- 
taneously and forgotten almost as soon as done. 
Without knowing it he was in truth living up to 
the great ideal of Eastern theological teaching 
— doing good without any thought of personal 
return. 

But now, brought face to face with the bitter 
problem of the merely material side of life — how 
to provide for the necessities of his loved ones 
— his mind presently reverted to the gold-braid- 
ed official at Wapping Dock who had spoken 
so bravely of the rescue, and had invited him 
to call for a reward. Well, he would go there 
and get the reward ; it might help him out of 
his present sad circumstances. 

So, urged by the iron law of necessity, long 
before he was physically fit, he shipped in a 
vessel called the "George Smith," bound for 
London, leaving his family in such dire straits 



BIOGRAPHICAL GENESIS 7 

that they had not a bite of bread in the house 
on the day he sailed. 

Arrived at Long Reach the ship had to lay 
up there till the cargo was sold ; and here is the 
sequel of that rescue at Wapping as told by the 
rescuer : 

" Wad ye be as kind, sir, as to len' me three 
shilling' ?" said Harry to the skipper. 

" Len' thee three shilling', Harry? What 
for?" 

" Wey, whin aw wes alang at Wappin' Dock 
aboot three months sin, aw jumped ower efter 
a lad as wes droonin'. An' a gentleman cam' 
an' tell't us ti caal on 'im ef ivver aw'm alang 
heer agyen." 

The three shillings being advanced, Harry 
set off to find his admirer. After some trouble 
he succeeded, and, in his simple sailor way, told 
who he was and why he had called, 

"Oh, indeed," said the man with a doubtful 
smile, "but we cannot believe every tale that is 
told to us, you know ; if we did I don't know 
where we should be landed. We have impost- 
ors coming here every day, and how am I to 
know but that you are ." 



8 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

But that was enough. Too indignant for 
words, Harry left the place and returned to his 
ship. 

But this incident set him thinking. To a 
mind so frank and simple, the idea of claiming 
to have done something which he had not done 
was preposterous ; but here was a man who 
thought it not only possible but probable. 
What if others thought so too, how was he to 
prove the truth of his assertions? Education 
was uncommon among the working classes in 
those days, and the strenuous struggle for bare 
existence had left him no opportunity of acquir- 
ing even the rudiments of an education ; he 
was, in fact, like thousands of his fellows, un- 
able even to read or write. 

Pondering upon the matter he presently re- 
solved that he would for the future, as far as 
possible, have some sort of testimony to back 
up his statements ; and this ultimately led to his 
keeping all newspaper references to himself that 
he came across, and all letters received from 
those to whom he had rendered service, or from 
his admirers. 

After a time some good friend pasted these 



BIOGRAPHICAL GENESIS 9 

into a big book, and these cuttings, letters, and 
writings are the main building materials on 
which I have had to rely in the erection of the 
present work. 

This Journal is unique in its way. Here are 
long reports cut from papers with the names of 
the journals but no dates ; little snippings, 
almost indecipherable from age and use before 
they were pasted into this their last resting 
place, most of them without either name of 
paper or date ; letters from admiring townsmen; 
from grateful people rescued from drowning by 
this humble hero ; notes of congratulation and 
thanks from shipowners and colliery managers, 
for whom the recipient, as a diver, had done 
successful work ; photographs; poems too, eulo- 
gising the courage and ability of " Harry Watts, 
the Diver." Here at the beginning of the book 
is an attempt at a biography, some sixty pages 
of it, evidently written by one who felt deep 
appreciation for the man of whom he wrote. 
Lying between the leaves of the Journal is 
yet another biographical attempt, four pages of 
foolscap written by some loving hand ; and, 
packed away in a small envelope, four separate 



io LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

sheets containing some fifty words each, relat- 
ing to incidents in Harry's religious life. 

With the exception of the sixty pages of bio- 
graphical notes, there has been no attempt at 
sequence or chronological order, and many of 
the reports and letters, though relating to thrill- 
ing incidents, are limited to a few lines. 

The student of Sartor Resartus will no doubt 
be irresistibly reminded of the difficulties of the 
editor of that remarkable book when Professor 
Teufelsdrockh sent him those "Six considerable 
Paper- Bags, carefully sealed and marked suc- 
cessively, in Gilt China-ink, with the symbols 
of the Six southern Zodiacal Signs, beginning 
at Libra ; in the inside of which sealed Bags 
lie miscellaneous masses of sheets, and oftener 
Shreds and Snips, written in Professor Teufels- 
drockh 's scarce legible cursive - schrift ; and 

treating of all imaginable things but of 

his own personal history only at rare intervals." 

Nevertheless, in this case as in that, we may 
hope that patience will overcome these obs- 
tacles. Having read through the Journal from 
cover to cover, I rise from its perusal with a 
confused mass of thoughts, facts, and incidents 



BIOGRAPHICAL GENESIS n 

jostling each other in the audience chamber of 
my mind, like a first-night crowd in the limited 
space of a theatre vestibule ; but clear and plain, 
head and shoulders above the surging crowd, 
stands the chief actor, commanding my atten- 
tion, my respect, and my admiration. 

As I consider him another thought from Sar- 
tor Resartus comes to my mind : " Biography 
is by nature the most universally profitable, 
universally pleasant of all things : especially Bi- 
ography of distinguished individuals." That 
this is the biography of a man worthy of being 
placed well up on any list of distinguished in- 
dividuals I hope to show. 



CHAPTER II 

SUNDERLAND WHEN HARRY WATTS WAS BORN. 

To be ignorant of what has happeiied before you were 
born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime 
unless the memory of past events is woven with those of 
earlier times ? — Cicero. 

TO estimate the character of a man rightly 
it is necessary to know something of the 
time in which he lived, of the world into which 
he was born, and more particularly of that part 
of it which to him was the stage of life ; of his 
surroundings, social conditions, — in a word his 
environment. For though these things may not 
be wholly responsible for a man's character, they 
certainly do modify it and go far towards ex- 
plaining it. 

" Every great man," says Grant Allen in his 
Life of Darwin, "is the direct cumulative pro- 
duct of his physical predecessors, and works 
and is worked upon in innumerable ways by the 
particular environment into whose midst he is 
born." 



WHEN WATTS WAS BORN 13 

It is necessary therefore to see what were the 
conditioning circumstances into which the sub- 
ject of this sketch was born, for, knowing the 
strength of the forces opposed to him, we shall 
be the better able to estimate the greatness of 
his victory. 

Henry Watts was born in Silver Street, in 
the East End of Sunderland, on June 15th, 
1826. 

Vast indeed is the difference between the Sun- 
derland of the present day and the Sunderland 
of 1820-30, for the growth and development of 
the town in the interval, and especially during 
the last thirty years, has been little short of 
marvellous. 

The population of Sunderland as shown by 
the Census of 182 1, was 33,911. Burnett's 
History of Sunderland, published in 1830, tells 
us that " within these few years Monkwear- 
mouth is considerably improved. Instead of 
bleak ballast hills, these hills are now shrub- 
beries, or are in pastures." 

In 1826 the first railway (as we now know 
them) was yet to be built. There was one de- 
livery of letters per day — if all went well with 



i 4 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

the coach which conveyed them — and a journey- 
to London was a long, a costly, and sometimes 
a risky business. The town of Seaham Harbour 
and the collieries surrounding it were not then in 
existence, for " on the 28th of November, 1828, 
the first stones of the pier and the new town of 
Port Seaham were laid by the Marquis of Lon- 
donderry and his son, Viscount Seaham." 

Sunderland had just been lighted with gas, 
though the privilege did not extend to the whole 
of the town ; and the same applied to the water 
supply. Waterworks had been established at 
the West part of Bishopwearmouth, and the 
water was "conveyed in pipes to the houses o( 
the more respectable inhabitants." 

Jack Crawford, the hero of Camperdown, 
was then living in Sunderland in the enjoyment 
of his pension of ^30 a year ; a cattle market 
was held fortnightly in the town, and there was 
a half-yearly hiring for servants. What is now 
called the Old Market did not then exist. 

A plan of the town in Garbutt's History of 
Sunderland, published in 18 19, shows nothing 
but fields to the south and west of Norfolk 
Street, except that there were a few small dwel- 



WHEN WATTS WAS BORN 15 

ling houses to the west of what is now Fawcett 
Street. Indeed, the whole business part of the 
town then, and for many years afterwards, was 
in High Street, to the eastward of Norfolk 
Street, much of the residential property being 
in the streets which ran off from High Street 
to the south and north. 

As to the condition of the streets, it is inte- 
resting to note that " Some years ago the Parish 
of Sunderland gave a scavenger ^25 a-year to 
take the manure from the streets ; in 1827 they 
received ^160 per year from a scavenger for 
the liberty to take it away." With the streets in 
such a condition as this implies, it is not sur- 
prising that epidemics were frequent and severe, 
or that the cholera took such a ready hold of 
the town in 1831. 

An Improvement Act for "cleansing, light- 
ing, watching and otherwise improving the 
town," was obtained in 1826, and Commission- 
ers were appointed to put the Act into force — 
not before time apparently. 

The Pier — the old South Pier — is spoken of 
as " Ranking as high in point of utility and 
elegance as any in his Majesty's dominions." 



16 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

We of the present day are so accustomed to 
the many and great improvements in the town, 
that we are rather apt to under-rate them. It 
was not so in those days, as will be seen from 
the following description of the Port of Sunder- 
land, written by a Mr. R. Dodds, civil engineer, 
who had visited the town to make a survey of 
Sunderland Harbour : — 

11 Does anyone wish to have a just idea of the 
extensive trade of this Port ? let him go where 
I once stood. (The South Pier.) No sooner 
there than casting my eyes to the Southward, 
over the curling crystal flood, as Homer beau- 
tifully observes, I saw a wood of ships, a zephyr 
was gently fanning them to the port, all sails 
drew, and their streamers were waving in the 
wind. This prominent point, the pier end, where 
I stood, stretching out into the sea, soon became 
thronged. Here with glad steps came some of 
Eve's fairest daughters ; some hung on their 
arm the cherub form, and by their side the ten- 
der offspring led. What glittering eyes of glad- 
ness were fixed on this fleet ; some to husbands, 
some to lovers. Does the artist want a subject 
of nature to paint joy and gladness by? He 



WHEN WATTS WAS BORN 17 

cannot be better served than here. And for sad- 
ness, on the days of departure, he would see the 
half-closed eye with the crystal tear dropping 
down many a fair cheek." 

But in spite of all the sentimental Mr. Dodds 
had to say, there was yet no dock of any kind 
for the "wood of ships" to take refuge in, nor 
was there to be for another dozen years, when 
the North Dock was opened (1839). 

Mr. Watts affirms that so badly was the river 
attended to in those days that he could wade 
across it near the mouth. 

The Committee of the Commissioners ap- 
pointed to consider the suggestion " of forming 
a Wet Dock at Sunderland," refused to have 
anything to do with such a scheme, "leaving 
the matter perfectly open to any body of adven- 
turers who may be inclined to undertake the 
same," and adding that "as far as the Commis- 
sioners are concerned as a body, the idea of 
forming a Wet Dock falls to the ground." And 
there it remained till 1850, when the South 
Dock was opened. 

In 1826, when Harry Watts was born, the 
keelmen and casters were in the hey-day of 



18 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

their prosperity, they and the sailors forming 
the majority of the population of the town. 
The coal was brought down the river in keels 
to the ships waiting for it, and the casters were 
the men who shovelled, or cast it from the keels 
into the ships. Like the sailors they were rough, 
unlettered men, but hardy, brave, and generous, 
and possessed of native wit and force of char- 
acter. 

The circumstances of the Watts family will 
be dealt with in the next chapter, but it is neces- 
sary to mention here the condition of the class 
of people in Sunderland to which that family 
belonged. 

The poor were very poor, and there were 
many of them. The following is extracted from 
the private diary of a Mr. Edward Atkinson, a 
grocer, who had a shop down High Street East, 
just by Wylam's Wharf, and who died in 1804 
at the age of 71. The diary is in the posses- 
sion of a lady in the town, who kindly allowed 
me to make extracts from it. The facts and 
figures given are not to be found in any local 
history, and are therefore the more valuable. 
Mr. Atkinson gives the actual figures of the 



WHEN WATTS WAS BORN 19 

cost of maintaining the poor in each of the Par- 
ishes of Bishopwearmouth, Bishopwearmouth 
Panns, and Monkwearmouth, with the M Man- 
ner of laying on the Poor Cess," and many other 
interesting details. To give the whole of the 
figures might tire the reader, but we may take 
the Sunderland Parish as an example. 

" The manner of laying on the Poor Cess at 
Sunderland : 

Year 1771, 3^d. per £ per month on real (estate?) 
ifd. per keel on ships. 
3^d. per coal keel per month. 
3^d. on every 20/- of stock. 
" In the year 1 77 1, expended on maintaining 
the poor, ,£1,185 1 3 s - 4^." 

In 1786 the amount had risen to £2, 104 9s. 3s., 
and in 1790 the Sunderland rate is given as : 
7^d. per month per £ rental 12 months. 
7^d. per month for keels or lighters. 
3|d. per month per keel to shipping. 
7^d. for every 20/- stock in trade. 
M May 1790 to May 1791, Poor Cess ,£1,985 
13s. 3d. The total number of paupers in Sun- 
derland in 1790-1 was 1,106, of whom 931 be- 
long to Sunderland Parish." 



20 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

Mr. Atkinson states that the number of paup- 
ers so increased that the Workhouse could not 
hold them, and it became necessary, for the sec- 
ond time, to make an addition to the building at 
a cost of ^600. "This sum," says the diarist, 
"will be very difficult to raise from the present 
inhabitants, particularly as a great number of 
the opulent part of the inhabitants have re- 
moved from the Parish to reside to avoid pay- 
ing the great and increasing poor rate. Of the 
above men are 71 shipowners removed into the 
township of Bishopwearmouth ; and several 
more of the wealthiest say they will remove if 
steps be not taken to reduce the rate." 

The figures given may seem small compared 
with our present expenditure, but it must be re- 
membered that the total population of Sunder- 
land at that time barely exceeded 20,000. But 
in Sunderland Parish, with which we are chiefly 
concerned, Mr. Atkinson's figures show that 
about one in every ten of the population was a 
pauper, for in 1791 the population of the Parish 
was barely 1 1,000. 

In the early part of the nineteenth century 
things had not improved. Mr. Watts well re- 



WHEN WATTS WAS BORN 21 

members the terrible struggle for existence 
among the poor, and particularly among the 
children. Every day scores of them spent the 
greater part of their time on the beach gather- 
ing coals, and trying to find anything edible to 
satisfy their hunger. The poverty of the work- 
ers generally was very great, and they had to 
live on the very cheapest and commonest food. 
There was no attempt at education apart from 
what was done by the Sunday Schools ; indeed, 
the children of the working people had to begin 
work almost as soon as they could walk. 

The class of workers into which Harry Watts 
was born were housed as badly as they were 
fed, and scarcely any attention was paid to sani- 
tation. 

Yet occasionally, when the innate human 
craving for relaxation and enjoyment insisted 
upon being satisfied, the sans-culottes would 
come out of their dark rooms and their cellars, 
and gather together for festivity in the open 
streets at night. For years, according to Mr. 
Watts, it was the custom now and again for the 
people in Silver Street, and in other streets too, 
to gather wood and coals and build huge bon- 



22 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

fires in the middle of the street, perhaps six or 
seven of them along the length of the street. 
From their meagre resources they would sub- 
scribe to a common fund wherewith to purchase 
a cask of small beer. A large pan of pease- 
pudding was made, which, with the beer, served 
for M refreshments." A fiddler was engaged or 
"pressed" into the service, and dancing was 
indulged in, the festivities lasting till the "wee 
sma' oors ayont the twal'," till, in fact, the fires 
had burnt out for want of fuel. 

A strange, weird scene — the roar and crackle 
of the fires ; the wavering smoke, half hiding 
the fantastic figures as they dance about the fire 
with rude jest and laughter ; the old people 
sitting mumbling on their doorsteps, wishing 
but not daring to take part in the ceremonies 
— a scene reminiscent of Ibsen's Peer Gynt, 
when the Trolls, Gnomes, and Brownies, to 
Grieg's distracting music, dance Peer to the 
verge of madness. 

A rather striking picture of Sunderland at 
the period we are dealing with, and of the social 
life of the workers, is given in a little pamphlet 
containing the reminiscences of the late Thomas 




A NIGHT SCENE IN SILVER STREET. 



WHEN WATTS WAS BORN 23 

Sanderson. Many people in Sunderland will 
remember "Tommy, the Bellman," a quaint old 
man, who wrote verses about anything and 
everything on the smallest provocation, wrote 
them, indeed, without any provocation whatever. 
Fairness compels one to say that his "poetry" 
was akin to that which Mr. Silas Wegg evolved 
for the edification of Mr. Boffin ; but in spite of 
this little failing of his, Mr. Sanderson's book 
shows him to have been a man of considerable 
ability, and but for the fact that he was cursed 
with a roving disposition, and was "everything 
by turns and nothing long," he might have end- 
ed his days in a position of more affluence than 
that of Town Crier. 

Sanderson was born in 1808 in a house near 
Hind's Bridge, and the hardness of his life as a 
child may be judged from the fact that he and 
his father " used to go into the woods to gather 
acorns, which we roasted and ate for food." He 
was apprenticed as a shipwright, and was mar- 
ried in 1830 at the age of twenty-two, before he 
was out of his apprenticeship, and when his 
wages were seven shillings a week ! 



24 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

About 1820 he tells us, "salt was at this 
time 4<d. or 5<d. a pound, sugar 1/-, coffee 2/-, tea 
10/-, and flour 5/- a stone, and quite unsound." 
Flour in their household, when he was a boy, 
was quite out of the question owing to its price, 
and his mother often sent him round to several 
bakers' shops to get samples, which she mixed 
together and made into a cake to satisfy their 
hunger. Most of the people made their own 
salt, candles, and matches. 

He tells how he once saw a man in the stocks 
on Bishopwearmouth Green ; and here is an 
amusing story he relates of one Jimmy Donald- 
son, the sexton of Bishopwearmouth Church : — 

" The good folks of Bishopwearmouth were 
in the habit of having a hot cake for breakfast 
on a Sunday morning, about the diameter of 
twenty inches, some plain kneaded and others 
with currants, &c. in, called in the common ver- 
nacular 'singing ninnies.' Jimmy had incauti- 
ously laid his oven bottom with old tombstones, 
and once, through stress of business, he omitted 
to use his tins. The result was that many of 
the cakes bore the impress of a death's head and 
cross-bones, ' Departed this life,' &c." 



WHEN WATTS WAS BORN 25 

The author goes on to say, " Sunderland was 
at this time in a wretched condition. The wages 
of shipwrights (those employed) about 15/- per 
week, many of whom were glad to help in cut- 
ting away Houghton-le-Spring embankment at 
1/6 a-day. 

" The keelmen were in arms, setting fire to 
and pulling down the staithes and railway bridge 
across Galley's Gill. There was only one drap- 
er's shop in Bishopwearmouth, between Queen 
Street and Dunning Street, High Street, kept 
at that time by a Mr. Crass, who appeared to 
do little trade, for there seemed to be no middle- 
class people ; thousands excessively poor with 
but few wealthy. 

"You might have walked down High Street 
and have seen scarcely a woman with a gown 
on, except on Sundays, their habiliments being 
a calamankey* petticoat, a cotton jacket, and 
linen blue-and-white-checked apron with a bib. 
These native women might have been seen 
wending their way to work in the fields with 
children on their backs. No gas, no flagging, 



* Calamanco, woollen stuff, of a fine gloss, and checkered in 
the warp. 



26 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

no policemen, no market-place, a few sentry 
boxes, and a few old men, as watchmen, who 
patrolled the streets calling the hour and the 
state of the weather ; pigs running about and 
rutting up the streets, often with boys astride 
their backs. I saw a man pilloried at the foot 
of Church Street being pelted with rotten 
eggs, &c. M 

Such, then, was the Sunderland into which 
Henry Watts was born, and the conditions which 
environed him. It is the purpose of this his- 
tory to follow him in his struggle with those 
conditions, and to see how, though handicapped 
to an extent which might well have justified 
despair, he yet rendered an account of himself 
which many born in more favourable circum- 
stances might envy. 



CHAPTER III 

EARLY DAYS. THE STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE. 

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil, 
Their homely joys and destiny obscure ; 

Nor Grandeur hear, with a disdainful smile, 
The short and simple annals oj the poor. 

— Gray's ' 'Elegy." 

WILLIAM Watts and Elizabeth his wife, 
the parents of Henry, lived in Silver 
Street for some years before Henry was born, 
the place where the house stood being now oc- 
cupied by the south-west corner of Harrison's 
buildings. There were five children — Isabella, 
William, Ellen, James, and Henry, the subject 
of this sketch being the youngest. Mrs. Watts 
died when Henry was but seven years old, so 
that he remembers very little about her ; his 
sisters and his brother James lived to a ripe old 
age. His brother William was drowned at sea, 
his ship, the " Richard," being driven ashore at 
Tenby, in Carmarthen Bay, in a gale of wind. 



28 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

Henry tells the story of this wreck with great 
feeling, and especially one incident connected 
with it. His brother, as the ship drove ashore, 
made for the rigging, but a huge wave over- 
whelmed him and he was seen no more. A few 
of the crew were got ashore by means of the 
life-line and chair, the last to leave being a sea- 
man named Robert Clasper, "the only man in 
the ship," says Henry, "who cared anything 
about religion." Scarcely had the chair with 
Clasper in it left the ship, than the backstay, to 
which the life-line was fast, broke, and then 
nothing could save him. He was last seen hold- 
ing up his clasped hands and singing "Jesu, 
lover of my soul." " A grand thing ti dee, 
an' a rare brave man!" says Henry fervently. 

Henry's father was a mariner, but he can 
only remember his father making one voyage, 
in a ship called the " Castlereagh." After this 
he became a confirmed invalid and spent most 
of his time in bed, being a great sufferer from 
rheumatism. 

Nor is this to be wondered at considering the 
place in which the family lived. Henry de- 
scribes it as an underground kitchen or cellar. 



EARLY DAYS 29 

At any rate the place was below the level of the 
ground, for there were some half dozen steps 
leading down into it, and though that particular 
house is done away with, there are still plenty 
of similar tenements to be seen in Silver Street 
at the present day. 

Not far from the place where the Watts family 
lived was a well which overflowed whenever it 
rained heavily, and the water ran into their room, 
so that it was no uncommon thing for the whole 
of the family to be engaged in baling out the 
water. 

In this one unhealthy room the family lived 
during the whole of Henry's childhood. There, 
too, the mother died, and the father lay ill for 
years, unable to do anything towards the sup- 
port of his family. The sisters obtained an oc- 
casional day's washing, and the two younger 
boys ran errands, or joined other children on 
the beach, gathering coal, and eagerly watching 
for any flotsam or jetsam which might come 
ashore. No doubt Harry inherited his love for 
the sea, but that love was developed and cher- 
ished by the many long days spent on the sea 
shore during his childhood. He says that he 



3 o LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

took to the water as naturally as a duck, and he 
cannot remember the time when he could not 
swim. 

By-and-bye a little relief — a very little relief 
— was obtained by James securing a job at a 
baker's shop, but as the food he got there was 
reckoned as part of his wages, his earnings in 
money came to but a very small sum per week. 
Still, it was one mouth less to feed, and that was 
something. 

Henry and his brother James attended Sun- 
day School, but as they had neither shoes nor 
stockings, and no clothes but those they wore 
during the week (which were not of the Sun- 
day School type), the other boys attending the 
school refused to sit beside them. Naturally 
they felt this very much, and after a while left 
the school altogether and returned to Neptune's 
playground, the sea beach, where there was no 
danger of them being ostracised. 

But a kindly teacher came to make enquiries 
after them, and on learning the reason for their 
absence, made an arrangement with them which 
enabled them to attend the school once more. 
He provided each of them with an outfit, for 



EARLY DAYS 31 

which the boys had to go every Sunday morn- 
ing. They carried these clothes home in a bag, 
and, having dressed themselves, they marched 
off bravely enough to the school, wore the clothes 
all Sunday and returned them on the Monday 
morning. This was repeated every week for a 
long time. In spite of their weekly attendance 
at the school, however, they never acquired any 
knowledge of reading or writing.* 

The childhood of Henry Watts ceased at the 
age of nine, for at that age he went to work. 
Thenceforth all thoughts of play or frolic had 
to be put aside, and he had to think, to devise, 
and to act, for he had become a breadwinner, 
and a great part of the responsibility of the 
household rested on him. 

"Think of it, my Lords and Gentlemen. 
Think of it, Right Reverends and Wrong Rev- 
erends of every order. Think of it men and 
women born with heavenly compassion in your 
hearts," a child of nine going out into the great 
world to fight the battle of life ! 

* The teacher was a Mr. Stafford, who kept a baker's shop, 
and it was he who found work for James Watts. In the matter 
of providing- clothes for the boys Mr. Stafford was assisted by 
another teacher, a Mrs. Binks. 



32 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

He went to work at the Garrison Pottery, 
which then stood opposite the old Quaker Meet- 
ing House at the East End of the town, and he 
received a wage of one shilling and sixpence 
a week ! 

"Think of it, my Lords and Gentlemen. 
Think of it, Right Reverends and Wrong Rev- 
erends of every order," a child of nine forced 
to toil every day for twelve long hours for three- 
pence ! and no one, no Government, or repre- 
sentative of a Government, to say "You're 
doing him a great wrong and shall do it no 
longer." One begins to understand why Mrs. 
Browning was moved to write The Cry of the 
Children, the bitter cry of the thousands of 
little Watts and Smiths all over the kingdom, 
who were 

H Weeping in the playtime of the others, 
In the country of the free." 

Think of the thousands who went down in 
the fight for every one who survived ! If 
the few who did survive that terrible struggle 
for existence, who, by force of character and 
strength of will, managed to gain the victory 
over circumstances, if these few lack what we 



EARLY DAYS 33 

call education, shall we blame or despise them, 
knowing that 

li . . . knowledge to their eyes her ample page, 
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll : 
Chill Penury repressed their noble rage, 

And froze the genial current of their soul." 

After working at the Pottery for some time 
Henry went to a weaving factory in Fitter's 
Row, and worked there till he was thirteen 
years old. A growing lad, with a hunger that 
was scarcely ever satisfied — or satisfiable with 
what his puny hands could earn. And this 
very hunger was the main factor in sending him 
to sea. Among his boy acquaintances were 
some who had bound themselves apprentices to 
the sea, and hearing from them that they always 
had plenty to eat, Harry resolved to become an 
apprentice too, the more so as he had always 
had a longing to go to sea. So he promptly 
walked out to Pallion, got himself bound ap- 
prentice, was placed on board the brig " Lena," 
299 tons burden, Captain Gage, and went out 
to Quebec in her. 

Here his shore life may be said to have ended. 
Henceforth he becomes semi-amphibious, suffer- 



34 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

ing storm and shipwreck, " in journeyings often, 
in perils of waters, ... in perils of robbers, in 
perils in the sea," often saving others from death 
and himself escaping as by a miracle, — a stormy, 
tempestuous voyaging, yet arriving at last, after 
seventy years of struggle and stress, at a haven 
of rest. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE CALL OF NEPTUNE. 

Cease, rude Boreas, blustering railer ! 

List, ye landsmen all, to me / 
Messmates, hear a brother sailor 

Sing the dangers of the sea. 

— G. A. Stevens "The Storm. " 

THE Church registers of the Parish in which 
Harry was born have been searched in 
vain for the record of his birth, and one is forced 
to the conclusion that, with the characteristic in- 
difference of those days to such matters, the 
birth was never registered. Nevertheless, ex- 
haustive inquiries in other directions have satis- 
fied me that the date already given, June 15, 
1826, is the correct date of his birth. But in 
this matter of dates the above is not the only 
difficulty encountered. Henry was apprenticed 
to the sea in 1839, and the following Indentures 
are given as a curiosity in contradiction. The 
two Indentures are in excellent preservation: — 



36 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

INDENTURE No. I. 









SUNDERLAND 








1 2th FEB Y., 1842. 


This Indenture 


has been registered wider Act 


5 & 6 






William IV., Ch. i 9 . 




Dated i< 


5th June, 1839. 




Indenture of Apprenticeship for six years. 








HENRY WATT 








TO 






MR. JAMES LEITHEAD. 








WAGES. 




I st 


year 




£s 10 





2nd 


do. 










• £$ 10 





3rd 


do. 










£l 10 





4th 


do. 










£s 10 





5th 


do. 










£9 10 





6th 


do. 










£\0 IO 






12s. a year in lieu of washing ; 
8s. a week for meat money. 

RIDLEY 

Atty 

Bishop Wearth. 

THIS INDENTURE made the nineteenth day of 
June the second year of the Reign of our Sovereign 
Lady VICTORIA, by the Grace of God, of the 
United Kingdom of GREAT BRITAIN AND 
IRELAND, QUEEN, Defender of the Faith, and 



THE CALL OF NEPTUNE 37 

in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hun- 
dred and thirty nine, BETWEEN Henry Watt, son 
of William Watt of Sunderland in the County of 
Durham, Sailor, aged fifteen of the One Part, and 
James Leithead of the parish of Bishop Wearmouth 
in the same County Shipowner of the Other Part, 
WITNESSETH that the said Henry Watt hath, of 
his free will, and with the consent of his Father 
put and bound himself apprentice unto the said 
James Leithead with him, his executors, and ad- 
ministrators, after the manner of an apprentice, to 
dwell, remain, and serve, from the 19 June 1839 
for and during, and unto the full end and term of 
six years, from thence next ensuing, fully to be 
complete and ended ; during all which term, the 
said apprentice his said master will well and faith- 
fully serve, his secrets keep, his lawful commands 
everywhere do and execute ; hurt or damage to his 
said master he will not do, consent to, or allow to 
be done by others, but, to the utmost of his power 
will hinder the same, and forthwith his said master 
thereof warn ; taverns or alehouses he will not fre- 
quent, unless about his said master's business ; at 
dice, cards, tables, bowls, or any unlawful games, 
he will not play ; the goods of his said master he 
will not embezzle, or waste, or lend, or give to any 
person or persons, without his said master's license; 
matrimony, during the said term he will not con- 
tract ; nor, from the service of his said master, 
without his consent, at any time, absent himself; 



38 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

but, as a true and faithful apprentice, will demean 
and behave himself towards his master, his family, 
executors, or administrators, during the said term ; 
and true and just accounts of his said master's 
goods, chattels, and money, committed to his 
charge, or which shall come into his hands, faith- 
fully he will give, at all times, when thereunto re- 
quired by his said master, his executors, or admin- 
istrators ; and will also render an account of, and 
well and truly pay, or cause to be paid unto his 
said master, his executors or administrators, all 
such wages, prize money, and other sum or sums 
of money, as shall become due and payable unto 
him from her Majesty, her heirs or successors, or 
any other person, in case he shall be impressed, 
enter, or go into her Majesty's service, or any other 
service during the said term. 

IN CONSIDERATION WHEREOF the said James 
Leithead doth hereby covenant, promise and agree 
to and with the said Henry Watt the apprentice, 
that the said James Leithead, his executors, admin- 
istrators, or assigns, shall and will teach, learn, 
and inform him, the said apprentice, or cause him 
to be taught, learned, and informed in the art, trade, 
or business of a MARINER, or SEAMAN, with 
the circumstance thereunto belonging ; and shall 
and will find and provide for the said apprentice 
sufficient meat, drink, and lodging ; and to pay 
unto him the sum of twelve shillings yearly during 
the said term in lieu of washing ; and also pay unto 



THE CALL OF NEPTUNE 39 

him the sum of FORTY EIGHT POUNDS, of 
lawful money, current in Great Britain, in manner 
following (that is to say) the sum of Five pounds 
ten shillings for the first year, Six pounds ten shil- 
lings for the second year, Seven pounds ten shillings 
for the third year, Eight pounds ten shillings for the 
fourth year, Nine pounds ten shillings for the fifth 
year, and Ten pounds ten shillings for the sixth and 
last year, and if the said apprentice serve his time 
faithfully the said James Leithead doth agree to pay 
him the sum of Three pounds for so doing. And 
that the said James Leithead shall pay for the Meat 
Drink and Lodging of the said apprentice when in 
the harbour of Sunderland at the rate of eight shil- 
lings per week, the said Henry Watt finding and 
providing himself with all manner of sea-bedding, 
wearing apparel, and other necessaries. And it is 
hereby agreed between the said parties that the said 
James Leithead, his executors or administrators, 
shall and may, from time to time during the said 
term, deduct and retain out of the several yearly 
payments above mentioned, all such sum or sums 
of money as he or they shall at any time during the 
said term disburse or lay out in the buying of any 
apparel, sea-bedding, or other necessaries for the 
apprentice, as need shall require. 
AND for the true performance of all and singular 
the covenants and agreements aforesaid, each of 
them, the said Henry Watt and James Leithead 
doth hereby bind and oblige himself, his heirs, ex- 



4 o LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

ecutors, and administrators, unto the other of them, 
his executors and administrators in the penal sum 
of One Hundred Pounds of lawful money, current 
in Great Britain, firmly by these presents. 
IN WITNESS whereof the said parties to these 
presents have hereunto set their hands and seals 
the day and year first above written. 

Signed, sealed, and delivered by the 

above named in the presence of* 

SEAL. 
SEAL. 



INDENTURE No. 2. 



Custom House, 

SUNDERLAND, 

2 7 'th June, i8jg. 

This Indenture has been REGISTERED per Act 5 & 6 
WILLIAM IV., Ch. ig. 

" LENA" 299 Tons. 
Dated 20th June 1839. 

INDENTURE of Apprenticeship for seven years. 
HENRY WATT 

TO 

MR. JAS. LEITHEAD. 

* This Indenture, though duly registered, is unsigned. 



THE CALL OF NEPTUNE 41 





WAGES. 




1st year . 




^4 15 


2nd do. 






^5 5 


3rd do. 






£5 15 O 


4th do. 






• & 5 


5th do. . 






^700 


6th do. . 






£7 15 


7th do. . 






• £B 5 



12s. a year in lieu of washing ; 
8s. per week for meat money. 



RIDLEY 

Bishopwth. 

THIS INDENTURE made the twentieth day of 
June in the third year of the Reign of our Sovereign 
Lady Victoria by the Grace of God, of the United 
Kingdom of GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND, 
Queen, Defender of the Faith, and in the Year of 
our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty 
Nine. BETWEEN Henry Watt son of William 
Watt of Sunderland near the sea in the County of 
Durham aged thirteen years of the One Part, and 
James Leithead of the Parish of Bishopwearmouth 
in the same County Ship Owner of the Other Part, 
WITNESSETH, that the said Henry Watt hath of 
his free will, and with the consent of his father put 
and bound himself Apprentice unto the said James 
Leithead with him, his Executors, and Administra- 



42 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

tors, after the Manner of an Apprentice, to dwell, 
remain, and serve, from the fifteenth day of June 
instant for, and during, and unto the full end and 
term of seven years from thence next ensuing, fully 
to be complete and ended ; during all which term 
the said Apprentice his said master will well and 
faithfully serve, his secrets keep, his lawful com- 
mands everywhere do and execute, hurt or damage 
to his said master he will not do, consent to, or 
allow to be done by others, but to the utmost of his 
Power will hinder the same, and forthwith his said 
master thereof warn. Taverns or Alehouses he 
will not frequent, unless about his said Master's 
business. At Dice, Cards, Tables, Bowls, or any 
other unlawful Games, he will not play. The Goods 
of his said Master he will not embezzle, or waste, 
or lend, or give to any Person or Persons, without 
his said Master's License. Matrimony during the 
said term he will not contract; nor from the Service 
of his said Master without his consent at any time 
absent himself; but as a true and faithful Appren- 
tice will demean and behave himself towards his 
said Master, his Family, Executors, and Adminis- 
trators during the said term ; and true and just 
accounts of his said Master's Goods, Chattels, and 
Money committed to his charge or which shall come 
to his hands faithfully he will give at all times 
when thereunto required by his Master, his Execu- 
tors, or Administrators. And will also render an 
account of and well and truly pay or cause to be 



THE CALL OF NEPTUNE 43 

paid unto his said Master, his Executors, or 
Administrators, all such wages, prize-money, and 
other SUM or SUMS of money as shall become 
due and payable unto him from Her Majesty, her 
Heirs, or successors, or any other Person, in case 
he shall be impressed, enter, or go into Her 
Majesty's Service or any other service during the 
said term. 

IN CONSIDERATION whereof the said James 
Leithead doth hereby covenant, promise and agree 
to and with the said Henry Watt the Apprentice, 
that he the said James Leithead, his Executors, 
Administrators, or Assigns, shall and will teach, 
learn, and inform him the said Apprentice, or cause 
him to be taught, learned, and informed in the Art, 
Trade, or Business of a Mariner or Seaman with 
the circumstance thereunto belonging. And shall 
and will find and provide for the said Apprentice 
sufficient Meat, Drink, and Lodging, and pay unto 
him the Sum of twelve shillings yearly during the 
said term in lieu of washing, and also pay unto him 
the Sum of Forty Five Pounds of lawful money 
current in GREAT BRITAIN in manner following 
(that is to say) four pounds fifteen shillings for the 
first year, five pounds five shillings for the second 
year, five pounds fifteen shillings for the third year, 
six pounds five shillings for the fourth year, seven 
pounds for the fifth year, seven pounds fifteen 
shillings for the sixth year, and eight pounds five 
shillings for the seventh year. The said Henry 



44 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

Watt finding and providing himself with all Manner 
of Sea Bedding, Wearing Apparel, and other neces- 
saries. And it is hereby agreed between the said 
parties that the said James Leithead, his Executors, 
or Administrators shall and may from time to time 
during the said term deduct and retain out of the 
several yearly Payments above mentioned all such 
Sum or Sums of money as he or they shall at any 
time during the said term disburse or lay out in the 
buying of any Apparel, Sea Bedding, or other 
necessaries for the Apprentice as need shall require. 
And for the true performance of all and singular 
the Covenants and Agreements aforesaid, each of 
them, the said Henry Watt and James Leithead 
doth hereby bind and oblige himself, his Heirs, 
Executors, and Administrators in the Penal Sum of 
One Hundred Pounds of lawful money current in 
GREAT BRITAIN firmly by these presents. 
IN WITNESS whereof the said parties to these 
presents have hereunto set their hands and seals 
the day and year first above written. 

The mark 
HENRY X WATT. seal. 

of 
JAMES LEITHEAD. seal. 

Signed, sealed, and delivered by the 
above named parties in the presence of 

JOSH RIDLEY, Solr., Bpwth. 
JOHN X HOPKIN'S mark. 



THE CALL OF NEPTUNE 45 

The said James Leithead doth agree to pay 
to the said Apprentice the further sum of 
Five Pounds if the said Apprentice do 
faithfully serve his Apprenticeship. 

Queen Victoria having succeeded to the throne 
on June 20th, 1837, the 19th of June, 1839, 
would be the last day of the second year of her 
reign, and the 20th of June, 1839, when the 
second Indenture was signed, the first day of 
the third year of her reign, so that there is no 
discrepancy here. But why the boy should be 
said to be fifteen years old on the 19th of June 
and thirteen years old on the 20th, I cannot dis- 
cover ; nor why he is bound for six years in the 
one case and seven years in the other. It will 
also be noticed that there is no " s " to the name 
in either case ; this is a mistake, as the correct 
name is Watts. 

As to the age, as a matter of fact neither 
of the Indentures is correct, for the date of his 
birth being satisfactorily established as June 
15th, 1826, he would be in his fourteenth year 
on June 19th, 1839. 

There are other contradictions in dates, but 
no further reference will be made to them. 



46 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

Where dates are given, every effort has been 
made to verify them, and they may be taken as 
correct. 

Young Harry Watts sailed away, then, in the 
brig " Lena" to Quebec on his first voyage just 
when he had entered his fourteenth year. His 
last duty before leaving was to go and say 
"Good-bye" to his father, a last good-bye as it 
proved to be, for his father, who was then but 
fifty-three, died before Henry arrived home 
again. He was very ill when the lad went to 
see him, and his last words to him were, "Good- 
bye Harry, I don't think I shall live to see thee 
any more. Be a good boy and serve your ap- 
prenticeship well." 

And so the lad set out on his adventures with 
a heavy heart after all, instead of a light one. 

A sailor's life in those days was a rough one 
indeed. "A dog's life," says Harry; yet, 
strange to say, rough as the men were they 
took every care of this boy, and saw that he 
was well provided for according to their means, 
their kindness being ascribed by Harry to the 
fact that they were Sunderland men and knew 
how the family was situated. 



THE CALL OF NEPTUNE 47 

It is interesting to note that the wages of sea- 
men in those days were £2 10s. to £2 15s. a 
month for a voyage to America. 

When the " Lena " arrived at Quebec the men 
went ashore and "all got drunk as usual," and 
as a consequence were put into gaol. 

In explanation of this the reader must re- 
member the condition of things then. Tem- 
perance was a new thing, and total abstinence 
a much greater novelty still. Father Mathew, 
in Ireland, was just beginning his great work 
in the cause of temperance ; and the teetotal 
movement, originated in Preston in 1833, was 
trying, but not very successfully, to fight its 
way into public favour. Indeed, at this time 
and for many years afterwards, teetotallers were 
looked upon as foolish fanatics whose main de- 
sire was to "rob the poor man of his beer." 
The reader is asked to remember this when we 
come to deal with a later phase of Henry's life. 

The crew of the " Lena" being all drunk and 
in gaol, it fell to the lot of Harry and his fellow 
apprentice, a boy named Nicholson, to take the 
men's dinners to them. While going from the 
ship to the quay Nicholson fell overboard and 



48 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

was in imminent danger of being drowned, when 
Harry, who was following, seeing his danger, 
immediately jumped over after him, and swam 
with him to a raft of timber — the first of the 
long list of lives saved by him. 

When the " Lena " arrived in London from 
Quebec, Henry learnt of the death of his 
father, and the captain, who broke the sad 
news to him, told him that his two sisters and 
his brother James were now homeless. 

11 Ay dearie me, sir," said Henry in great dis- 
tress, " canna' we send 'em somethin' oot o' my 
bit savins ?" and this was done. 

His second voyage was in the "Cowen," be- 
longing to Messrs. Leithead and Spence, of Sun- 
derland, Captain Luckley. While at Miramichi 
the captain went to buy a canoe. In coming 
off with it he had nearly reached the ship when 
the canoe upset, and the captain was in danger 
of being drowned. Harry Watts was waiting 
at the side of the ship to receive the skipper, 
and as soon as he saw Capt. Luckley struggling 
in the water, he picked up the end of a rope 
and jumped overboard, swam to the captain, 
fastened the rope round him, and helped him to 



THE CALL OF NEPTUNE 49 

the ladder which was hanging over the ship's 
side. 

The voyage of the u Cowen " lasted about 
three months, and then Harry went to the ship 
" James," coasting in her for a few months, 
no incident of importance happening during 
this time. 

But when he was just past his eighteenth 
year, towards the end of 1844, ne was m a ship 
called the " United Kingdom," Captain Wallace, 
and on the voyage home from Quebec to New- 
castle with a cargo of timber, the ship was caught 
in a heavy gale in the Pentland Firth. The 
Firth was running like a mill race, and the sea 
"boiling like a kail pot." There was, as usual, 
a big deck cargo, and during the storm a huge 
sea broke on board, lifted the deck cargo up 
and over, and a boy named George Watson with 
it. The lad would assuredly have been drowned, 
for there was no chance of lowering a boat in 
such a sea, but Harry, seeing the danger, seized 
a rope, jumped after the lad, and after a despe- 
rate tussle with wind and water succeeded in 
bringing him aboard. The boy George Watson, 
it is interesting to know, was the father of the 



50 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

present Councillor Watson, and he left a testi- 
mony to the bravery of the act which saved his 
life. 

Captain Wallace, the Master of the " United 
Kingdom," came to a sad end, being murdered 
in a most cowardly manner. Mr. Watts tells 
how Captain Wallace, having become a North 
Sea Pilot, was about to take a ship out from 
Sunderland, when hearing a dispute between 
the captain and a seaman, he interfered. This 
so enraged the seaman that he followed Wallace 
and stabbed him in the back, killing him. For 
this act the man was tried and hanged. 

Young Watts's next ship was the "Protector." 
While lying at Woolwich (1845), Harry was 
working in the fore part of the ship, when a 
barge loaded with sand was seen to capsize 
suddenly, and the two men belonging to her 
were thrown into the water. Jumping into his 
ship's boat, Harry pulled to the men and arrived 
in time to save them both. 

" Did you get any reward for these doings, 
Harry?" he was asked as he, by request, told 
the story of the rescue. 



THE CALL OF NEPTUNE 51 

"Rewaard !" he exclaimed with astonishment, 
11 wey, sartinlees nut ; nivver thowt o' sich a 
thing. But we helped the two men wi' dry 
claes an' things." 

Thus at the age of nineteen he had already 
saved five lives. And here we must interrupt 
the record of life-saving to consider a fresh 
phase of his career. 



CHAPTER V 

AN EARLY MARRIAGE. 

We should marry to please ourselves, not other people. 

— Isaac Bickerstaff. 

IN the latter part of 1846, when he had just 
turned twenty and was only a few months 
out of his apprenticeship, Henry Watts married 
his first'wife, Rebecca Smith, who was the same 
age as himself. 

Before the reader begins to denounce this 
early marriage as a foolish and improvident act, 
let him consider the circumstances of the case. 
Both these young people were orphans, and 
neither of them had a home. Therefore they 
could not be much worse off in any case, and 
as the chance of being better off for many 
years to come was extremely problematical, they 
decided to marry, their only fortune being youth 
and good health. 

They set up house in King's Entry, in Silver 
Street, " wi' scarcely a thing ti put into it," 



AN EARLY MARRIAGE 53 

said Harry. They had very little to begin with, 
but such as they had they made the best of. 

Asked as to the marriage customs of the time, 
he said, "What wes the merriage customs? Wey, 
aw divvent remember ony except that we used 
te gan ti chorch linked arm-an-arm, half-a-dozen 
couples, mevies ; an' when the merriage wes 
ower we'd aal gan hyam an 1 get drunk. Aye, 
things wes bad i' them days ; ignorant we wes 
an* didn't knaw ony better." 

Notwithstanding, Henry and his wife lived 
happily enough, and it may be said here that, 
her devotion to him really cost her her life. 
The incident, though out of chronological order, 
may be fitly related here. 

They had been married a little over ten years, 
and Henry was returning from London to Sun- 
derland in the ship " John Murray," when they 
ran into a gale of wind off Sunderland. The 
captain tried to run for the harbour, but when 
about to enter, thought that there would not be 
enough water on the bar, so he turned the ship 
about to go out again and stand off. But the 
cargo shifted, so the ship was run ashore not 
far from the South Pier. The crew were all 



54 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

taken off by the life-boat. Henry's wife was 
present and helped to launch the life-boat, and 
seeing her husband in the boat as it made for 
the shore, she ran into the water and stood there 
up to her waist ready to receive him. The ex- 
posure and cold brought on an illness which de- 
veloped into consumption, from which she died. 



CHAPTER VI 

BACK TO THE SEA. 

Ye gentlemen of England, 

Who live at home at ease, 
Ah, little do you think upon 
The dangers of the seas. 

— Martin Parker. 

THE circumstances of the young married 
couple were such as to preclude all idea 
of a honeymoon. From the first their attention 
had to be given to the cares and responsibilities 
of housekeeping, without any interval of rest. 

Henry shipped before the mast, and in 1847 
was in a vessel called the " Express," Captain 
Booth, and went with her to Rotterdam. While 
lying there six foreign seamen were in a boat 
working at their ship which lay not far from the 
" Express." The ship's anchor was hanging at 
the cathead, ready to be dropped or brought in- 
board as might be required. Just as the boat 
containing the six men came underneath the 



56 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

anchor, the rope that held it broke, and it fell 
on the stern of the boat, smashing it like an 
eggshell and throwing the men in all directions. 

Harry, who saw the accident, gave a shout to 
the mate of his ship, then leapt over the side 
into the boat which was lying there, and reached 
the struggling men in time to save them all — a 
feat which only those who have had a sea train- 
ing can fully appreciate. 

At the end of this voyage he determined to 
have a spell ashore, so from 1847 to 1852 he 
spent most of his time working as a rigger, or 
on the Quay and the river, getting anything to 
do he could. 

A complete list of the lives saved by Mr. 
Watts is given at the end of the book, and it is 
not necessary therefore to give in detail any but 
those cases which have in them something out of 
the common. Here are three such cases, and 
these, as it happens, come in chronological order 
after the rescue of the six men at Rotterdam. 

One Sunday afternoon in 1852 Henry was 
walking along the South Pier, when he saw a 
crowd of men gathered at one spot. Hurrying 
there he found to his dismay that a boy named 



BACK TO THE SEA 57 

Paul was in the water on the far side of the 
pier. No one was doing anything to save 
the lad, and as soon as Harry came up, without 
a moment's hesitation he dived into the sea and 
swam to the boy. The sea was very strong at 
the time, and when Henry reached the shore 
with his burden, both he and the boy were in 
the last stage of exhaustion. 

The next day he called at the boy's home, a 
house opposite Flag Lane, to inquire after him. 
A big, robust woman came to the door, and 
when he told her that he had rescued the 
lad, and had called to see how he was after his 
narrow escape, she looked him up and down 
and said, "Oh, wey, that's nowt, canny man; 
he's bin owerboard mony a time !" and promptly 
shut the door in his face. 

Later in the same year Harry was working 
on board the ship " John Muller," which was 
lying abreast of Smurthwaite's Wharf Float- 
ing lazily down the river and near to the ship 
was a boat containing an old couple — Mattie 
and Jeanie Grey, who gained a living by bring- 
ing sandstone down from Hylton in their boat. 
Harry was at work in the after part of the ship 



58 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

when he heard a cry of " Man overboard !" a 
boy named Maughan having fallen into the 
river. As soon as Harry heard the cry and 
saw the boy he jumped on to the taffrail and 
into the water. As he struck the water he 
made a considerable splash, for he had jumped 
a distance of twenty feet or more, and as he had 
gone in near to Mattie and Jeanie's boat they 
got rather wet. When he came to the surface 
with the boy he swam to the boat, and catching 
hold of the gunwale with one hand he said, 
" For goodness sake tak' haad o' the boy, aw's 
nearly duen !" 

Now, Jeanie was a "tartar," and picking up 
a shovel she held it aloft exclaiming, " Ye, Harry 
Watts ! For two pins aw'd split thee skull wi' 
this shool ! Thoo's fair drooned beyth me an' 
oor Mattie." 

However, on this occasion, Jeanie's bark was 
worse than her bite, for as soon as she saw that 
Harry and the boy really were exhausted, 
she helped them into the boat and put them 
ashore. It is interesting to note that this same 
boy, Maughan, was afterwards the means of 
saving a number of lives at Sierra Leone. 




YE HARRY WATTS ! FOR TWO PINS AWD SPLIT THEE SKULL 
Wl' THIS SHOOI.!" 



BACK TO THE SEA 59 

So far Henry had saved fourteen lives, and 
the fifteenth rescue was in 1854, when, with 
much difficulty, he brought a young woman 
ashore who had attempted to commit suicide 
in the sea at Hendon. As soon as she regain- 
ed power of speech she exclaimed, " Oh, let me 
be in! let me be in!" "Not I," said Harry, 
" I've hed ower much trubbel ti get thee oot." 
Nixon Donkin, a river policeman, coming up, 
took the young woman in charge and went with 
her to the house of the lighthouse keeper, where 
she got a change of clothing. Next day she 
was charged at the Police Court with attempt- 
ing to commit suicide, Henry being forced to 
give evidence, but ultimately she was discharged. 

And here is an incident which is characteris- 
tic of the man. Soon after his first wife's death 
he was in the brig " Susannah," Captain Ward, 
and had with him a little fancy dog of which he 
thought a great deal, as it had belonged to his 
wife. It was in October, and the ship was com- 
ing through Yarmouth Roads with foretopmast 
studdingsails set, when the little dog fell over- 
board. The skipper gave the order to get the 
studdingsails down, heave the ship to and lower 



60 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

a boat, "and let's see," said he, "if we cannot 
save Harry's dog." 

Some of the men began to grumble at all 
this work for the sake of a dog, and as they 
went slowly about the work Harry heard them 
grumbling. " Ay, dinna fash yersels, hinnies," 
said he, "aw'll save ye ony mair trubbel," and 
without more ado he sprang into the sea after 
his dog ! 

The men, astonished, now worked briskly 
enough, got the ship round and a boat lowered, 
and Henry, who had succeeded in reaching the 
dog, was brought on board much exhausted but 
with his pet safe in his arms. 

One of the men who had grumbled about 
lowering the boat, afterwards wrote the follow- 
ing letter to Henry, who preserved it in his 
Journal : — 

Sunderland, 

October 15th, 1875. 

About nineteen years ago, as I was coming 
through Yarmouth Roads in the brig " Susannah," 
Captain Ward, we had a little dog belonging to 
Harry Watts. Ship going at about four knots at 
the time it fell overboard. Watts made no hesita- 
tion but jumped overboard for the dog, over the 



BACK TO THE SEA 61 

stem. They rounded the ship to by the captain's 
orders to get Watts on board of the ship again. 
When he got to the ship he was very much ex- 
hausted, but he had saved the dog. 

George Lamb. 

The saving of the boy at Wapping Dock and 
the long illness Henry suffered, as a consequence 
of swallowing the poisonous water, belong, in 
point of time, to this period, but these have 
been related in the opening chapter. Before 
he finally left the sea and went to work for the 
River Wear Commissioners, he had saved two 
other lives in addition to those already recorded, 
one, a young girl at Cardiff, and the other a coal 
trimmer named Richard Smith, who fell into the 
dock at Sunderland. 

During his sea voyaging Harry three times 
suffered shipwreck. The first time was in 
the "John Murray," the particulars of which 
are given in a previous chapter; and the second 
time was in the " Elizabeth Jane," a ship be- 
longing to a Mr. Thompson, draper, of Sun- 
derland, Captain Ferguson Golden. This ship 
ran ashore on Yarmouth Sands and remained 
there all night. There was a very heavy sea 



62 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

running and the ship was in great danger of 
going to pieces, but was got off the following 
day. 

On the third occasion the wreck was com- 
plete. He was in the ship " Balmoral Castle," 
of Sunderland, Captain George Wardle, and 
the ship drove ashore in a heavy gale at Lowes- 
toft, there being some twenty or thirty ships all 
ashore there at the same time. The crew were 
all saved by the life-boat and sent home by the 
Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners' Society. 

For some time it was impossible to fix the 
date when Henry left the sea and went into the 
service of the River Wear Commissioners, but 
at length, when examining some old papers 
which Henry had preserved, one was found 
which satisfactorily settled the question. It is a 
certificate of discharge from the brig " Martha," 
of Sunderland, and shows that Harry Watts 
served on board her from August 19th, to 
November 19th, 1861, and it is signed by 
Thomas Cook, Master. This was his last 
voyage as a mariner. 

He was therefore in his thirty-sixth year when 
he left the sea and began his career as a diver, 



BACK TO THE SEA 63 

a career which provided adventures even more 
exciting than his sea life had done, and gave 
him, too, more opportunities of serving his fel- 
low men. 

Up to this time, then, Mr. Watts had saved 
seventeen lives, and the absence, from these 
pages, of any word of public recognition of 
such invaluable services is not due to an over- 
sight on the part of the biographer. The 
oversight was on the part of those among 
whom he lived and worked, and who were 
either too slow to recognise such bravery and 
self-sacrifice, or too indifferent to consider it 
worthy of notice. But whatever the cause 
the fact remains that (with the exception of 
a small certificate), there was not the least 
recognition of his services till he had saved 
no fewer than twenty-five lives, and then the re- 
cognition came from a local swimming club ! 
This was in 1868, when he was in his forty- 
second year, and he had been risking his own 
life to save others since he was fourteen. Such 
neglect, such indifference to heroic services in 
the cause of humanity, is probably without a 
parallel. 



64 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

To a man actuated by any other than the 
highest motive, this lack of appreciation would 
surely have acted as a deterrent in this humane 
work, but greatly to Mr. Watts's credit he con- 
tinued that work, and again and again, and yet 
again, risked his own life to save others. And 
the risk was by no means imaginary or remote, 
as anyone who doubts that statement may easily 
discover. Let him choose some fine day and 
under the most favourable circumstances make 
the experiment of jumping overboard, without 
divesting himself of any of his clothing. Even 
if an expert swimmer, he will find it no easy 
matter to keep himself afloat, without having to 
render assistance to others. 

But, suppose he is wearing the thick, heavy 
clothing of those who work on the water, and 
in addition a pair of heavy sea-boots, and 
thus dressed he jumps from a height of twenty 
feet into the river to rescue a drowning boy. 
And suppose the boy, with the desperation of a 
drowning person, grips him round the legs like 
an octopus, thus paralyzing all his movements, 
what then ? The boy struggles with him as he 
drags him down, his chest seems bursting for 



BACK TO THE SEA 65 

want of air, dreadful noises are singing in his 
ears. Down he goes into the muddy depths, 
and slowly he rises again. When he reaches 
the surface there is barely time for him to gasp 
for breath before he is dragged under once more, 
still trying, but in vain, to loosen that deadly 
grip from his legs Under such circum- 
stances one will begin to realize that the risk to 
the rescuer is very real and very great. 

The above is no imaginary case ; it is 
what actually happened to Mr. Watts on one 
particular occasion, and what, with slightly 
altered details, happened to him often. But 
of this more hereafter. 



CHAPTER VII 

AN EPOCH-MAKING EVENT. 

This was the first time I could say, i?i the true sense of the 
words, that I prayed in all my life. . . . Now I looked 
back upon my past life with such horror and my sins 
appeared so dreadful, that my soul sought nothing of 
God but discharge fro?n the load that bore down all my 
comfort. — Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe." 

AT the time of writing Mr. Watts is in his 
jT\. eighty-fifth year, and if he were asked to 
name the most important event in that long life, 
he would without hesitation say it was his con- 
version to Christianity. 

This important episode in his career which, 
in point of time, should have been dealt with 
before, has been kept back in order not to break 
the continuity of the story of his life at sea, and 
we must now go back a few years and give some 
account of it. 

Mr. Watts was converted, that is to say he 
became a professing, believing, and active Chris- 



AN EPOCH-MAKING EVENT 67 

tian, on January 2nd, T857. About this date 
he has no doubt whatever. Like many other 
events in his life, his enlistment as a soldier in 
the Army of Christ, was altogether out of the 
common. 

Now, the Atheist may sneer at the statements 
to be made in this chapter, the Agnostic will, 
perhaps, shrug his shoulders and smile tolerant- 
ly, and the educated Indifferentist curl his lip 
and exclaim "Absurd!" But none of these 
methods will dispose of the facts in the case : 
facts which are indisputable and not to be 
sneered at or shrugged out of the way : which 
facts it is the duty of the unbiassed biographer 
to place on record. Theories are well enough 
in their way, but an ounce of fact is worth a 
ton of theory, and the main facts in this case 
are, at the time of writing, patent to everyone 
and past all denial. 

At the time of his conversion Henry was in 
his thirty-first year, strong, healthy, and in the 
prime of his manhood : a man who could not 
by any stretch of the imagination be classed as 
a neurotic subject ; a man absolutely illiterate 
and therefore with a mind quite unbiassed by 



68 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

reading. He was, at the time, as indifferent to, 
as he was ignorant of, religious teaching : the 
whole tendency of his work, companionship, 
and general environment had indeed not been 
"on the side of the angels," but on the side of 
evil; and like the majority of his class he thought 
drunkenness no sin. 

This man, then, on the night of January ist, 
1857, was taken home so helplessly intoxicated 
that he had to be carried to bed, and was ex- 
pected to die before the morning — from alco- 
holic poisoning. Yet before the morning of 
January 2nd dawned, a revolution had taken 
place in his nature, his whole outlook on life 
had changed, the citadel of self and passional 
desires had been conquered at a blow ; he had, 
in fact, to use a familiar word, been "converted." 
And a most important thing to remember is that 
this conversion was as complete and permanent 
as it was sudden ; its effects, beginning in the 
morning of January 2nd, 1857, have lasted for 
over fifty years. 

The scientific psychologist, who cheerfully 
undertakes to expound all things relating to the 
human mind, and who can evolve the human 



AN EPOCH-MAKING EVENT 69 

soul from a Pagan belief in bogies, will tell us 
that in such a case as this the cause of the 
effects noted will be found in will power, atti- 
tude of mind, subjective consciousness, or will 
use some other phrase which in reality explains 
nothing. 

Anyone with a knowledge of physiognomy 
will readily admit that Henry Watts is a man of 
great strength of will : his big, square chin and 
determined jaw, show that plainly enough. But 
the will only comes into operation after a choice 
has been made ; so, while it becomes an import- 
ant factor after the conversion, it has nothing 
to do with the conversion itself. As to his at- 
titude of mind, that was clearly shown, by the 
condition he was in, to be opposed to religion 
entirely. 

The matter is so important in its bearing on 
the whole of Henry Watts' s after life and char- 
acter, that no apology is necessary for this rather 
lengthy introduction, and we may now proceed 
to consider the facts of the case. These have 
been obtained partly from Mr. Watts himself, 
and partly from the written account of his con- 



70 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

version which appears in his Journal, written 
by a friend over fifteen years ago. 

After the death of his first wife he was em- 
ployed in running trips to London, and his little 
home was without anyone to take care of it dur- 
ing his absence. Returning home after one of 
these trips, he found that many of his household 
goods had been stolen, and this so exasperated 
him that he sold off all that remained. Then 
he went to his sister Isabella and asked her to 
take him in, which she agreed to do, though it 
was a difficult matter to find room for him, as 
she had a family of little children. Having 
settled this matter, he took the money obtained 
from the sale o{ his goods and spent it in drink. 
He was brought to his sister's house that night 
in a dreadful state of intoxication, was carried 
upstairs by four women and laid on his bed, 
from which it was feared he would never rise 
again. 

In the early hours of the morning, however, 
the effects of the drink having worn off some- 
what, he awoke, and saw what he describes as 
a huge black cloud, the sight of which filled 
him with dread. The impression created upon 



AN EPOCH-MAKING EVENT 71 

his mind was that the Day of Judgment had 
arrived, and a great terror seized hold of him as 
he remembered the life he had lived, without 
thought of God or religion. In the midst of 
his fear he heard a voice saying, " Choose you 
this day whom ye will serve." 

Immediately upon this he jumped from the 
the bed and shouted to his sister in a loud and 
agitated voice, " Bella! Bring me the Bible!" 

His sister came running up to him saying, 
" Harry, gan ti bed agin, thoo'll freeten aal me 
little bairns. Thoo's got th' delirium tremens ; 
get thee ti bed agin." 

" Nay, lass, this is the best thing that's com 
ti me yet," he replied excitedly. " Fetch me 
th' Bible !" 

Thinking to quieten him she brought the 
Bible. Holding it in his hands he knelt and 
cried aloud for God to pardon his sins. So he 
continued for some time, and at last peace came 
to him. He got into bed again and slept till 
morning ; and from that hour he was a changed 
man. Never again did he taste strong drink ; 
and for fifty-three years he has lived the Chris- 
tian life, acting up to the highest he knew. 



72 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

The sceptic may explain the first part of the 
above statement to his own satisfaction, and 
may show the cause to have been something 
other than that supposed ; but whatever the 
cause, the fact — the solid, substantial fact of 
fifty-three years of Christian life dating from 
that hour remains, and cannot be explained on 
any other hypothesis than that involved in 
Christianity. Such sudden conversions are not 
by any means rare in the history of Christianity, 
and the reader will scarcely need to be remind- 
ed of the most remarkable of them all, that of 
Saul of Tarsus. 

At this time there lived at the east end of 
Coronation Street, just opposite the Market, a 
Mr. Thomas Hanson, who kept a framemaker's 
shop. He conducted a mission known as Han- 
son's Stafford Street Mission. As soon as 
Henry got some respectable clothes he joined 
Hanson's Mission, and very soon came his first 
trial. Mr. Hanson requested him to go and de- 
liver tracts to all those who had been his drunken 
companions, and try to bring them into the mis- 
sion. This was as great a test of Henry's new- 
found strength as anything well could be. It 



AN EPOCH-MAKING EVENT 73 

was another case of " Mulholland's Contract."* 
Mulholland, in danger of his life in a cattle- 
boat, had vowed to serve God if ''He got me 
to port alive." This being duly accomplished, 

u I spoke to God of our Contract, an' He says to my 

prayer : 
■ I never puts on My ministers no more than they can 

bear. 
1 So back you go to the cattle-boats an' preach My 

Gospel there.' 

u I didn't want to do it, for I knew what I should get, 
An' I wanted to preach Religion, handsome an' out of 

the wet, 
But the word of the Lord were lain on me, an I done 

what I was set." 

And Henry Watts didn't want to do it either, 
but, like Mulholland, he kept his contract and 
"done what he was set," though under some- 
what gentler conditions than the cattle - boat 
man, who "rounded up" his subordinates on 
Sundays to preach 

" . . . whenever the sea is calm, 
An' I use no knife or pistol an' I never take no harm, 
For the Lord abideth back of me to guide my fightin' 
arm." 

* Rudyard Kipling's "The Seven Seas." 



74 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

Henry went about his work of trying to re- 
claim his late companions in a different way 
from that; but his "fighting arm" was there 
right enough, and was duly taken into account 
by those to whom he talked. 

He took a bundle of tracts, and went 
to a number of men standing at the foot of 
Silver Street, and gave them an invitation to 
the mission in his own way. 

" Wey nut?" said he, when they objected. 
" We've played tigether as boys, we've warked 
tigether as men, an' we've offens enuff bin drunk 
tigether, wey nut cum ti th' chapel an' let's pray 
tigether?" 

Most of them gave a blank negative, but to 
two of them he appealed personally. At last 
they pointed to his fine new clothes and asked 
him how he expected them to go and sit with 
him in the things they had on? 

" Is that what's trubblin' tha?" asked Harry. 
"Wait here a few minutes." 

Off he went home in a hurry, changed his 
clothes for the worst he had, and returned to 
them, saying " Noo then, hinnies, cum on, for 
we're aal alike." 



AN EPOCH-MAKING EVENT 75 

The two men thereupon went with him ; they 
became converts, and proved to be good work- 
ers in the cause for many years. 

Henry remained connected with Hanson's 
Mission for about a year, and then joined the 
Primitive Methodist Chapel in Flag Lane. For 
forty years he remained with that denomination, 
but when he went to live in the house at the 
South Dock, he joined Herrington Street 
Wesleyan Chapel, it being easier to get to. In 
1900 he returned to the Primitive Methodists, 
attending Mainsforth Terrace Chapel, and has 
remained there ever since. 

He is of the old-fashioned type of Christian. 
He knows nothing and cares nothing about re- 
ligious controversy ; his simple faith in the 
main doctrines of Christianity is all-sufficient 
for him, and, it may be said, is a great and in- 
creasing comfort to him in his declining years. 
He is an optimist to his finger tips, always 
bright and cheerful ; and he is so earnest 
and vigorous even now in his eighty-fifth year, 
that it is good to be in his company for a while. 
One scarcely knows to whom to liken him so 
far as his religious life is concerned : he seems 



76 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

to be a combination of several people. He has 
something of the humour of the late Rev. Peter 
Mackenzie, without his versatile fancy and his- 
trionic ability ; the originality and quaint speech 
of Tarn -o'- Jack's lad, breaking out now and 
again in the most whimsical sayings ; and the 
liveliness, simple faith, and optimism of Billy 
Bray — just the sort of man who would be a 
strong pillar in any cause with which he was 
associated — always provided the cause had a 
tactful leader. 

" I think I could be a good woman if I had 
five thousand a year," says Becky Sharp, and 
possibly there are people who think that 
they could manage it on something less than 
that ; but in Henry Watts we have a man who 
has succeeded in living a consistent Christian 
life while occupying the humblest social position. 

In the early days after his conversion Henry 
became a worker in the temperance cause, and 
he tells of the difficulties the advocates of tem- 
perance had to face in the work. At the public 
meetings the speakers had to put up with a good 
deal of hustling, and were lucky if they got off 
with nothing more forcible than words. When 



AN EPOCH-MAKING EVENT 77 

the speaker was a working man known to the 
audience, he was met with such cries as, "Ay, 
an' what was ye afore ye tuk on wi' this ?" and 
personalities were freely indulged in. Strange 
to say, the women in many cases objected to 
their "men" being teetotallers, and would go 
to the meetings on purpose to interrupt them 
when speaking. 

"Ay," says Henry reflectively, "they were 
an ignorant and a queer class awtigether, me as 
well as the rest of 'em." 

Mr. Watts has many incidents to tell con- 
nected with his religious life. Some of these 
may appear trivial to those accustomed to take 
a merely material view of things, those who 
pride themselves upon their " common sense ;" 
but the deep earnestness and obvious sincerity 
of the man are such as to lift even small inci- 
dents out of the plane of the commonplace. 
One or two of these incidents are given as 
showing the character of Mr. Watts, the prac- 
tical view he takes of Christianity, and the 
earnestness with which he applies its teachings 
to every act of his daily life. 



7% LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

One morning, when Henry was in Mowbray 
Park, an elderly man, an invalid, was brought 
into the Park by his daughter. Henry entered 
into conversation with him, and presently asked 
him if he ever prayed. " No," was the sad 
reply, " I cannot pray." 

Seeing a Christian friend near, Henry called 
him, and the two knelt then and there and pray- 
ed for the invalid. Then Henry asked him if 
he could repeat the publican's prayer, " God be 
merciful to me a sinner." The man complied, 
repeating the prayer again and again, and so 
they left him. This strange meeting had the 
happiest result, for the invalid became a con- 
vert, and when he died some little time after- 
wards it was as a believer. 

During the above scene there sat near on one 
of the park seats, a man who seemed to be much 
amused at what he had witnessed. He beckon- 
ed Henry and asked him had he heard the 
news ? 

" Nay," says Henry, " What news ?" 

" The Devil is dead," answered the man with 
a laugh. 



AN EPOCH-MAKING EVENT 79 

Now, Henry had of course never heard of 
that remarkable book The Cloister and the 
Hearth, or he would have recognised this fam- 
ous saying of Denys, the soldier ; nevertheless 
he was not short of an answer. 

" Oh, the Devil's dead, is he?" said he; and 
with a meaning look at the man, "what a pity 
he's left some of his imps behind him." 

At this the man answered with profanity, and 
Henry with the mild retort to "Gan an' wesh 
thee mooth oot," walked off and left him. 

Mr. Watts tells how some years ago, a great 
desire came upon him on New Year's Day, to 
go down and visit the house in Silver Street 
where he had lived after conversion, so that 
he might pray with the people he found there. 
He went, and found the people enjoying the 
good cheer customary at such a time. Having 
explained his errand they all knelt down, 
and in his own simple but forceful vernacular 
he prayed with them. Years afterwards he 
met some who had been present at that 
gathering, and he was overjoyed when they told 
him that they had become Christians as the re- 
sult of that little prayer meeting. 



80 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

But perhaps the truest test of the sustaining 
and controlling power of a practical religion 
such as Henry's, is seen when its possessor is 
brought suddenly face to face with death. At 
such a supreme moment a man's deepest 
feelings find expression, for he knows that no 
sham or superficial profession will avail him 
then. 

A recent example of what is meant was 
witnessed in connection with that terrible ex- 
plosion at the Wellington Pit, Whitehaven, on 
May i ith, 1910. Owing to the explosion over 
one hundred men found themselves suddenly 
shut up in a horrible, fiery tomb, without any 
hope of escape. Many weeks afterwards, when 
at last search could be made for the bodies, in 
one part of the workings where a number of 
the unfortunate men had been entombed, a 
board or beam was found on which had been 
written in chalk, " The Lord is our refuge and 

strength, a very present help ," at which 

point death seems to have overtaken the writer 
and prevented the completion of the sentence. 
But enough had been written to bring a ray of 
consolation to the sorely-tried and sorrowing re- 



AN EPOCH-MAKING EVENT 81 

latives ; enough to show that even in such dire 
straits religion had sustained the sufferers. 

And here is a somewhat similar instance in 
the life of Henry Watts, an incident which 
shows that his religion was no mere superficial 
thing, no mere jargon of stock phrases and 
platitudes, but a real living force. 

The incident occurred many years ago, soon 
after he became a diver for the River Wear 
Commissioners. The diving suit as now worn 
was not then in general use, the diving-bell 
being used for all submarine work. At 
the time in question Henry went down in the 
diving-bell, and took two masons with him to 
do some repairs at the lock gates. Hardly 
had they got down when the gate chains 
fouled the air-pipes and stopped the supply of 
air. This caused the water to rise in the div- 
ing-bell, and Henry at once began to knock on 
the side of the bell with a hammer, that being 
the danger signal. Those above heard the 
signal and worked hard to clear the chain 
so as to pull the bell up, but with no ap- 
parent result, for the water in the bell rose 
higher and higher and death stared them 



82 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

in the face. Fear took hold of the men, as well 
it might, and then Henry, turning to his com- 
panions, told them that as far as he could see 
they were all three condemned to die. " And 
I thank God," says he, "that at that moment 
He gave me strength to sing a hymn." 

He got through the first verse, singing, I 
doubt not, without a quaver in his voice, while the 
water, deadly and silent, rose higher and higher, 
and death came nearer every moment. He be- 
gan the second verse, and while singing it, and 
almost at the last possible moment when it would 
be of use, there came a gush of air, the chain 
had suddenly dropped clear of the pipes and 
they were saved. 

One of Henry's companions on this occasion 
was a man who cared nothing about religion, 
but after this thrilling experience he " mended 
his ways," and subsequently became an earnest 
worker in the good cause. The other man was 
a religious man, and as Henry says, " After such 
a deliverance we both of us tried to live nearer 
to God in thankfulness to Him for His mercy." 



CHAPTER VIII 

AN INTERLUDE. 

Fifteen men on the Dead Man's Chest — 
Vo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum I 

— Stevenson's "Treasure Island." 

IN the first part of the book is an excellent 
portrait of Henry Watts, but as the 
best of portraits must of necessity fall short 
of the reality, a few words of description may 
not be amiss, and may help to correct the men- 
tal picture which the reader, who has not met 
Mr. Watts, will have formed of him after read- 
ing thus far. 

We have seen Henry Watts in his childhood, 
one of a struggling family, finding it difficult — 
almost impossible — to make headway against 
the tide of circumstances ; we have seen him in 
his youth, still fighting hard against the stream, 
but now, though buffeted about a good deal, 
making a little advance ; and we have seen him 



84 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

arrived at manhood and securing a foothold, 
though a precarious one, on the shore of a social 
life of a better and higher kind than hitherto. 
What manner of man was he at this period ? 

The hardships and struggles he had gone 
through were such as soon kill off the weak- 
lings ; he is an example of the law of "the 
survival of the fittest." It may have been that 
some accidental variation from the general run 
of his fellows favoured him in the fight, but at 
any rate here he is at the age of thirty, a fine 
specimen of manhood. 

He stands five feet nine inches in height, 
weighs twelve and a-half stones, is straight as 
a pole, muscular and strong, and has a grip to 
the hand of him like a vice. Reddish hair and 
beard, what one may call a fresh-weather com- 
plexion, keen blue eyes which look out bold and 
fearless from under the overhanging brows; and 
to finish off with, a firm mouth, a determined 
jaw, and a big square chin. Alter his dress and 
place a winged helmet on his head, and you 
have a true specimen of the old Vikings — those 
bold sea warriors who never knew defeat. There 
is no mistaking the fact that he is a son of Nep- 



AN INTERLUDE 85 

tune, he has about him that alertness, that in- 
describable something which proclaims the fact. 
When I met him first, now over thirty years 
ago, though he was then a considerable distance 
past the fiftieth milestone on life's highway, so 
well did his vigorous constitution hide his age, 
that the above description answers for him as 
well as at the age of thirty. And even 
now, in his old age, when talking to him, 
you may put aside his brave deeds and forget 
all about them, and he is still an attractive per- 
sonality. His courtesy and self-reliance make 
themselves felt, and one is not long in his com- 
pany before feeling that here is a good man as 
well as a brave one. One forgets the broad 
vernacular in which he talks, and which sounds 
pleasant enough and natural enough as used by 
him ; one forgets that he is unlettered ; these 
things and all they imply become as nothing 
before the natural courtesy and kindness of the 
man, and especially before that hall-mark of the 
gentleman, whatever his station in life — con- 
sideration for the feelings of others. " Divn't 
put that doon, though," he says, after telling me 
an incident which seemed to reflect upon some 



86 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

of the persons mentioned, " Divn't put that 
doon, though, theere's mevvies sum o' theer 
people livin', an' aw wadn't like ti hurt 'em ; " 
and on another occasion, " Yis, it's true enuff, 
but aw wadn't put that in," the objection being 
the same as before. 

Henry has come to understand in some mea- 
sure how much he has lost through lack of edu- 
cation, and on rare occasions he will bemoan his 
hard lot in that respect. But not for long ; the 
hopefulness of his nature will out again, and he 
will scout the idea of repining, and even try to 
find some sort of argument to show that he 
might be worse off if educated. 

" Wey, aw divn't knaw," he said on one such 
occasion, "aw wint ower ti Hamburg yince, an' 
theere wes sivven on us aboard an' nut yen ov 
us cud read or write, nut even th' mate ; didn't 
knaw A B C fra a gridiron, on'y th' skipper. 
Whin ony ships passed us, ef the cap'n was i' 
bed we hed to roust him oot ti read the nyams 
ov 'em. Yit, man alive, we made the passage 
awreet. An' here they are tiday, eddicated in 
Colleges an' High Skules, an' aw divn't knaw 
what, an', man, theers plenty ov 'em cuddent find 



AN INTERLUDE S 7 

theer way yam fra th' ferryboot lan'in' ef th' 
leets wes oot." 

When the Laing Warehouse on the Dock 
was opened, the River Wear Commissioners 
gave a dinner to the workmen, at which Harry 
was present. Very seriously he told how a cer- 
tain Irish storekeeper persuaded him to take 
some "stuff caaled blaymonge," It disappoint- 
ed him, for, as he says, "It wes that caad aw 
nigh shook aal me teeth oot !" As a set-off to 
this the same Irish humorist brought him some 
plum-pudding, but as it was "aal on fire!" 
Henry promptly refused it, no doubt guessing 
the cause of the "fire." 

Indeed, Henry, from the first day of his con- 
version, has been what is called a fanatical tee- 
totaller. Once when busy diving at the end of 
the North Pier, stopping the leaks in a stranded 
ship so that she might be floated, he had come 
up for some purpose and was about to descend 
again, his helmet lying beside him ready to put 
on. At this particular moment a carpenter, who 
was working up above, looked over the side with 
a bottle of rum in his hand, from which he had 
been drinking. He accidentally let it fall, and 



88 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

it smashed itself right in Henry's diving helmet. 
Whereupon Henry, having given the man a 
short but impressive lecture on his bad habit, 
insisted upon having the helmet washed out 
before he would allow the contaminated thing 
to be put on his head ; and washed out it had 
to be. 

As already mentioned he has a whimsical 
humour of his own, but it is doubtful if he has 
that sense of humour which we mean when we 
speak of its "saving grace." He is not quick 
to see a humorous situation the essence of 
which is incongruity ; nor that subtler kind 
where more is implied than is said, or where 
there is a real relation of ideas discovered which 
is not apparent. His is more the broadsword 
of natural humour, rather than the rapier which 
is begotten of a cultivated intelligence. 

As an instance of what is meant, he enjoyed 
vastly the telling of a story about the " Stormy 
Petrel " (Mr. Joseph Hodgson), another well- 
known Sunderland life-saver, in which that 
gentleman having insisted upon a trial of div- 
ing, and the collar-piece being too small to go 
over his head, Henry suggested a slight opera- 



AN INTERLUDE 89 

tion, and solemnly sent a workman for an axe 
to cut off the would-be diver's nose ; yet almost 
immediately afterwards he told in a few short 
sentences, and without any appreciation of its 
dramatic significance, another story which is 
well worth giving in detail and "with all the 
pomp and date of circumstance." 

A big Batavian ship, the " Blucher," was 
ashore on the rocks to the north of the river. 
The crew refused to come off with the life-boat, 
but afterwards some came ashore in their own 
boat and some were brought ashore by the 
rocket lines. The next day Henry was engaged 
with a gang of men in stripping her before she 
broke up. She lay in a very dangerous posi- 
tion and the sea was very rough. When they 
had finished work and had got ashore in their 
boat, they missed one of their mates, a man 
named Jim Bailey. No one being able to give 
an account of him, it was decided to go off to 
the ship to search for him, it being supposed 
that he had been left behind by accident, or 
that perhaps he had injured himself in the hold 
of the ship. 



9 o LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

So the boat was launched once more and off 
they went to seek for him, for there was con- 
siderable danger in remaining aboard the ship 
as she might break up at any moment. Arrived 
at the ship they searched everywhere for the 
missing man, but could find no trace of him. 
Presently, above the noise of the wind and sea, 
they heard a sound proceeding from the after 
part of the ship. They forced their way along 
and soon located the sound. It was Jim Bailey's 
voice and it came from the cabin. They hurried 
down, and there sure enough was Mr. Bailey. 
He was sitting at the head of the cabin table 
with a bottle of rum before him, which he was 
doing his best to empty. The sound they had 
heard was his voice shouting to an imaginary 
company to keep order. 

" Silence, gentlemen, silence ! Order for a 
song I" and straightway he struck up : — 

11 Whenever I go to Blackwall Dock, 
I'm sure to meet old Polly ; 
And I would rather — rather — ra — " 

"Silence, gentlemen, silence! Order for a 
song !" And striking the table with the bottle 




SILENCE, GENTLEMEN, SILENCE ! ORDER FOR A SONG.' 



AN INTERLUDE 91 

to emphasize his ruling, he would begin with the 
song once more : — 

" Whenever I go to Blackwall Dock, 
I'm sure to meet old Polly ; 
And I would rather — rather — ra — ra — " 

"Silence, gentlemen, silence! Order for a 
song !" And so on ad lib. , always broaching 
to at the same place. What he would rather 
have done he never told, for although he re- 
peated the words a score of times he never got 
beyond the fatal word "rather.". At this point 
his imaginary company appeared to interrupt 
him, and he had to call them to order. 

Henry and his companions had to drag him 
out of the cabin into the boat by main force, 
but he did not allow this to interfere with the 
"harmony." All the time he struggled in a 
good-humoured way against this coercion, but 
he never stopped his singing, or his " Silence, 
gentlemen, silence ! Order for a song !" follow- 
ing this with his lugubrious ditty relative to old 
Polly. 



CHAPTER IX 



AFTER THIRTY YEARS. 



Old times were changed, old manners gone ; 

— Scott's m Lay of the Last Minstrel." 

WE have now arrived at a most interesting 
period in the life of Mr. Watts — that 
of his life as a diver. It was a life full of peril 
and adventure and hairbreadth 'scapes from 
death, even more so than had been his sea life ; 
and it provided him also with more opportunities 
of service to others. 

There was some difficulty in deciding as to 
the date when Henry entered the service of 
the Commissioners, but the old discharge note 
from the brig " Martha," already mentioned, 
establishes the fact that Henry Watts was serv- 
ing on board of her from August 19th to 
November 19th, 1861, and as he did not go 
to sea again after once starting for the Commis- 
sioners, he could not have entered their service 



AFTER THIRTY YEARS 93 

earlier than December, 1861, and probably did 
not do so till the beginning of 1862. 

On June 7th, 1857, just six months after his 
conversion, he married his second wife, Sarah 
Ann Thompson, by whom he had two children, 
a son and a daughter, both still living. The 
marriage took place at Monkwearmouth Parish 
Church, the contracting parties being certified 
as living in Dock Street, Monkwearmouth. As 
a matter of fact, they lived in Monkey's Yard, 
but had taken up temporary residence in Dock 
Street for a sufficient length of time to enable 
them to be married at Monkwearmouth Parish 
Church. 

Henry's second wife owned some five or six 
of the houses in Monkey's Yard, as well as 
some other property, the whole of it coming to 
her on the death of her mother. The deeds 
connected with the property were sent out to 
her brother in Australia, in connection with his 
claim to a share in the estate. When on their 
way home again the mail boat carrying them 
was wrecked, but the deeds were recovered, 
though in a sodden condition and, in fact, almost 



94 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

a pulp, and were sent on to Sunderland.* 
Henry tells how, when he afterwards had to try- 
to sign his name in connection with this pro- 
perty, he was so long about it that the solicitor, 
Mr. Snowball, lost patience and exclaimed : 
" Come along, man ; you're going to use up all 
the ink in the office. Anyone might think you 
were signing a Royal Charter." To which 
Henry could find nothing to say but, " Aye, 
aye, Mr. Snowbaal ; be canny wiv us ; aw's 
deem' me best." 

Henry's second wife died in 1884, after 
twenty-seven years of happy married life, and 
is held in affectionate remembrance by all who 
knew her. 

Before recounting some of the stirring inci- 
dents of Henry's life as a diver, a brief sketch 
of the river and port at the time he entered the 
Commissioners' service will be interesting, and, 
indeed, necessary, as showing the conditions he 
worked under, and also for the purpose of com- 
paring the town and river then with what it was 
when he was a boy. 

* The deeds are preserved in the Sunderland Museum. 



AFTER THIRTY YEARS 95 

The three veterans of the River Wear Com- 
missioners, Mr. C. H. Dodds, the general man- 
ager, Mr. Daniel Wright, and Mr. Harry Watts, 
having been brought together, it seemed an 
excellent opportunity to get some facts relating 
to the port in the fifties, and much of the follow- 
ing information is the result of that interview. 

In those early days all the ships that came to 
the port were sailing ships, and Mr. Wright, 
who was at first a lighthouse keeper, remembers 
as many as 150 ships passing into the river on 
one tide. 

The ships did not come singly ; all of them 
were dependent upon the wind for motive 
power, and as a consequence they generally 
came in fleets when the wind was favourable, 
hence the " wood of ships " spoken of in chapter 
two. The first difficulty they had to contend 
with was to get into the harbour, a difficulty 
which can scarcely be exaggerated, as far too 
little attention was paid to the entrance of the 
river at that time. Then, having got safely 
over the bar, the next trouble was to get rid of 
the ballast. The crews worked in frantic haste 
at getting it out ; every available space was 



96 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

crammed with ballast ; the quays were covered 
with it ; lighters were loaded with it ; it was 
dumped anywhere and everywhere, the main 
thing being to get it clear of the ship, so that 
she could get up the river to load. Mr. Dodds 
states that a considerable quantity of the ballast 
was carted away and tipped at Hendon. 

The disposal of this ballast is of more import- 
ance than appears at first sight, for a large part 
of the town is built on these ballast deposits. 
In the History of Sunderland, published by 
Mr. Taylor Potts in 1892, the writer says : — 

u There were different places on the river where 
the ballast was discharged. On the North Sands, 
ships had to be discharged into carts, which took 
the ballast up to the top of the bank. Monkwear- 
mouth Church stood up the sloping bank, 150 yards 
from the high water mark. Monkwearmouth-shore 
Poorhouse, in our remembrance, stood quite in the 
fields, but Sir Hedworth Williamson kept leading 
up and depositing the ballast till the churchyard 
was below the level of the deposits ; and they like- 
wise went on laying ballast around the Poorhouse 
till at last it lay in a hole, the surrounding levels 
being higher than the chimneys of the house, which 
was at last pulled down and the whole of the space 
levelled up. 



AFTER THIRTY YEARS 97 

M On the North Quay there were two cranes, 
worked by horses, to take the ballast out of the 
ships. The Lookout Hill, Cage Hill, and Palmer's 
Hill are only ballast deposits. Charles Street, 
Barclay Street and others were levelled up with 
ballast for house building. Afterwards a subway 
was constructed, and an engine and cranes erected 
below the Ferry, the engine doing the duty of dis- 
charging ballast and also drawing waggons to the 
top of the bank, where at first the ballast was tipped 
into carts, and afterwards into waggons on a lower 
level, and thus the roads and streets from the Look- 
out Hill to Roker were formed. 

" On the beach, above the Wreath quay, vessels 
used to discharge their ballast into carts, which 
carried their loads up to the higher ballast hills, 
where the Wearmouth Colliery ship their coals. 
There was also a quantity led out to Southwick, 
and also at Robert Reay's yard at North Hylton, 
the two latter principally from keels. 

u At Deptford, vessels used to lie on the beach 
and discharge their ballast into carts, which was 
led up the road, and formed what is called the 
Ballast Hills at Ayre's Quay, and also Lookout Hill 
at Deptford. . . . From Hardcastle's, Bowes', 
and Ettrick's quays, and from Thornhill's, Holmes', 
and Wylam's wharves, ballast was led all over the 
town, wherever required for paving and other filling- 
in purposes, as well as to other places of deposit. 

H 



98 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

' ' Contractors, when putting in culverts or sewers, 
are sometimes astonished to find London dredge 
sand, with shells and small dust coals all mixed 
after being tipped ; and sometimes flints are crossed 
in the same way, having come from the West of 
England as ballast. 

u The difficulty with the different owners of quays 
and wharfingers, after landing the ballast, was to 
find a place of deposit, and they often had a long 
lead to the spot." 

The ballast being got rid of by hook or crook, 
the ships went up the river to be loaded, and 
when loaded had to wait for a favourable wind 
to get out of the river. There was thus very 
often a large number of ships in the river ; and 
when at last there came a favourable wind, off 
they would all go together, so that, as Mr. 
Dodds remarked, it was no exaggeration to say 
that at such times the sea was one mass of ships 
from the Tyne to Hartlepool. 

But perhaps the chief cause for so many ships 
being in the harbour together was the low water 
on the bar ; it was then usually two feet below 
zero (zero being the standard gauge mark from 
which all depths and heights of the water are 
measured), and the improvement in this matter 



AFTER THIRTY YEARS 99 

may be judged from the fact that it is now 
fifteen feet — an enormous difference. 

It was no uncommon thing then for ships to 
be in the river for weeks at a time waiting for 
favourable conditions to get out. Mr. Wright 
tells how he waited thus for a month when he 
was an apprentice; and Mr. Watts tells of a much 
worse case than that, namely, of two loaded ships 
in the dock and one in the river which had to 
wait for three months before they could get 
away, owing to a long-continued spell of bad 
weather and the want of water on the bar. 

Indeed, a wait of two or three weeks was 
thought nothing of in those days, though it 
came very hard upon the crew. The crews of 
coasting vessels were engaged by the voyage, 
and had to provide for themselves while in 
harbour, no matter how long they stayed there ; 
yet they had to be on board their ships every 
morning to do such work as was necessary, and 
that for nothing. All men before the mast 
lived on shore during the time they were in 
harbour, but the shipowners were responsible 
for the apprentices, and had to provide them 
with the necessary board and lodging. The 



ioo LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

men who had signed articles by the month had 
the best of the bargain during these long delays, 
for not only were their wages going on, but it 
was part of their contract that they lived on 
board, all found. Thus, speaking locally, the 
only men, that is, workmen, who suffered by 
these long spells in harbour, were the Sunder- 
land seamen, they being engaged mostly in the 
coasting trade. 

The owner to whom Mr. Wright was appren- 
ticed paid nine shillings a week for his board, 
and it will be seen by the Indentures of Mr. 
Watts, given earlier in the book, that the 
amount to be so paid in his case was eight 
shillings. There were hundreds of apprentices, 
and all these boarded out during the time the 
ships were waiting, not at all a bad thing for 
some of those who kept boarding-houses, for as 
many as twenty apprentices would be lodged at 
one house, and the boarding-house keeper would 
know how to make a profit out of such a 
transaction. 

As to the price of food in Sunderland at this 
time (1850-60), some things were cheap enough, 
and some very dear as compared with the pre- 



AFTER THIRTY YEARS 101 

sent. Fish, for instance, was cheap, sixpence 
being the price generally paid for a large cod ; 
meat, too, was not dear, but flour was four 
shillings a stone. Mr. Wright remarked that, 
at his home, where all the bread was got from 
the bakehouse, their baker's bill was never less 
than £i a week. 

When Henry first began as a diver he came 
under a West-country diver, then working for 
the River Wear Commissioners, and who, per- 
haps, being a little jealous, tried to frighten 
Harry from the business by telling him of 
the number of would-be divers who had been 
drowned, and giving many gruesome details 
connected with such cases. He even went so 
far once as to play certain tricks on Harry when 
under the water ; but he had got hold of the 
wrong man to frighten, as he soon discovered, 
and in a very little while Harry was able to 
work alone. 

Henry first used the diving-bell in 1864 in 
blasting the rocks away from below Lambton 
Drops. All the ships' moorings were laid by 
means of the diving-bell at that time ; but his 
principal work at first was in the river, and one 



102 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

of the big jobs he had, which lasted a long time, 
was clearing away the stone at the entrance of 
the river. About 1869 or 1870 he began to lift 
all the stones inside the old pier, and got away 
altogether some 300 or 400 tons of them, thus 
making a very great improvement at the en- 
trance. 

It was while working there one day that he 
had a fight with a devil fish (Lophius pise a- 
tortus). Even when dead this fish is an ugly 
beast to look at, sending a shudder of repug- 
nance through one, and one feels that it would 
be better to go a long way round rather than to 
meet it alive and in its native element. It has 
an enormous head and mouth, grows to the 
length of five feet, and is common along the 
British coast. 

While Henry was at work, then, he suddenly 
found, on looking round, one of these devil fish 
near him with its huge mouth open, and con- 
templating an attack, or so Henry thought. 
Not having anything but his knife to defend 
himself with, he signalled to be drawn up, got 
a big boathook and descended again, to find 
the ugly visitor still there. Using the boathook 



AFTER THIRTY YEARS 103 

like a bayonet, Henry attacked the fish, rammed 
the head of the boathook into its mouth, and so 
held it on the ground till he despatched it with 
his knife. 

He had not been working long as a diver 
before he was the means of saving several lives. 
In 1862, while working at the South gates, a 
boat containing two boys capsized, and the lads 
were in danger of drowning. Henry jumped 
into the water, though he had on one of his 
heavy diving boots, swam to the boys, and kept 
them up till a coble put off, into which they were 
all three taken. 

The following year a boy and a girl, playing 
on some timber moored near the Panns Ferry, 
fell into the water, and the strong ebb tide took 
them swiftly down the river. There was a steam 
crane at the place then, and Henry happened to 
be in the engine-house at the time. Hearing 
the cries he ran out, jumped into the river, 
and, with much difficulty, succeeded in bringing 
them both to the shore. 

A local newspaper, of the year 1 866, contains 
the first reference I can find to Mr. Watts's life- 
saving efforts. The report is given here because 



104 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

of the fact that it verifies the number of lives he 

had thus far saved : — 

"Narrow Escape from Drowning. — Yesterday 
afternoon, about half-past three o'clock, a lad named 
Smith, about 16 years of age, son of an engineer 
employed on one of the Commissioners' dredgers, 
narrowly escaped drowning. He was on board a 
dredger in the new Graving Dock, which was full 
of water, when he accidentally fell overboard. Mr. 
Harry Watts, in the employ of the Commissioners, 
gallantly jumped into the water and rescued him. 
The lad was very much exhausted, but restoratives 
were promptly used, and he was soon brought 
round. This is the twenty-second time that Watts 
has so nobly exerted himself in saving persons who 
have been in imminent danger of being drowned." 

The twenty-third rescue is attested by Mr. 
Daniel Wright, Harbour Master, in a letter 
dated Sept. 5th, 1866, and refers to a boy who 
fell off the Commissioners' Quay into the river ; 
and the twenty-fourth occurred in 1867, when 
Henry saved a boy who had fallen off the 
Custom House Quay into the river. A short 
newspaper report of a dozen lines tells of 
the twenty-fifth rescue. It happened in 1868, 
but the exact date is not given. The report is 
as follows : — 



AFTER THIRTY YEARS 105 

"Twenty-five Lives Saved by One Individual. 
— In the employ of the Wear Commissioners is a 
man named Henry Watts, who has a perfect pen- 
chant for rescuing lives, and has in one way or 
another succeeded in saving - twenty-five individuals. 
The twenty-fifth case was on Friday night, when, 
about seven o'clock, a boy named John Fox, living 
in Mill Street, fell out of a boat at the Mark Quay 
into the river. Watts was at no great distance, 
and immediately he heard a lad was overboard he 
jumped into the river, and with some difficulty 
grasped the lad and brought him ashore." 

And now at last there comes the first men- 
tion in all this strange, eventful history of any 
recognition for such remarkable services, but 
this and the ensuing consequences are of suf- 
ficient importance to be dealt with in a separate 
section. It is only necessary to say here that 
from this time onward it is fairly easy to follow 
Mr. Watts's public life and acts ; the man has 
come to the front, and though recognition has 
been tardy enough, it has come at last, and 
henceforth no special act of his passes unnoticed 
by the Press. 



CHAPTER X 

HENRY WATTS AS A DIVER. 

A nd Mammon's the master and man is the slave, 
Toiling for wealth on the brink of the grave ; 
Leaving a world of sunlight and sound, 
For night-like gloom and a silence profound ; 
And fearful the sights that the diver must see, 
Walking alone in the depths of the sea. 

— Song, "The Diver." 

THERE are so many incidents and adven- 
tures connected with Mr. Watts's life as 
a diver that it is difficult to know how to 
arrange them satisfactorily. The best method 
appears to be to give the less important inci- 
dents here and to deal with the more important 
in a separate chapter. 

It was while he was working as a diver, 
and was on board one of the Commissioners' 
dredgers, that he had the narrow escape from 
drowning, owing to the boy whom he was trying 
to save gripping his legs, as told in a previous 



WATTS AS A DIVER 107 

chapter. This happened on August 18th, 1875, 
and is reported in the local paper as follows : — 
"Gallant Rescue from Drowning. — An instance 
of great bravery on the part of a diver named Henry 
Watts, in the employ of the River Wear Commis- 
sioners, was displayed on the morning- of Wednes- 
day last. It appears that about 9.20 a.m., a boy 
named Bolton, living at Monkwearmouth, was 
playing about the quay near Pemberton's Drops, 
when he accidentally fell into the river. Watts, 
who was on board one of the Commissioners' 
dredgers, which was situated a considerable dis- 
tance from the scene of the accident, at once plunged 
into the water and swam to the assistance of the 
lad. Before he had reached him the boy had sunk 
twice, and was about to go down, probably for the 
last time, when the gallant diver seized him and 
proceeded to bring him to the shore. After having 
been once taken down by the lad, whose grip now 
became exceedingly tenacious, Watts succeeded 
with great difficulty in landing in safety. The 
poor lad was at once conveyed to his residence, 
and restoratives were applied. Every praise is due 
to Watts for the pluck and gallantry he displayed, 
and seeing that this is the thirtieth occasion upon 
which he has saved lives from drowning, we hope 
that some substantial recognition of his services 
will be given, either by the Royal Humane Society, 
or some other society having for its object humane 
principles." 



108 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

In 1884, while diving at the wreck of a ship 
called the " Adolphus," he had a narrow escape. 
The ship was lying on her side, the after part 
of her being above water, and steam was up in 
an engine on the poop deck. The boiler of this 
engine burst, flinging the workmen off the poop 
deck and hurting many of them, one so severely 
that he died shortly afterwards. Henry was 
working not far from the engine when the 
explosion took place, yet he escaped without 
injury. 

When he had been at the work of diving 
about two years, he was engaged one day doing 
some repairs at No. 2 sluice at the dock, when 
he became entangled with a long length of 
spunyarn which was being used in the work. 
The spunyarn had become fastened in the collar 
of his diving-dress and the sluice, so it was use- 
less giving the signal to be drawn up, as the 
strong spunyarn held him fast, and what to do 
he knew not for a while. But something had to 
be done, so, exerting all his strength, he gave a 
heavy spring backward, and so great was the 
force he used that the stud on the collar of his 
diving-dress was broken off where the spunyarn 



WATTS AS A DIVER 109 

was caught, and up he came, breathless and ex- 
hausted. On another occasion he was entangled 
under the water when working at No. 1 Graving 
Dock, and was in a terribly exhausted condition 
when liberated. 

But a worse case of entanglement than either 
of these happened to him at the Fame Islands. 
One of Mr. Scott's tugboats had been wrecked 
there, and as her patent "sweeps," or paddles, 
were valuable, Henry was engaged to go and 
recover them if possible. When he got to the 
wreck he scarcely knew how to begin his work, 
for the growth of seaweed was so thick and 
luxuriant that it was with the greatest difficulty 
he could move amongst it. But it was not in 
his nature to give in without a trial, and as he 
waded about he presently found himself en- 
tangled in the weed to such an extent that he 
could not move, and the more he struggled to 
clear himself the more hopeless seemed his 
chance of doing so. If the reader has ever 
been on Lake Derwentwater, and has seen the 
heavy growth of weed extending over some 
acres of the Lake bottom just opposite Lodore 
Hotel, he will have some idea of the difficulty 



no LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

and danger of Harry's position, encumbered as 
he was with his diving gear. It was only by 
the exercise of great pluck and patience that he 
finally managed to cut his way out of the hor- 
rible stuff with his knife. 

He was once employed diving at the out- 
let beside the roundhead, his particular work 
being to level the bottom with concrete. Blast- 
ing operations were in progress two or three 
hundred yards from where he was working, and 
by some oversight twenty of the "shots" acci- 
dentally exploded simultaneously while Henry 
was under water. His sensations were extra- 
ordinary, as may well be supposed. He was 
blown clear away from the work and turned up- 
side down, and his assistants drew him in feet 
first. He says that it seemed to him as though 
a cart-load of scrap iron had been suddenly 
tipped on top of him. One of his fingers 
was broken as the result of this accident, and 
altogether he considers he had a remarkable 
escape from death. 

Still another narrow escape from death oc- 
curred while he was working at the bottom of 
the river at Hetton drops. He was removing 



WATTS AS A DIVER in 

some stones when he felt some small pieces fall- 
ing on to his feet, and there came a noise like 
thunder which set up an agitation in the whole 
of his body. He was unable to see any cause 
for this, but wisely signalled to be drawn up. 
Hardly had he gained the deck of the lighter 
when the whole of the quay wall came tumbl- 
ing down and fell into the water. He thus 
escaped by a hairbreadth from being buried 
under the huge mass of debris. 

While working in the dock one day he felt 
something grip his arm, and fearing that his 
dress would be punctured, he signalled to be 
brought up. His son was in attendance on 
him at the time, and as Henry got above 
water and the mouthpiece was unscrewed from 
his helmet, he said, 

" Whativer's gettin' haud on us, Tom? It 
seems like Satan's own sel !" 

It was a monster crab, not one of the com- 
mon kind, but a fellow twenty inches across the 
extended claws, and with hundreds of short 
spikes as sharp as needles all over him —truly 
an ugly customer to make acquaintance with 
under water. Henry presented the crab to the 



ii2 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

Sunderland Museum, where it may be seen in a 
case to the left of the entrance. 

One of the worst of his tasks as a diver has 
been the recovery of dead bodies, a task which he 
always willingly undertook without thought of 
fee or reward, and he has searched the river for 
days rather than tell the sorrowing relatives that 
the search was hopeless. He had many grue- 
some adventures while at this work, but as no 
good purpose could be served by recounting 
such cases, they may be passed without further 
notice. 

But here are a couple of incidents of a dif- 
ferent character. The account of the first is 
taken from the Sunderland Echo of March 9th, 
1880: 

"On Saturday evening while the daughter of 
the captain of a screw steamer then lying in the 
South Dock at No. 3 drops, was proceeding on 
shore from the ship, she slipped and fell from the 
gangway into the dock. The young lady was 
speedily recovered, but it was found that in her 
fright she had dropped a small leather bag contain- 
ing a considerable sum of money. [The amount 
was ^47.] After several vain endeavours to re- 
cover the treasure, the services of Mr. Henry Watts 
were obtained yesterday morning, and in a very 



WATTS AS A DIVER 113 

few minutes after he descended into the water he 
reappeared with the bag and its contents, and had 
the pleasure of returning them to the owner, who 
had watched his proceedings from the dock side." 

This report omits one or two essential facts. 
First, that he was asked to recover the bag on 
the Sunday but refused, though he willingly 
went down on the Monday ; and second, that 
he received nothing but the bare diver's fee for 
his services, which was paid to him in the cap- 
tain's presence, after the money had been count- 
ed over in the office of Mr. Atkinson, the traffic 
manager for the R. W. C. 

Even that, however, was better treatment than 
he received in the next case. The schooner 
" Susan," of Whitstable, was sunk at the Ferry 
boat landing, and Mr. Watts was engaged to 
raise her. Before he commenced the captain 
came and, with the plea of being " very hard 
up," begged Henry to go down into the state 
room and try to get £6 in gold that was in his 
bed berth, also a suit of pilot cloth, a watch and 
chain, a pair of valuable glasses and a ring. 
The obliging Henry went down, and at the risk 
of his life broke open the state room door, 



ii 4 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

searched the place till he found the articles, 
brought them up and delivered them at the 
Commissioners' offices. The captain called the 
next day and got them, but never so much as 
thanked Henry for the risk and trouble he had 
taken. 

On one occasion he was sent for to attend to 
the Maryport Dock gates, and while working 
under the water a piece blew out of the air pipe, 
there being a faulty place in the pipe and the 
pressure of air being too strong for it. He was 
drawn to the surface just in the nick of time to 
save his life. 

Among the old letters in the possession of 
Mr. Watts is one signed by a Mr. J. Lonsdale, 
and dated May 23rd, 1877, in which the writer 
thanks Henry most sincerely for having saved 
his life a few days previously. The matter is 
worth a little more detail than is given in the 
letter. 

On May 20th, 1877, Henry was working op- 
posite Mr. Potts's yard, lifting the steam tug 
11 W T ansbeck," and among those helping him 
was his cousin, John Lonsdale. While the 
work was in progress Lonsdale somehow be- 



WATTS AS A DIVER 115 

came entangled in a chain attached to a heavy 
pair of stone clips. These had got round his 
legs and he fell overboard with them so fixed, the 
length of heavy chain dragging him down to 
the bottom and preventing every effort to 
rise to the surface. Henry looked round just 
in time to see Lonsdale disappear under the 
water, and he immediately dived after him. 
He released him from the chain that held him, 
brought him to the surface and on board — this 
being not the least difficult of his many plucky 
rescues. 

An amusing incident of his diving life is re- 
membered by some of the older inhabitants of 
Millfield. Near Rutland Street there was for- 
merly a burn running through some workmen's 
allotment gardens, and once during a heavy rain 
the drains there became choked, and Mr. Watts 
was sent for to go down and remove the ob- 
struction, the flood having become dangerous 
as the water had risen to sixteen feet. The ob- 
struction was caused by a fearful collection of 
dead dogs and cats, tin cans and refuse of vari- 
ous kinds. A huge crowd had gathered to see 
the novel sight of a diver at work in his full 



n6 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

diving dress in a street, and when Harry came 
up and saw them, he, as soon as his helmet was 
removed, u improved the occasion" by deliver- 
ing an address on temperance ! 

This chapter may appropriately finish with a 
couple of incidents showing his bravery and re- 
sourcefulness under most trying circumstances. 

A steamer which had been on the rocks was 
taken into the South Dock and placed under 
No. 6 drop, Henry being sent down to ascer- 
tain the extent of the damage. While he was 
under her she settled down and suddenly 
listed over on to the side under which he 
was working, thus jamming him into the mud. 
Luckily there was plenty of mud, some three 
to four feet of it ; but think of being in such 
a position with a heavy ship pinning one 
down ! He did not lose his head, however, 
but made the danger signal to those above, 
who tried to pull him up, and he seconded 
their efforts by scratching and scrambling his 
way through the horrible mud till he got clear 
of the ship and so came to the surface, after 
a most exhausting trial of his strength and 
endurance. 



WATTS AS A DIVER 117 

And now let the reader reconstruct for him- 
self the following scene : — About nine o'clock 
at night in the winter of 1893, something was 
found to be wrong with the dock gates at the 
South outlet, and Henry had to go down 
and put it right. He was working under 
a depth of about twenty-five feet of water, and 
had to be guided mainly, if not entirely, by his 
sense of touch, for he was in pitchy darkness. 
In some way, probably by the action of the 
swell of the water, he lost his signal rope, and 
in feeling about for it his left hand got into a 
block through which a chain ran and which was 
being slowly hauled up by a hydraulic machine. 
In a moment his fingers were drawn into the 
block, and thus held fast, what was he to do ? 
There was no possibility of help, and he had 
to decide quickly how to extricate himself. 
His free hand was hurriedly swept round in a 
vain search for the signal rope, and then — one 
shudders to think of it — he lifted himself so 
that the whole of his weight and the weight of 
his heavy diving things came upon the im- 
prisoned hand, and with a great wrench he tore 
it away, taking off part of one finger and 



n8 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

seriously injuring another. Then he came 
up, bleeding fearfully, and was taken to the In- 
firmary to be attended to. 

He tells how before going down on this occa- 
sion he left a message with his attendants that 
if his wife # came to ask how long he would be, 
they were to say about twenty minutes if all 
went well. His wife did go ; she received the 
message and went home to prepare supper. 
But no sooner had she entered the house than 
she felt something was wrong, and she knelt 
and prayed again and again " O Lord, save our 
Harry!" "An' at that verra time," says Harry, 
"Aw was under the watter prayin' ti God for 
relief fra my peril." 

The result of this accident was blood-poison- 
ing, and, as he expressed it, "Aw wes black and 
blue fra th' croon o' me heed ti th' sole o' me 
fut !" He was eight months ill, and during 
that time, such was the estimation in which he 
was held, people came from all over the king- 
dom to see him, one gentleman from as far as 
Toronto, Canada. 

He was an out-patient at the Infirmary, and 

* Mr. Watts lost his second wife in 1884, and in 1887 married 
Mrs. Dorothy Jane Hunter, his present wife. 



WATTS AS A DIVER 119 

with his usual determination he would walk to 
the Infirmary to see the doctor. 

One night, before going to the Infirmary, he 
fainted. He told this to the doctor, who said, 
"Well, now, Harry, you must take a glass of 
hot milk, as hot as you can take it, and you 
must have a little rum in it too." 

"What!" exclaimed Harry, "What de ye 
say, doctor, some rum ? Nay, nay, it did me 
ower much harm i' me young days, an' aw'll 
niver touch't ageyn." 

Another doctor was called in for consultation 
and agreed that the hot milk with the rum in it 
was the proper thing for the patient, but the 
patient's will was stronger than the doctors' 
arguments, and he steadily refused to touch it. 
Finally he took the hot milk without the rum. 

"And what cured you after all, Henry?" he 
was asked. 

"The Lord cured me," was the fervent 
answer. " I lifted my hands ti God an' prayed 
ti Him, an' I had prayin' people aboot me, an' 
He heard me ; an' that's how I got cured," 

And when Science has said all it can say on 
such a matter, it will still be short of a cure as 
efficacious as a simple faith like that. 



CHAPTER XI 



RECOGNITION. 



Service without reward is punishment. — Old Proverb. 

THERE is a hackneyed platitude to the 
effect that virtue is its own reward, but 
it is safe to say that the average man does not 
find such a result sufficient. It might be so in 
an ideal world inhabited by ideal people, but in 
this work-a-day world, in addition to the ap- 
proval of our conscience, we love to have the 
approval of our fellows and to know that our 
acts are appreciated, and especially is this 
the case when we are actuated by altruistic 
motives. This is, of course, a form of vanity, 
but then vanity is almost a universal failing. 
It is not alone the desire to be thought well of, 
or to receive praise ; it shows itself in the most 
varied forms. No doubt there are those, who, 
like 



RECOGNITION 121 

" Humble Allen, with an awkward shame, 
Do good by stealth and blush to find it fame," 

but these are the rare exceptions. The vast 
majority find the scriptural injunction, " Let 
not your right hand know what your left hand 
doeth," a very difficult task. 

The more honour then to Henry Watts that 
he did this. Rightly considered, it is the main 
factor in his humble career, the glory of his 
life, that for twenty-seven years, from 1839 to 
1866 he continually risked his life to save 
others without any reward or recognition of 
his services. In that time he had saved 
twenty-three lives, nearly one life for every 
year. 

Here is a copy of the first public acknow- 
ledgment of his services received by Mr. 
Watts : — 

At a meeting of the Royal Humane Society holden 
at their office, 4, Trafalgar Square, on Wednesday 
the 17th day of October, 1866. Present, Thomas 
Eld Baker, Esq., Treasurer, in the chair. It was 
resolved unanimously, that the sincere thanks of 
this Committee inscribed on parchment are hereby 
presented to Henry Watts for his courage and 
humanity in having on the 5th of September, 1866, 



122 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

jumped into the river Wear, Sunderland, to the re- 
lief of William Hall, who had fallen therein and 
whose life he saved. 

Lambton Young, Secretary. 
Thomas Eld Baker, Chairman. 

But the honour of really calling public atten- 
tion and appreciation to the services of Mr. 
Watts belongs to a local society, The Diamond 
Swimming Club. 

Among other newspaper cuttings preserved 
by Mr. Watts, is one without the name of the 
paper and undated, reporting the presentation 
of prizes by the then Mayor (Aid. Gourley), in 
connection with the Swimming Gala of the 
Diamond Swimming Club. At the end of the 
presentation ceremony the members sat down 
to a supper, at which " The Mayor said it 
seemed rather strange that no effort had been 
made to bring the case of Mr. Henry Watts 
for saving the lives of twenty-five individuals 
under the notice of the Humane Society, and 
he should do all he could to procure Mr. 
Watts some tangible recognition of his gallant 
services.' , 



RECOGNITION 123 

The full name of the society was the " Dia- 
mond Swimming Club and Humane Society, 
Sunderland," and it was, as I learn from one of 
its certificates, established September, 1867. 
Among the objects of the Club were the pro- 
motion of swimming among young men, the 
holding of Swimming Galas, of which a num- 
ber was held in the High Street baths, and 
others at the South Outlet and Hendon Docks, 
and the giving of rewards, medals and certifi- 
cates, to those who rescued persons from drown- 
ing. The late Mr. James G. Campbell, Printer, 
of Press Lane, Sunderland, was the honorary 
secretary, and Mr. John Robe, well known in 
local history as a swimmer and life-saver, was 
the swimming master. One who remembers 
the club and its doings, says that among its 
famous swimmers were Mr. William Robinson, 
who was not only famous as a swimmer but as 
an athlete, and who afterwards became landlord 
of the "Argo Frigate" in West Wear Street; Mr. 
Joseph Bewick, at that time connected with the 
Customs, who afterwards ' discovered ' Mr. 
Morton, the champion swimmer ; Mr. Sam 
Skeed and Mr. W. Shevill. There was also a 



i2 4 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

man called Johnston, a sort of dare-devil fel- 
low, who afterwards went into the American 
Navy. Mr. W. J. Branfoot was also a promin- 
ent member of the club, and for many years 
held the record for Sunderland for certain dis- 
tances. The swimming drawers of the club- 
members were made of white linen with a black 
diamond worked on the hip. The meeting 
place of the club was at the High Street Baths. 
The following is a copy of a cutting from a 
newspaper which is preserved in Mr. Watts's 
Journal, but without name or date attached. 
It appears to have been cut from the Sunder- 
land Times : — 

" Presentation to Mr. Henry Watts. — On 
Tuesday evening- a very interesting meeting took 
place at the Gospel Hall, Russell Street, on which 
occasion the bronze medal of the Royal Humane 
Society and a gold medal presented by the Diamond 
Swimming Club and Humane Society were pre- 
sented to Mr. Watts, as a token of appreciation of 
his bravery in saving 25 persons from drowning. 
The chair was occupied by His Worship the Mayor 
(Mr. John Crosby), who called upon Mr. J. Candlish 
to make the presentation. 

11 Mr. Candlish said he expected his duties that 
evening to be light, inasmuch as he had relied on 



RECOGNITION 125 

his prerogative as senior member, to be relieved of 
the heavier portion of his duties by his colleague, 
Mr. Gourley, who was, he believed, engaged in an 
interesting errand and one which his lady friends 
present would appreciate. (Laughter.) He had 
great pleasure in presenting Mr. Watts with the 
testimonials, one of which was a bronze medal and 
the other was of greater intrinsic value. He 
trusted Mr. Watts would long be spared to per- 
severe in his course of usefulness. 

1 'Mr. Watts in accepting the testimonials gave 
some interesting details respecting his adventures, 
and said that, notwithstanding many discourage- 
ments he had experienced, he would continue to do 
as he had done, for after all he had only done his 
duty. 

"Among the votes of thanks, Mr. J. B. Hutchin- 
son proposed a vote of thanks to the Mayor for 
presiding, and said that the real strength of the 
town lay, not so much in the wealth and fashion, 
as in the patriotism, honesty, and bravery of its 
inhabitants, of whom Mr. Watts might be viewed 
as a representative. 

" Mr. J. H. Campbell seconded the proposal 
which, on being put by Mr. J. G. Campbell, to 
whose efforts the acknowledgement of merit is to 
be attributed, was carried unanimously. 

" His Worship expressed his great pleasure in 
being present on that occasion, and said that he 



126 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

would have regretted to have missed seeing and 
hearing what he had enjoyed that evening. The 
gold medal bore the following inscription : — 

" 'Diamond Swimming Club and Humane Society. 
Presented to Henry Watts for his courage and 
humanity in saving the lives of 25 persons from 
drowning. 1868.'" 
The above report, like one given in an 
earlier chapter, has missed an essential point. 
The medal from the Royal Humane Society 
was obtained mainly through the exertions of 
Mr. J. G. Campbell, and after repeated applica- 
tions had been made by Captain Heard, R.N., 
and when it was found that the medal after 
all was only the bronze medal of the Royal 
Humane Society which had been awarded, the 
Diamond Swimming Club, thinking that this 
was not of sufficient merit for Henry's nume- 
rous life-saving services, promoted a public sub- 
scription to provide him with a gold medal, and 
this with entire success, the two medals being 
presented together as stated above. 

During the afternoon ot July 21st, 1869, a 
carpenter named James Watt, who was working 
with Henry, fell from No. 2 cranefloat into the 
South Dock Basin. He could not swim, and 



RECOGNITION 127 

was drowning, when Watts jumped into the 
water, swam to him and then swam to a keel 
with him. This was the twenty-sixth life he 
had saved, and for this the parchment certificate 
of the Royal Humane Society was presented to 
him. This certificate reads as follows : — 

At a meeting of the Committee of the Royal 
Humane Society holden at their office 4, Trafalgar 
Square, on Tuesday 17th day of August 1869. 
Present, William Hawes, Esq., Treasurer, in the 
Chair. It was resolved unanimously that the hon- 
orary testimonial of this society inscribed on parch- 
ment be hereby presented to Henry Watts for his 
courage and humanity in having on 21st July 1869, 
jumped into the water at South Dock, Sunderland, 
to the relief of James Watt, who had fallen over- 
board and whose life he saved. 

W. Hawes, Chairman. 
Lambton Young, Secretary. 

This certificate was presented to him in the 
Theatre Royal, Sunderland, at an entertain- 
ment which was given for the benefit of the 
funds of the Diamond Swimming Club. The 
Mayor (Mr. W. Thompson), made the present- 
ation, and in doing so complimented Mr. 
Watts upon his bravery, this being his twenty- 



128 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

sixth successful effort at saving life, and pre- 
sented him with the honorary certificate on 
parchment of the Royal Humane Society. 

The usual votes of thanks were proposed by 
Mr. J. G. Campbell, the secretary of the club, 
and seconded by Mr. John Robe, the swimming 
master. 

The next presentation to Mr. Watts took 
place on November 30th, 1875, when the 
teachers and scholars of Brougham Street Sun- 
day School gave him a large illustrated Bible, 
" As a token of their admiration of his bravery 
as displayed on several occasions in rescuing 
those in danger of drowning." The Bible 
bears a rather long inscription on the fly-leaf 
eulogising the recipient, and is signed by Ezra 
Miller and George Crofton, Superintendents, 
and J. B. Kipling, Secretary of the Sunday 
School. 

During the same year Mr. Watts was the re- 
cipient of a gold medal bearing the following 
inscription : — 

" Presented to Mr. Henry Watts by Mr. Richard- 
son for searching the river Wear and recovering 
the body of his grandson. 1875." 



RECOGNITION 129 

The inscription on the reverse reads : — 

" Mr. Henry Watts, diver at the recent Tay 
Bridge disaster, has saved the lives of 35 persons 
from drowning, besides rendering valuable life-boat 
and rocket-line services. 4th of August, 1884." 

Another medal was presented to Mr. Watts 
during 1875. From the time of his conversion 
Mr. Watts had been an ardent advocate of tem- 
perance and an enthusiastic worker in that 
cause, and a local Temperance Society, the 
United (or Naval) Temperance Crusaders, in 
appreciation of his life-saving services, and as 
a token of their esteem, presented him with a 
fine gold medal. 

The reader may remember the case of the 
lad, Edward Bolton, through whom Henry 
almost lost his life, owing to the lad clasping his 
rescuer round the legs. This brave rescue by 
Henry secured for him the Royal Humane 
Society's vellum certificate, and a handsome 
gold watch subscribed for by friends in Sunder- 
land. The certificate states : — 

At a meeting of the Royal Humane Society 
held at their office, 4, Trafalgar Square, on the 21st 
day of September, 1875, present John March Case, 
K 



i 3 o LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

Esq., in the chair, it was resolved unanimously 
that the courage and humanity displayed by Henry 
Watts in having, on the 18th of August 1875, 
jumped into the river Wear at Wearmouth, to the 
relief of Edward Bolton who had fallen therein 
and whose life he saved, calls for the admiration of 
the Committee and justly entitles him to the honor- 
ary testimonial of this Committee inscribed on 
vellum, which is hereby awarded, he having re- 
ceived the bronze medal in 1868. 

J. M. Case, Chairman. 

Argyll, President. 

Lambton Young, Secretary. 

This presentation took place on December 
14th, 1875, under the auspices of the Sunder- 
land Amateur Athletes, at " A private entertain- 
ment by members of the Club," which proceed- 
ing and the fact that Aid. Kayll, who made the 
presentation, occupied a large part of the time 
with an address on " Athletics, Ancient and 
Modern," called forth some caustic remarks 
from the Editor of the Sunderland Daily Echo, 
as will be seen presently. The Mayor, (Coun- 
cillor John Nicholson), presided, and there was 
a long array of prominent local ladies and gentle- 
men present. At the close of his remarks on 
athletics, Aid. Kayll said that the testimonials 



RECOGNITION 131 

about to be presented were to be received by 
an honest, hard-working man, who was a servant, 
and one of the best they had, of the River 
Wear Commissioners, for his gallantry in hav- 
ing saved the lives of twelve boys, two women, 
and fourteen men,* besides rendering other ser- 
vices. On behalf of the Royal Humane Society, 
he had great pleasure in presenting Henry 
Watts with the handsomely framed certificate 
as a recognition of the courage and humanity 
displayed by him in going to the relief of 
Edward Bolton, at Sunderland. He likewise 
had great pleasure in presenting him with a 
gold watch and chain, which had been sub- 
scribed for by friends in Sunderland, who were 
proud of their fellow townsman, as an acknow- 
ledgment of his courage in saving life from 
drowning. 

" Mr. Watts, who was received with prolonged 
applause, said he had great pleasure in standing up 
to return thanks for the grand testimonials with 
which he had been presented, but he could scarcely 
express the feelings of gratitude he felt towards 
his friends. Truly they had been kind to him and 

* The speaker was wrong here, as the records show that by 
August, 1875, Henry had saved thirty lives. See statement in 
the leading article from the Echo of the following day. 



132 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

had made him a handsome reward, but at the same 
time he assured them that at the time of rescue, he 
had never had such a thing- in his thoughts ; he 
never thought of money, watches, medals, or cer- 
tificates, his only desire was to save life. (Loud 
applause.) After alluding to one or two cases 
where he had been instrumental in saving life, Mr. 
Watts, in hoping that he might be spared to rescue 
30 more lives, said they might depend that when- 
ever danger was about he would be at his post ever 
ready to do his duty. 

M At the close of the meeting, Watts was greeted 
with three cheers and the meeting thus terminated." 

A short leader in the Sunderland Daily Echo 
of December 15th, 1875, said : — 

" Henry Watts. — Sunderland has taken to 
honouring its heroes. While not forgetful of 
her Havelock and Candlish, nor wholly unmind- 
ful of her Jack Crawfords, it is well that she 
should offer a tribute to one of her living 
worthies in the person of Henry Watts. The 
modest merits of this good citizen may, so far as 
the public are concerned, be summed up in the 
simple statement that he has saved upwards of 30 
lives from drowning. When we consider what are 
the awards usually apportioned by mankind to the 
destroyers of their species, the presentation of a 
gold watch and chain, accompanied by a framed 



RECOGNITION 133 

parchment from the Royal Humane Society, in the 
precincts of a disused School Room, must appear 
an inadequate acknowledgment of services so sig- 
nal. But we are new at the business and shall 
improve as we go forward ; and when we find that 
the honour of giving form and reality to this idea 
belongs to the young men of the Gymnasium Club 
we cannot but view it as a hopeful augury of the 
future of this town. As virtue is admired so it 
will be practised. Is it, then, too much to hope 
that on some future occasion of a similar character, 
so calculated to sow in the breasts of our youth the 
seeds of generous aims and laudable ambition, the 
chief magistrate, fitly supported, may be found dis- 
pensing the tokens of public approval in a Hall 
worthy of the occasion, and that the opportunity 
may be seized of enforcing the noble lesson of un- 
selfishness, virtue and philanthropy in a manner 
more befitting than as an appendix to an exhibition 
of Juvenile Sport and an essay on the antiquity of 
the science of gymnastics." 

Remembering that Mr. Watts had been risk- 
ing his life to save others for over a quarter of 
a century without any recognition whatever, 
and that he had in that time rescued some 30 
persons from drowning, the comments of the 
Echo seem none too strong. Obviously the 
town was 'new at the business' of honouring 



i 3 4 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

its heroes, and certainly did not go about it 
in a manner befitting the merits of the case. It 
must be remembered, too, that at the time the 
above was written, no monument of any kind 
had been raised to Jack Crawford, and even his 
grave in Sunderland Church Yard lay unmarked. 
The writer of the above leading article proved 
to be a true prophet when he said "We shall 
improve as we go forward." The town did im- 
prove in these matters, and in due time the seed 
sown by that short but emphatic leader brought 
forth fruit. 



CHAPTER XII 



A SAILORS TRIBUTE. 



Honour and shame from no condition rise ; 

Act well your part, there all the honour lies. — Pope. 

The rank is but the guinea stamp ; 

The man's the gowd for a' that. — Burns. 

IT is now the pleasant duty of the writer of 
these pages to record a presentation to Mr. 
Watts, made, on behalf of the seamen of the 
town, by the man of all others in Sunderland 
whose eloquence enabled him to treat the sub- 
ject in a worthy manner. 

In 1877 the sailors of the East End of Sun- 
derland, remembering that Henry Watts was 
one of themselves, though not then working as a 
mariner, and proud of his record, determined to 
show their appreciation of him by presenting 
him with a silver medal. Mr. Samuel Storey 
was Mayor at the time, and readily consented 
to make the presentation, which he did in one 



136 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

of those forceful and able speeches, of which 
he is such a master. The report of this meet- 
ing at which the presentation was made, and the 
main parts of Mr. Storey's speech, are well 
worth preserving. 

From the Sunderland Daily Echo, Saturday, 
May 19th, 1877 : — 

"Presentation to Mr. Henry Watts. — Last 
night Mr. Watts, one of the River Wear Com- 
missioners' divers, well known for his efforts 
in saving - life, was presented by the Mayor, Mr. 
Samuel Storey, on behalf of the sailors of the East 
End of Sunderland, with a silver medal, as a token 
of their appreciation of his many kind services to 
them. The presentation took place in the Arcade 
Long Room, High Street East, where there was a 
large attendance of seamen and others. Mr. Watts 
appeared before the audience with several medals 
on his breast, which he had received on different 
occasions for saving life. 

" In making the presentation the Mayor said he 
had had many unpleasant duties to perform while 
he had been Mayor. He had also had many pleasant 
duties, and many which he thought had conferred 
an honour upon him, rather than upon those who 
had kindly asked him to do anything at those meet- 
ings, and he must say that the object for which they 
were assembled that night was one which enabled 



A SAILORS' TRIBUTE 137 

him to say that he estimated, not that he was doing 
Henry Watts an honour, but that they had con- 
ferred an honour upon him, as being the person 
chosen to present that medal to him. Virtue was 
of no rank ; and good deeds were not performed in 
this world only by wealthy and distinguished people. 
On the contrary, there was as much virtue, as much 
benevolence, as much self-denying willinghood 
amongst poor people as there was amongst rich 
people, and many a noble deed had been done by a 
man wearing a fustian jacket and having perhaps a 
pair of horny dirty hands. And it seemed to him 
that it was one of the most honourable things a 
nation could do, and that those who were in 
authority in a nation could do, to honour good 
deeds and self-denying actions whenever they saw 
them and whoever might be the performer. The 
bulk of the rewards and honours conferred in this 
country were absorbed by men of wealth and men 
of education and position, but there were as heroic 
deeds performed, deeds of as great service to the 
country and as honourable to the persons who 
achieved them as any of those other deeds that 
were so amply and fully rewarded. Those who did 
these deeds lived in the common walks of life. 
Their fame seldom was trumpeted in the news- 
papers, and never heard of at Court ; they never 
had a place in Parliament. But they had a more 
satisfactory reward than these, namely, a know- 
ledge that they had performed good deeds and by 



i 3 8 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

the performance of these good deeds they gained 
the respect and gratitude of those around them. 
(Applause.) Now they would see the point of his 
remarks, when he mentioned the name of Henry 
Watts, who was one of themselves. He, Mr. 
Watts, was not a lord and never would be one ; 
he was not what the world called a great man, yet 
he (the speaker) ventured to say that there were 
very few lords, and very few so-called great men, 
who could say that thirty-two times in their life 
they had performed so eminent and noble a service 
as that of saving a human life. (Applause.) Yet 
their friend there, who was one of themselves, 
had, on thirty-two different occasions performed so 
honourable and noble and self-denying an act. 
Well, Mr. Watts had not been without reward for 
these acts. He looked at him there and saw him 
be-medalled about the breast as if he was some 
grand old hero of a hundred fights. (Applause.) 
He had gained these medals, he ventured to say, in 
a much more useful and honourable way than often 
soldiers gained their medals in battle. Because 
often soldiers were compelled to fight in a bad 
cause, and at any time their fighting entailed loss 
and sorrow and pain and death for thousands and 
tens of thousands of their fellow creatures. Henry 
Watts's medals bore witness to no loss of life and 
no sorrow or trouble in households, but they wit- 
nessed that he had brought comfort and happiness 
to many of those who otherwise would have suf- 



A SAILORS' TRIBUTE 139 

fered. But he had not only distinguished himself 
in that way. He thought he was correct in saying 
that there never was any shipwreck or disaster but 
at which he had been found perfectly willing to 
suffer all the trouble and danger necessary in order 
to do good on these occasions also. He had had 
many medals presented to him. The Government 
and the Humane Society had each recognized his 
worth ; very many private bodies had recognized 
his worth ; and now the sailors in the East End of 
Sunderland had thought it would not be an un- 
worthy thing, and he was sure it was not, that he 
should wear upon his breast a medal obtained out 
of the earnings of working men. Therefore these 
sailors — he would call them gentlemen, because 
what constituted a gentleman was the performance 
of gentlemanly acts, and nothing could be more 
gentlemanly, nothing more becoming in the real 
gentleman than to recognize the honourable charac- 
ter and conduct of his fellows — these sailors, he said, 
had contributed small sums towards that object, 
and had obtained that medal which was inscribed 
as follows : — 

11 ■ Presented to Mr. Henry Watts by the Sailors 
of the East End of Sunderland, in appreciation of 
his many kind services to them. April, 1877.' 

"The Mayor then pinned the medal to Mr. 
Watts's breast, over the others he was wearing, 
amidst loud applause, and wished he might live a 



140 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

long, honourable, useful and manly life, that he 
might have health and strength given to him, and 
that that might not be the last time when he felt 
that he lived in the estimation of his fellow towns- 
men. (Loud applause.) 

"Mr. Watts, who was received with cheers, 
sincerely thanked those of his friends in Sunderland, 
and expressed his deep gratitude to the Seamen of 
the East End of the town for the handsome medal 
which had been presented to him, and for their 
appreciation of his services. But though he had 
put his life at stake many times he had done no 
more than his duty as an Englishman. In the 
course of some feeling observations he said it was 
true he had saved 32 persons from drowning, and 
in several instances he had received far higher and 
more lasting rewards than could have been con- 
ferred upon him by the presentation of medals. As 
instances he mentioned the name of a boy Maughan 
whose life he had saved, and who had afterwards 
himself saved many lives at Sierra Leone. Another 
young man he had saved was Robert Wilson, who, 
he was glad to say, was now a member of a 
Christian Church, and he (the speaker) was pleased 
to see him at the Jubilee of the Primitive Methodist 
Sunday School, leading the children in singing and 
directing some hundreds of little ones in the way 
they should go. He trusted he would still be 
useful in the future. 



A SAILORS' TRIBUTE 141 

" On the motion of Mr. Brown, seconded by Mr. 
J. N. Charlton, a vote of thanks to the Mayor was 
carried with enthusiasm ; three hearty cheers being 
also given for Mr. Watts." 
Earlier in the same year a special meeting 
of the Local Marine Board was held in their 
office, Villiers Street, for the purpose of pre- 
senting Henry Watts with a bronze medal 
which had been transmitted by the Board of 
Trade in recognition of the services he had 
rendered in saving life on various occasions. 
The meeting was not in any sense a public one. 
The medal was presented by the Chairman, 
Mr. C. Hodgson, with a few words of con- 
gratulation and appreciation after he had read 
the following letter : — 

Board of Trade, 

Whitehall Gardens, 

6th January, 1877. 
Sir, 

I am directed by the Board of Trade to transmit 
to you the accompanying bronze medal which has 
been awarded by them to Mr. Henry Watts, in 
recognition of his services in saving lives from 
drowning on various occasions, and I have to 
request you to move the Local Marine Board to be 
so good as to take steps for presenting it to Mr. 
Watts in a suitable manner. 



142 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

I have to request that Mr. Watts's receipt be 
sent to this department. 
I am, 

Your obedient servant, 

J. B. SWANSTON. 

It will be seen that once his work was 
brought to public notice there was no lack of 
recognition ; indeed honours crowded upon him 
from all quarters, and, considering all the cir- 
cumstances of the case, it would not have been 
surprising had so much public flattery turned 
his head a little. But through all this laudation 
and be-medaling he remained — Henry Watts, 
the same simple, cheerful, plucky workman. 
The sentence he used in his reply to the pre- 
sentation from the sailors of the East End gives 
the key note to his character during this period : 
"He had received far higher and more lasting 
rewards than could have been conferred upon 
him by the presentation of medals." He appre- 
ciated fully the honour his townsmen did him, 
but to see one of those he had saved teaching 
little children in the Sunday School was a 
greater joy to him than the bestowal of some 
decoration for himself. 



CHAPTER XIII 

A HEARTLESS ROBBERY. 

There are some meannesses which are too mean for ?nen. 

— Thackeray. 

ON Monday, August 5th, 1878, Mr. Watts 
lent his medals to the committee of the 
James Williams Street Christian Lay Church 
for exhibition at a bazaar they were holding, it 
being felt that the array of famous medals would 
be a great attraction. Two days later it was 
discovered that some one had entered the pre- 
mises during the night and stolen the whole of 
the medals along with some other things. When 
the theft became known Henry himself was 
much cast down, and there was a feeling of deep 
indignation throughout the town at this, as the 
papers described it, heartless robbery, which in- 
deed it was. A local paper gave the following 
list of the medals stolen : — Gold medal from the 
United Temperance Crusaders, with a large 
silver fastener attached ; Gold medal from the 



i 4 4 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

Diamond Swimming Club, Sunderland ; Gold 
medal presented to Mr. Watts by Mr. Richard- 
son for searching the River Wear and recover- 
ing the body of his grandson ; silver medal pre- 
sented by the sailors of the East End of Sun- 
derland ; and a bronze medal presented by the 
Royal Humane Society. 

The Sunderland Weekly Times of August 
9th, 1878, spoke of the theft in the following 
terms : — 

" We have seldom heard of a more heartless and 
unfeeling robbery than that which has deprived Mr. 
Henry Watts, or — as he would better like himself 
to be called — Harry Watts the life-saver, of his 
well-earned medals. The medals, five in number, 
were on view at the Christian Lay Church Bazaar 
in James Williams Street, the Church of which Mr. 
Watts is an active and respected member, and on 
Tuesday morning it was found that someone had 
broken into the premises during the night, and 
decamped with them all. Every effort has since 
been made to obtain a clue to the perpetrator of 
the heartless theft, but in vain, and much sympathy 
is expressed towards Mr. Watts for his loss, 
especially in the east-end of the town, where his 
genial nature and unobtrusive simplicity of charac- 
ter have made him a universal favourite. Depend 



A HEARTLESS ROBBERY 145 

upon it, the thief would get little quarter there, for 
the east-enders know whom to be proud of, and 
they recount Harry's deeds with as much pride and 
as much pleasure as if they had been the chief actors 
themselves. And it is no slight task that Harry 
Watts has accomplished. He has saved thirty- 
three lives, and has never yet shrunk from the task 
when a fellow-creature's life was in danger. That 
is true heroism, for it is a terrible thing to get into 
the grasp of a drowning man, and it requires a clear 
head and strong arm to effect a rescue. Witness 
the sad bathing fatality at Hendon beach on Wed- 
nesday, when a lad was drowned close to the shore, 
and two swimmers who went out to assist him 
barely escaped with their own lives. It is a credit 
to the town that it has such a man in its midst as 
Harry Watts, and we hope, if his medals be not 
recovered, that he will receive some substantial 
token of sympathy at the hands of his fellow- 
townsmen that may take their place in the eyes of 
the possessor, and that may be handed down as 
heirlooms to his children, to be looked upon in 
after years with family interest and pride." 

In a leading article on Thursday, September 

5th, 1878, the Sunderland Daily Echo said : — 

" The attention of the town has not a day too 

early been drawn to the sad misfortune which has 

befallen the humble hero whom Sunderland has the 

distinguished honour of numbering among her 



46 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

citizens Whilst his native modesty 

prevented him from blazoning his deeds forth to the 
world, he nevertheless dearly valued the proofs with 
which he had been furnished that his noble services 
in the cause of humanity were not unesteemed by 
his countrymen, but more particularly by his fellow- 
townsmen We consider it is the 

plain duty of the town at the very least to replace 
by substitutes the trophies so stolen. The villain's 
conduct casts a slur upon the people of Sunderland 
which they can best remove by quickly showing in 
the manner which may be deemed the most striking 
the deep indignation which they unquestionably feel 
over the humiliating incident. The town, many 
think, would only be acting becomingly if it were 
to seize the opportunity to mark more pronouncedly 
the esteem in which it holds such deeds as those 
with whose glowing records Watts has so richly 
embellished his humble name and station. The 
trophies may be replaced, but when this has been 
done, the town will scarcely have discharged the 
debt of gratitude under which it lies to Mr. Watts. 
When, as a nation, we pay the utmost homage to 
men who have distinguished themselves in dealing 
out death and destruction among our enemies, 
surely we may spare a modicum of generous 
recognition for the man in our midst who has won 
for himself a far more honourable fame by saving 
from death, often at the imminent peril of his own 
life, no fewer than thirty-three of our own brothers 



A HEARTLESS ROBBERY 147 

and sisters. In paying this debt of respect and 
gratitude, a profitable lesson, too, may be conveyed 
to the younger generation, and this might prove 
not the least favourable feature of the movement. 
We would suggest that, beyond replacing the 
medals stolen, the committee which has been given 
this matter in charge should aim to establish a 
Watts Swimming Trophy, to be annually contested 
for by the youths residing on the banks of the Wear. 
If this could be accomplished by means of a penny 
subscription, which would give the people generally 
a share in the movement, it would prove all the more 
valuable and striking. Such a trophy would create 
a healthy emulation amongst all classes, and the 
public would have the satisfaction of knowing that 
while they had been recognising genuine daring 
and nobleness, they had also been stimulating the 
rising manhood of the port to the acquirement of a 
highly valuable and indispensable art, the necessity 
for a knowledge of which could not be brought 
home more impressively than by the terrible loss of 
life off Woolwich."* 

The town lost no time in replacing the medals. 
A committee was formed and subscriptions came 
in quickly. But before this committee could 

* This reference is to the sinking- of the passenger steamer, 
"Princess Alice," which, while crowded with passengers, was 
run into and sunk by the collier steamer " Bywell Castle," in 
the River Thames, on Tuesday, September 3rd, 1878, and as the 
result of which some 600 persons lost their lives. 



148 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

act, the United Temperance Crusaders, on their 
own initiative, obtained a new gold medal to re- 
place the one they had presented to Mr. Watts 
in 1875; an d on September 4th, 1878, just a 
month after the theft, this medal was presented 
to him at a crowded public meeting, held in 
Coulson's Mission Hall, Calver Street. 

11 Mr. R. H. Watson, in making the presentation, 
said that when three years before the Temperance 
Crusaders presented Mr. Watts with a gold medal, 
they considered that they were only conferring 
upon him an honour to which he was richly en- 
titled. When Mr. Watts came to his sad loss, 
which was regarded as a local calamity, they, after a 
little talk in private, determined to present him with 
a second gold medal. They did not make their 
purpose public, though if he had taken all the sub- 
scriptions offered him after the medal had been 
exhibited, he would now have had funds in hand 
sufficient to have presented Mr. Watts with more 
than twenty medals. The presence of so many 
strangers at the meeting was in itself a proof of the 
esteem in which Harry Watts was held generally. 
He had great pleasure in asking Mr. Watts to 
receive the medal as a renewed token of their 
kindly feelings towards him, and, as the inscription 
on it stated, as a mark of their high sense of his 
manly courage in rescuing thirty-three persons 
from drowning. 



A HEARTLESS ROBBERY 149 

" Mr. Watson then pinned the gold medal on Mr. 
Watts's breast amid loud applause, and he added 
that if it should be Mr. Watts's sad misfortune to 
lose this medal, the Temperance Crusaders would 
feel happy and proud to present him with a third 
medal. 

11 Mr. Watts in thanking the donors for their 
great kindness remarked that if it should be his 
good fortune to receive either the original medals 
or substitutes, he gave them his word that if any 
person wanted to see the medals they would have 
to see the owner also ; and if any man attempted to 
take them from his breast, he would fight for them 
as hard as his fellow townsman, Jack Crawford, 
fought for the flag of old England at Camperdown. 
When he heard of his loss he was very much cast 
down, and he had felt the effect of it up to the 
present time. Therefore he was all the more 
thankful for what the Crusaders had done for him. 
(Applause.) 

"Mr. Watson then presented another trophy to 
Mr. Watts, a silver star medal, given by Mr. 
Rennison, silversmith, of Bridge Street, and in 
doing so said that Mr. Watts was entitled to all the 
honours which Sunderland could confer upon him, 
and he should not be surprised if within a couple 
of weeks Mr. Watts bore on his breast far more 
medals than the rascally thief stole. (Applause.) 

"In again thanking them Mr. Watts said that 
he cast no blame for his loss on the brethren and 



i 5 o LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

sisters of the Lay Church, whose grief caused him 
far more pain than the actual loss of the medals." 

Other speakers followed, eulogising Mr. 
Watts, but sufficient has been given to show 
the high esteem in which the hero was held by 
the townspeople generally. 

Some time after the theft of the medals a 
policeman met a man in the lower part of the 
town carrying a sailor's bag over his shoulder. 
It is the nature of a policeman to be suspicious, 
and this policeman being no exception to that 
rule, stopped the man and asked him what he 
had in the bag. He said he was a sailor just 
returned from sea, and the bag contained his 
dirty clothes. The unbelieving policeman 
thought he would like to look at the things, 
and insisted upon doing so. The result justified 
his suspicions, for the bag was full of mis- 
cellaneous articles which the fellow had stolen 
from a chemist's shop into which he had broken. 

The man was marched off to the police 
station and surprising revelations followed. He 
proved to be a John Bailey, of 6 Grey Street, 
Southwick, an engine fitter by trade, who had 
been regularly working at his trade during the 



A HEARTLESS ROBBERY 151 

day time, but had for a long time carried on a 
systematic course of burglary at nights. When 
his house was visited it was found to contain 
articles stolen from various parts of Sunderland 
as well as from Southwick and Seaham Har- 
bour. This was the man, it was discovered, 
who had broken into the Lay Church in James 
Williams Street and stolen the medals belonging 
to Mr. Watts. The detective, on questioning 
the daughter of the prisoner, a child eight years 
old, respecting the medals, was told that her 
father had given her some medals to play with, 
but she had thrown them into the fire as she 
thought them of no use. A vigorous search 
was made but only one of the medals was found, 
the one presented to Henry by the sailors of 
Sunderland, and it was found greatly damaged 
in the ashpit of the house, having evidently 
been through the fire. 

A search of the man's house brought to light 
a most amazing collection of stolen articles ; a 
model of a ship, two model steam engines, child- 
ren's frocks and other things stolen from the 
Christian Lay Church at the same time as the 
medals, cutlery, hardware, compasses, a fancy 



i 5 2 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

time-piece, stockings, tablecloths, hairseating 
and covering cut from one of the Seaham Har- 
bour railway carriages, and many other things ; 
indeed the man seems to have been a klepto- 
maniac, and to have stolen for the mere pleasure 
of stealing. But though the police found a large 
collection of stolen property of every kind, of 
the medals there was no trace beyond the dam- 
aged one already mentioned. 

But Henry was not to be very long without 
trophies. There were many difficulties in the 
way of procuring duplicates of some of them, 
but all these difficulties melted away before the 
enthusiasm of those who had determined that 
the medals should be replaced ; and on Decem- 
ber 3rd, 1878, a meeting was called for the 
purpose of presenting Henry with the duplicate 
medals. The meeting was very appropriately 
held in the Christian Lay Church, James 
Williams Street, from which place the originals 
had been stolen, and the Mayor (Mr. Samuel 
S. Robson), presided over a crowded attendance, 
a large number of seamen being included in the 
audience. The Mayor's remarks are well worthy 
of reproduction, as showing where Mr. Watts 



A HEARTLESS ROBBERY 153 

stood thirty-two years ago in the estimation of 
his fellow townsmen. The following is taken 
from the report of the meeting published in 
the Sunderland Daily Echo, December 4th, 
1878:— 

"The chairman referred to the meeting as the 
most interesting- one he had been called upon to 
attend since his election to the Mayoralty. The 
bravery possessed by Mr. Watts was of the highest 
order of bravery. He did not ' seek the bubble 
reputation at the cannon's mouth,' he was truly 
brave, and had rescued many a man from a watery 
grave. He had done brave deeds when there had 
been no applauding multitudes to see him, the only 
reward he got being a good conscience. Mr. Watts 
was a possessor of that moral courage so much to 
be desired by us all. His conduct in the past had 
fortunately not been entirely unrewarded, for he had 
had medals from many societies, among others 
from the Royal Humane Society, who never pre- 
sented medals unless they were well deserved. 
The gifts which had at various times been bestowed 
upon Mr. Watts were : — A silver medal from the 
sailors of Sunderland ; a large gold medal from the 
Diamond Swimming Club ; a small gold medal 
from Mr. Richardson, of Monkwearmouth ; bronze 
medal from the Royal Humane Society; gold medal 
from the United Temperance Crusaders ; a bronze 



154 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

medal from the Board of Trade — a beautiful piece 
by Wyon — a second gold medal from the United 
Temperance Crusaders ; and a silver star medal 
from Mr. Rennison of Bridge Street. The first 
five medals mentioned were the ones stolen, and, 
as most of the audience knew, duplicates of them 
were to be returned to Mr. Watts that evening. 
When he (the speaker) first heard of the petty theft 
which had been committed, it struck him as the 
meanest robbery he had heard of. It was a most 
shabby theft, for when a man got a great monetary 
advantage by theft he might consider it some in- 
ducement, but the chief value of the medals being 
in the honour attached to them, he could not con- 
ceive why the robbery had been committed. Per- 
haps, however, after all, the stealing of the medals 
had done Mr. Watts a good turn, for they now had 
the opportunity of showing him what a host of 
friends he had in the town, and the occurrence had 
been the means of, if possible, bringing his name 
into greater repute than ever. (Applause.) Mr. 
Watts's name was certainly now a household word 
throughout Sunderland, and the pleasing fact of 
this church being so well filled with sympathising 
friends must be deeply gratifying to him. 

"The Mayor then, amidst a scene of immense 
enthusiasm, pinned the medals upon Mr. Watts's 
breast, and at the same time presented him with the 
following illuminated and framed address : — 



A HEARTLESS ROBBERY 155 

TO MR. HENRY WATTS. 

Numerous friends in your native town having 
shown their approval of your many successful 
efforts to save your fellow men from drowning, 
they desire once more to show the high estimation 
in which you are held by replacing the gold and 
other medals stolen from the James Williams Street 
Chapel Bazaar on the 6th of August, 1878. 

Further, they hope your life will be spared, and 
that you will long wear the new medals this day 
presented by the Mayor of the Borough. 

Sam. S. Robson, Mayor. 
Sunderland, 3rd Dec, 1878. 

"Mr. Watts in replying expressed his deep 
gratitude for their kindness in restoring his lost 
medals, and said he thought it was his duty to tell 
the audience that he had had an interview with the 
man who had stolen them. When he asked the 
prisoner whether he had taken all the five medals, 
he said 'Yes, I took them all. The first night I 
got them I put the bronze medals into the fire, and 
then I took the gold medal and broke it into pieces, 
and put the other three into a drawer in my house.' 
Then the prisoner Bailey said to me that he wished 
he was drowned, and I said, ' Mister, if ye were 
droonin' aw'd pull ye oot bi th' neck !' (Loud 
applause.) After renewed thanks to the meeting 
Mr. Watts resumed his seat amid another outburst 
of cheering." 



156 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

Mr. James G. Campbell, printer, of Press 
Lane, a staunch friend of Mr. Watts and the 
first to call public attention to his remarkable 
record, was at the meeting, and on being called 
upon by the Mayor proposed the following 
resolution : — 

"That this public meeting assembled respect- 
fully requests the Mayor to forward a memorial 
to Her Majesty, asking that the Albert Medal be 
presented to Mr. Henry Watts, in recognition of 
his successful efforts in saving so many lives 
from drowning." 

This resolution was carried with acclama- 
tion, and the Mayor undertook to forward the 
memorial to the proper quarters. 

What happened to that memorial ? Did it 
ultimately arrive at the Circumlocution Office 
and disturb the calm serenity of some of the 
Tite Barnacle Tribe, to be pigeon-holed by them 
as another piece of impertinence on the part of 
the public ? There is no record of what became 
of it after it had left the hands of the Mayor, 
but the following letter, dated some eighteen 
months after the resolution was passed, shows 
that it was sent forward : — 



A HEARTLESS ROBBERY 157 

13, Claremont Terrace, 
Sunderland, 

July 19th, 1880. 

Dear Sir, — I got the memorial from Mr. Tone 
this morning-, and have sent it to Mr. Gourley, 
M.P., and a copy to Sir Henry Havelock-Allan, 
M.P., and hope that they may succeed in getting 
you the Albert medal. I am sure you deserve it. 
With kind regards, 

I am, yours truly, 

S. S. Robson. 
Mr. Henry Watts. 

Four months after receiving the above letter 
Mr. Watts received one from Sir Henry 
Havelock-Allan, but, as will be seen, no men- 
tion is made in it of the Albert medal or of the 
memorial. 

70, Chester Square, S.W., 

4th Nov., 1880. 

Dear Mr. Watts, — I have been away in Darling- 
ton and Yorkshire on business for some days, or 
would have acknowledged the receipt of your 
photograph earlier. 

I thank you very much for sending it to me, and 
it gives me gratification to have the likeness, and 
also, I hope, the friendship of so brave and dis- 
tinguished a man, and of one who has shown 



158 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

himself so truly a benefactor of his fellow-men. 

Believe me, 

Yours very truly, 

H. M. Havelock- Allan. 
Mr. Henry Watts, Sunderland. 

The incident of the stolen medals may be 
finished by stating that the man Bailey was 
sent to prison for twelvemonths for some of his 
thefts, and on his release Mr. Watts was 
urged to prosecute him for the theft of the 
medals, but refused to do so. 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE TAY BRIDGE DISASTER. 

.. . / have bedimrrid 
The noontide sun, called forth the ??iutinous winds, 
And Hwixt the green sea and the azured vault 
Set raging war. — The Tempest. Act 5, Sc. I. 

A 11 THEN the duplicate medals were pre- 
V V sented to Mr. Watts he was fifty-two 
years old. He was then — at a time of life when 
most men begin to think of themselves as grow- 
ing old — strong and vigorous, and with many 
years of useful service before him. Of his ser- 
vices on behalf of humanity there is still much 
to record ; and he was honoured, too, with other 
marks of appreciation, but these will be men- 
tioned in due time. For the present, as we have 
seen that his noble and self-sacrificing work as 
a life-saver has been fully recognised, we may 
leave that phase of his career for a while and 
take up the story of his work-a-day life once 
more. 

Mr. Watts was one of the divers employed 
in trying to recover the bodies of the victims 



160 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

of the Tay Bridge disaster, and in order that 
the reader may understand something of the 
work that was done there, it will be necessary 
to give a short account of that terrible accident. 
The Tay Bridge, which crossed the river at 
Dundee, took six years to build, and was opened 
for traffic on May 31st, 1878. Its total length 
was 3,450 yards, with 85 spans, and the cost of 
the structure was ,£350,000. Eighty-five piers 
supported a number of spans of varying length. 
The last span at either end of the bridge was 
short, but in the centre, where the navigable 
channel of the river ran, there were 13 spans 
each 245 feet long, with the piers so high that 
at high water there was a clear water way of 85 
feet, amply sufficient for the class of vessels ply- 
ing from Dundee to places up the Tay. The 
bridge was a single road one, that is, it was only 
of sufficient width for a single line of rails ; it 
was ten feet higher than the present bridge*. 

* It is interesting to note that the locomotive engine which fell 
with the bridge was recovered from the river, and I am officially 
informed that it is still working. The Secretary of the North 
British Railway Co., in a letter dated 18th January, 191 1, says : — 
"The engine in question is No. 224 and is employed on the Pas- 
senger service between Dunfermline and Glasgow and Thornton. 
It is a bogie engine with 17m. by 24m. cylinders, 4 coupled wheels 
6ft. 6in. diameter, and bogie wheels 3ft. 7m. diameter. The en- 
gine was re-boilered in 1887 and has since been in continuous 
service." 



TAY BRIDGE DISASTER 161 

On Sunday, December 28th, 1879, a gale of 
unusual violence swept across Dundee, and at its 
height, at 7. 10 p.m., the train from Edinburgh, 
due at Dundee at 7.15, was crossing the bridge 
when the whole of the centre portion of the 
structure collapsed and fell into the river, carry- 
ing the train and about ninety passengers with 
it. Not a single soul of those on board the 
train escaped alive. As the river at that part 
is about two miles wide, the noise of the falling 
bridge and train could not have been heard at 
either side even if it had been a still night, in- 
stead of a most tempestuous one ; and so for 
a short time nothing was done or attempted, 
because nothing was known of the dreadful 
catastrophe. 

But presently, the train not arriving after 
having been signalled as on the bridge, the sta- 
tion master at Dundee went to the signal box 
and discovered that the wires were broken and 
it was impossible to get any signals through. 
Mr. Roberts, the superintendent of the locomo- 
tive department, then went along the bridge at 
great risk, for the force of the wind was such as 
to almost lift him off his feet at times. Urged 

M 



162 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

by anxiety, however, he persevered, and crawl- 
ed along on his hands and knees to the point 
where the high girders began, and there his pro- 
gress was arrested. To his horror he discovered 
that the whole of the thirteen central girders, 
each 245 feet long and 250 tons in weight, were 
gone, and nothing remained but the iron pillars 
which had supported them. 

At the moment the train fell certain people 
on shore had seen two intensely brilliant sheets 
of flame and showers of sparks at the centre of 
the bridge where the high girders ran, evidently 
resulting from the friction of the ponderous 
mass of iron as it ground against itself and 
crashed into the river below from a height of 
about 100 feet. 

A steamer was sent out to inspect and search, 
and she launched her lifeboat and searched for 
a considerable time, but not a soul had escaped. 

Almost the first thing done by the authorities 
after realizing the terrible nature of the calamity 
was to secure divers with a view to recovering 
the bodies, and the first attempt was made on 
the Wednesday following the accident, but was 
futile. 



TAY BRIDGE DISASTER 163 

Mr. C. H. Dodds, the General Manager of 
the River Wear Commissioners, was among the 
first in Sunderland to hear of the disaster, and 
it gave him a great shock. He at once went to 
see Sir James Laing, Chairman of the Com- 
missioners, and suggested to him that as skilful 
divers would be wanted, if Henry Watts could 
be induced to help, it would be a very good 
thing for the authorities at Dundee. Sir James 
at once agreed, and Mr. Dodds hurried down 
to see Henry. 

"As soon as I mentioned the matter to 
him," says Mr. Dodds, "he promptly agreed to 
go, immediately offering his services free." 

"The authorities at Tay Bridge," says a 
newspaper report of the time, " telegraphed 
that they would be most happy to accept the 
services of Mr. Watts, and he took his de- 
parture, carrying diving apparatus with him. 
He is also accompanied by his two assistants, 
one of whom is his son." 

Another report states that " Mr. Henry 
Watts, the well-known Sunderland diver, left 
that town by the 1 1.0 p.m. train on New Year's 
Day [1880], for the scene of the Tay Bridge 



1 64 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

disaster. Harry Watts, as he is more familiarly 
called, offered his services gratuitously imme- 
diately it became known that the disaster had 
occurred, provided he could obtain permission 
from his employers." 

This permission, as we have seen, was 
readily granted, and Harry set out with his 
assistants. 

Asked what was the first thing he did when 
he got there, he said that as soon as he arrived 
at Dundee he bought himself a splendid knife, 
the best he could buy, a most fortunate purchase 
as it proved. The water was sometimes running 
like a mill race, and was so full of mud and scour 
that it was impossible to see anything when a 
few feet below the surface, so that the divers 
had to do what they did entirely by the sense of 
touch. Pushing his way in the liquid darkness 
Henry presently stumbled upon the telegraph 
wires which had come down with the bridge, 
and in a moment he was entangled in them and 
began to wonder how he was to get clear. It is 
necessary that a person should understand some- 
thing of the diver's business to appreciate what 
it means to be entangled when under water, 



TAY BRIDGE DISASTER 165 

even in clear water where there is some little 
light. But in this case not only was there com- 
plete darkness, but a very strong tide was 
running, and all around him were the monster 
remnants of the wrecked train and bridge, any 
one piece of which might topple over on to 
him and crush him to death. 

A long and varied experience enabled him 
to keep a clear head under these trying cir- 
cumstances, and presently bethinking himself of 
the new knife he had bought, he whipped it out 
and managed to cut through a few of the wires — 
sufficient to allow him to get free, though the 
little finger of his left hand was broken as a 
result of the struggle. 

He was away a week altogether, and was 
diving for three days. Diving operations were 
suspended on Monday, January 5th, 1880; on 
the following day all the divers attended the 
inquiry to give evidence, and on Wednesday, 
January 7th, they left for their homes. 

Though somewhat uncertain as to dates 
Henry's memory is excellent as regards general 
facts, and this is the story of his share in the 
work as told by himself : — 



1 66 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

"When Mr. Dodds came and asked me to 
go, why, of course, I agreed at once, and he 
said, ' Now, Harry, you must be sure and take 
every care of yourself ; and what men you take 
with you make sure that they are careful and 
trustworthy.' 

" So I took my son Tom and a cousin. 
We got there all right, and the first thing I did 
was to buy a knife, a real good 'un, the best I 
could get, and a good job I did too. Divers 
were there from the Royal Navy working with 
us, and there were divers from all parts. There 
was a heavy swell on, and sometimes the tide 
was very strong, and when it came, it came with 
a rush. The first day I was down I got 
entangled with the Shields diver, but I didn't 
know who it was, for it was so dark you couldn't 
see an inch in front of you. 

" I sent up a few things and then I got into 
a third class carriage to look for some of the 
bodies, and I went through it from end to end 
on my hands and knees, but it was empty. In 
doing this a piece of iron on the carriage tore 
open the sleeve of my dress, which got half full 
of water before I could get up to put it right. 




ONE DAY I CAME UPON THE ENGINE OF THE TRAIN. 



TAY BRIDGE DISASTER 167 

" The second day we tried further down to 
see if we could get any of the bodies, but neither 
then nor afterwards did we find any. Those 
that were recovered were washed ashore or 
found with drags. But we kept on going down, 
though it was dreadfully heavy work, and dis- 
appointing too, owing to the state of the river 
and the difficulties of working amongst the huge 
heaps of stuff that lay at the bottom of the 
river. One day I came upon the engine of the 
train, but I dare not go in to search it, there 
were so many things to get entangled with." 

After they had given evidence at the Board 
of Trade enquiry, Captain Brine, of H.M.S. 
" Lord Warden," and Captain Robertson, the 
Harbour Master, thanked them publicly for the 
work they had done. 

Then Henry finished with a characteristic 
little incident. 

" Efterwards yen o' th' divers cum ti me an' 
he says, ' Cum an' ha' yer mornin' drappie.' " 

" What de ye mean?" ses I. 

"A drap o' whisky," says he, "ti keep the 
caad oot." 



168 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

" Whisky," says I. " My man, aw'll tell tha 
what it is, aw'm twice as aad as ony on ye here, 
aw can wark as weel as ony on ye, an' if ye 
continee yer whisky drinkin' aw'll still be 

warkin' when ye're dune for . Him an' his 

whisky !" he concluded with contempt. 

The following is taken from the Sunderland 
Weekly Times of January 9th, 1880: — 

"Return of Mr. Henry Watts. — Diving op- 
erations were suspended on Monday afternoon [Jan. 
5th, 1880], and yesterday the divers left for their 
several homes, Mr. Watts, of Sunderland, and Mr. 
Barclay, of Shields, journeyed south together and 
arrived at home early this evening. Although our 
friend Watts was only engaged three days in actual 
diving operations, he seems to have gained the good 
opinions of all who witnessed the manner in which 
he went about his duties. Referring to Monday's 
work we find the following flattering remarks in the 
Edinburgh Evening News: — 'Watts, who is evi- 
dently the most experienced diver of the lot, was 
complimented by Captain Brine, of the "Lord War- 
den," on the way he did his work. Watts was then 
on the ladder preparing for another descent, his son 
standing ready to screw on the mouthpiece, and 
replied 'That's all right. Thank ye kindly, sir.' 
Then with a ' Gan on, hinny,' to the man at the air 
pump, and * Screw up !' to his son, he disappeared 



TAY BRIDGE DISASTER 169 

in an instant. He went in the direction of the 
engine, but the tide had now turned and was set- 
ting towards the girders, and he was obliged to 
give up. When his assistants had removed his 
ponderous dress it was found to be half filled with 
water. Watts has had an eventful career, and has 
saved thirty-three persons from drowning.' 

4 'We paid a visit to our friend last night, and 
found him in capital health, but rather disappoint- 
ed at having been obliged to discontinue the search 
for bodies, which we know he was quite willing to 
carry on without fee or reward, excepting the plea- 
sure of handing the ' poor things over to their 
friends.' Diving operations, he says, were never 
carried on under greater difficulties. Usually the 
men are able to see some distance from the glass of 
the helmet, but owing to the muddy condition of 
the estuary, ■ I could not see a finger before me, 
and had to grope about in total darkness,' as he ex- 
pressed it. . . We think the people of Sunder- 
land may well feel satisfied at the assistance given 
by their townsman in the hope of recovering the 
bodies of the unfortunate victims, and to solve the 
mystery which at present surrounds the cause of 
the accident." 
After all was over, the money in payment for 
his services was sent on to the Commissioners, 
but Henry refused to take it, asserting that to 
do so after offering his services free would be to 



i;o LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

cast a slur upon his townsmen. Mr. Dodds, the 
Commissioners' general manager, tried to per- 
suade him to take it, pointing out that as the 
authorities at Dundee had sent the money there 
could not be anything wrong in accepting it, but 
Henry was firm and refused to take it. He 
says that it was finally agreed to send it to a 
charity, but which charity received it there is no 
record to show. The following letter, however, 
shows his position in the matter : — 

From the Sunderland Weekly Times, 16th 
January, 1880 : — 

11 Heroic Conduct of the Sunderland Diver. 
— Mr. Dodds, the general manager of the River 
Wear Commissioners, writing to Captain Robert- 
son, Harbour Master, at Dundee, says : — ' The 
Commissioners will make no charge whatever for 
the use of the diving gear, and Watts positively de- 
clines to accept anything for his diving services at 
Dundee. He left home simply as a volunteer, and 
hoped that he might be able to recover some of the 
bodies of the unfortunate victims, and he appears 
much concerned at not having been successful, 
although the reason given in your letter certainly 
ought to satisfy him. He is a sterling good fellow, 
and at all times most anxious to do good. He 
speaks very highly of the great kindness he has re- 



TAY BRIDGE DISASTER 171 

ceived from yourself and from all those with whom 
he came in contact during his stay.' " 

In view of the above statement the following 
letter is also of interest : — 

Queen's Hotel, Dundee, 

Jan. 14th, 1880. 
Dear Sir, 

Thanks for the photograph, which has been sent 
to me here, hence the delay in acknowledging it. 
I shall preserve it as a memento of a sad affair in 
which the original of it did his duty nobly without 
thought of recompense. 

Yours very truly, 

D. Wilson. 
Mr. H. Watts, Sunderland. 



CHAPTER XV 

A NOVEL USE FOR A DIVER. 

Death hath ten thousand several doors 

For men to take their exit. — JohnWebster. 

THE supreme court of appeal for all authors, 
whether great or small, is that mystic but 
multitudinous personage always referred to as 
"the gentle reader." Some experience of this 
ubiquitous judge has taught me two things: first, 
that "the gentle reader" must be kept interest- 
ed and entertained, or his verdict, from which 
there is no appeal, will be against the book ; and 
second, that he will not tolerate an anti-climax. 
The knowledge of these two rules is the all-suf- 
ficient excuse for paying less attention to the 
order in which the events now to be related oc- 
curred than to the importance of them. Merely 
to recite, one after the other, the rescues 
effected by Mr. Watts, would make but 
monotonous reading, in spite of the thrilling 
nature of some of them; and monotony "the 



NOVEL USE FOR A DIVER 173 

gentle reader" will not have at any price. That 
supreme judge must therefore pardon the ap- 
parent want of sequence as to dates in the fol- 
lowing chapters. 

On January, 19th, 1895, a full-rigged ship, 
the " Erato," of Hamburg, was lying in the 
South Dock, Sunderland, waiting to take in a 
cargo of coals. Just before noon a youth of 
nineteen, named J. C. Kanscheit, was sent by 
the chief officer into the forepeak to get a shovel. 
As he did not return after the lapse of a quarter 
of an hour, the second officer was sent to look 
for him. That officer upon descending the 
ladder into the forepeak, was seized with a 
dizziness in the head which left him absolutely 
helpless. The chief officer had followed his 
subordinate almost immediately, and he, too, was 
similarly affected. The two men stood gaz- 
ing at each other in a perfectly powerless state, 
though quite aware that they were slowly be- 
coming insensible, yet too benumbed to help 
themselves in any way. 

Fortunately for the two officers some of the 
seamen had seen them go down ; they went to 
inquire the cause, and seeing how things were, 



174 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

promptly hauled them on deck. Arrived there 
they, by dumb show, indicated that the youth 
Kanscheit was still down below, and then both 
of the officers fell to the deck insensible. 

Naturally the mysterious occurrence caused 
a wild state of excitement, and while some of 
the crew set to work to restore the two mates 
to consciousness, the third mate, accompanied 
by three sailors, slid down the ladder into the 
forepeak with the object of rescuing the young 
man. Their attempt was futile, for as soon as 
they reached the flooring of the forepeak they 
found themselves unable to move a muscle, and 
stood staring vacantly at each other. 

These repeated failures and the dreadful con- 
sequences of attempting to enter the place, made 
the rest of the men more cautious, and instead 
of any more of them going below, they brought 
ropes and with the utmost difficulty hauled the 
four men on deck. As soon as they came into 
the fresh air they all fell to the deck insensible. 

By this time the mysterious affair had been 
noised about, and a large and awe-stricken crowd 
surrounded the vessel. Doctors were sent for, 
and very soon three were on board attending 



NOVEL USE FOR A DIVER 175 

to the sufferers, who were promptly taken to the 
Infirmary. 

At this point someone suggested that what 
was wanted was a diver, and the happy idea was 
acted upon at once, Mr. Watts being brought to 
the ship. Hastily donning his diving suit he de- 
scended into the fatal forepeak, and searched the 
whole of the first floor but could find no trace of 
the young man. He then went into the lower 
hold of the forepeak. But his diving dress, 
which was quite impervious to water, could not 
keep out the more insidious fumes of the pois- 
onous air, which entered his dress and made him 
so ill that he had to ascend to the deck. A 
drink of water and the fresh air put him right, 
and once more he went below, This time he 
succeeded in finding the body of the young man 
and brought it up. The youth was quite dead, 
and it was judged from a terrible gash in his 
forehead and other marks of injury, that he had 
fallen from the first to the second floor of the 
place and had died there. One of the men who 
had gone to the rescue died in the Infirmary a 
few hours after being taken there. At the 
Coroner's inquiry it was proved that the two 



176 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

men had died from asphyxia, caused by foul air 
produced by the ignition of the contents of a 
cask of black paint in the forepeak, but how the 
contents of the cask had become ignited was 
never discovered. 



CHAPTER XVI 

SOME INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT DIVING. 

A true understanding of things is to be derived from the 
things themselves. — Scaliger. 

IT often happens that a man will pay a big 
price to hear some great musical artist, only 
to come away at the close of the performance 
sadly disappointed. In such cases the fault is 
not in the artist but in the listener, who has not 
sufficient knowledge of the art to appreciate the 
great technical difficulties which have been over- 
come to enable the artist to do what he does. 
It is the same with all arts and professions ; we 
must have at least some little knowledge of the 
technicalities of them if we are to understand 
the achievements of those who are experts in 
them. 

The popular ideas as to the business of a 
diver are, generally speaking, vague and erro- 
neous. Possibly nine people out of ten, even 
of those living in seaport towns, are absolutely 

N 



178 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

ignorant of the commonest facts relating to div- 
ing ; and to people from the country there is 
something uncanny about the whole business. 
The man in the street supposes that all that is 
necessary to enable a man to become a diver, 
is to put an air-tight suit on him, clap a brass 
helmet on his head, pump air to him and — 
" there you are!" 

Until recent years there was a great deal of 
rule-of-thumb in connection with diving ; and 
divers were seriously injured, or even lost their 
lives, without anyone knowing the real reason 
why. Then gradually empiricism gave way to 
Science, culminating in the appointment of a 
Deep Diving Committee by the Admiralty in 
1906. This Committee's conclusions and re- 
commendations are published, with much other 
valuable information, in A Diving Manual, a 
beautifully illustrated book written by Mr. R. H. 
Davies, Managing Director of Messrs Siebe, 
Gorman, & Co., Ltd., the well-known submarine 
engineers, of Westminster Bridge Road, Lon- 
don. By the kind permission of this firm I am 
enabled to give the reader some interesting in- 
formation with regard to diving, information 



FACTS ABOUT DIVING 179 

without which it is impossible to appreciate 
rightly the work of Harry Watts as a diver. 

" A set of ordinary diving apparatus consists 
essentially of seven parts, viz., (a) a helmet with 
corselet ; (b) a waterproof diving dress ; (c) a 
length of flexible tube with metal couplings ; (d) 
pair of weighted boots ; (e) pair of lead weights 
for breast and back ; (f) a life line ; (g) an air 
pump. 

"Air is supplied to the diver through a non- 
return valve at the back of the helmet by means 
of a flexible tube connected with the air pump. 
The air escapes through a spring valve at the 
side of the helmet, this valve being adjustable 
by the diver. With this arrangement the pres- 
sure of the air in the helmet is always equal to, 
or slightly greater than, the water pressure at 
the outlet valve. 

" It is absolutely necessary that the diver 
should breathe compressed air, otherwise his 
breathing would be instantly stopped and blood 
would flow from his nose and mouth. In order 
to enable him to sink and to stand firmly on the 
bottom, he carries a 4olb. leaden weight on his 
breast and a similar weight on his back, and 



180 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

i6lb. of lead on each boot. Altogether the 
weight of the equipment which he actually 
wears is about 1751b. 

" Besides the air pipe the diver is usually 
connected with the surface by a signal or life 
line, in which, in most cases, are embedded 
telephone wires.* He usually descends by a 
rope (the ' shot-rope '), which is attached to a 
heavy weight which has been previously lowered 
to the bottom, and on reaching the bottom takes 
with him a line (the ' distance-line ') attached 
to this weight, so that he can always find the 
* shot-rope ' again. 

" As a diver enters the water the superfluous 
air in his dress is driven out through the outlet 
valve by the pressure of the water on the legs 
and body. The water seems to grip him all 
round. If the valve is fairly open he will feel 
his breathing rather laboured by the time he 
gets his valve just under water. The reason of 
this is that the pressure in his lungs is that of 
the water at the valve outlet, whereas the pres- 
sure on his chest and abdomen is greater by 
something like a foot of water. He is thus 

*A modern development. Mr. Watts had not this advantage. 



FACTS ABOUT DIVING 181 

breathing against pressure, and if he has to 
breathe deeply, as during exertion, the effect 
becomes serious. 

" One of the first things therefore that the 
diver has to learn is to avoid this adverse pres- 
sure by adjusting the pressure on the spring on 
the outlet valve, so that the breathing is always 
quite free. The spring on the valve at the same 
time regulates the amount of air in the dress, 
and therefore the buoyancy of the diver. A 
practised diver can thus slip easily, and without 
exertion, up or down the shot-rope. The 
breathing is, of course, easiest when the dress 
is full of air down to the level of the abdomen ; 
but, when this is so, the diver runs a risk of 
being ' blown up.' 

11 It will also be readily understood that a 
horizontal, or nearly horizontal, position is the 
easiest one for a diver's breathing, and many 
divers work crawling on the ground. In this 
position it may happen that too much air gets 
into the dress. If the air is allowed to get into 
the legs of the dress, the diver is capsized and 
blown helplessly to the surface, or he may be 
caught by a rope or other obstruction, and hung 



182 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

up in a helpless position with his legs upper- 
most, the excess of air being unable to escape at 
the outlet valve since it is downwards. To 
avoid this risk there is an arrangement for 
lacing up the legs of the dress. With the legs 
laced up, the head always comes uppermost if 
the diver tends to float upwards, hence the 
excess of air escapes by the valve." 

The greatest authenticated depth at which 
divers have done practical work is 35 fathoms = 
210 feet. This was accomplished by Lieut. 
Damant and Gunner Catto of the Royal Navy, 
in August, 1906. The reader will realise better 
what this great depth means if a comparison is 
made with something already known to him. 
It is more than twice the depth from Wear- 
mouth bridge to the surface of the river ; and 
once and a half that of the Nelson Monument 
in London. 

Possible accidents to divers are classed under 
four heads: — (1) Caisson Disease; (2) Asphyxia 
or carbonic acid gas (C0 2 ) poisoning ; (3) 
drowning ; (4) hemorrhage. 

Caisson disease is the formation of air bubbles 
in the blood of tissues, owing to the too sudden 



FACTS ABOUT DIVING 183 

decompression of the diver — that is to say the 
too sudden return to the normal pressure of the 
atmosphere after breathing compressed air. The 
diver breathes three important gases — oxygen, 
nitrogen, and CO z . Of these the nitrogen alone 
can remain and accumulate in the blood ; the 
oxygen is used up by the blood, and the breath- 
ing prevents the pressure of C0 2 from ever 
increasing ; so that the only gas which accumu- 
lates in abnormal quantity when the diver is 
under pressure is the nitrogen. 

"When the gas is forced into a soda water 
bottle under pressure, the water appears to be 
unchanged so long as the pressure is kept up, 
but the moment we reduce the pressure by tak- 
ing out the cork, we see the gas come bubbling 
off the liquid. 

11 If we apply the analogy to diving, the diver 
is the soda water bottle, and his blood is the 
fluid in the bottle. As the diver descends, nitro- 
gen under pressure is forced into contact with 
his blood. The blood takes up the nitrogen 
from the air. So long as he stays below under 
that pressure, his blood appears to be unaltered ; 
when, however, he rises, the excess of nitrogen 



1 84 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

that the blood has taken up begins slowly to 
bubble off; if the blood were as fluid as water 
it would come off as rapidly as from the soda 
water. Fortunately for the diver the blood is a 
thickish, albuminous fluid, in which bubbles do 
not readily form, and, as far as we can see, it 
can retain about twice the amount in solution 
that water can keep at any given pressure. 
Every diver knows that it is quite safe to come 
up from a depth of from five to six fathoms to 
the surface as quickly as he likes ; the reason 
for this will now be easily understood, since at 
such a depth the blood has only twice as much 
nitrogen in it as it has on the surface, and there- 
fore bubbles are unlikely to form. If, however, 
the diver has been for any considerable time at, 
say, jo fathoms and then comes up quickly, it 
is almost certain that bubbles will form and 
cause serious symptoms." 

These bubbles of nitrogen may come off in 
the blood vessels themselves, filling the right 
side of the heart with air, and causing death in 
a few minutes. In less sudden cases the bub- 
bles form in the brain or spinal cord, leading 
to paralysis of the legs (diver's palsy), whilst in 



FACTS ABOUT DIVING 185 

less serious cases there may be only severe pains 
in the joints and muscles. 

When a diver has come up quickly from a 
considerable depth, and shows symptoms of this 
disease, " the only chance of recovery is quickly 
to recompress the sufferer " by lowering him 
down again into water for ten or fifteen fathoms. 
" Even if the diver is quite unconscious this 
procedure should be followed, as it affords the 
only chance of his life being saved." 

Another class of cases is where paralytic 
symptoms come on from ten minutes to half an 
hour after the diver has returned to the surface. 

The danger of drowning arises from the lia- 
bility of the diving dress to be torn ; and hem- 
orrhage is usually caused by the blocking of the 
Eustachian tubes — narrow pipes at the back of 
the throat through which air can pass to the in- 
ner side of the ear drum. 

" The superficial area of an ordinary - sized 
man's body is about 2,160 square inches, so that 
in atmospheric air the total pressure on the 
man's body is 32,400 lb. At a depth of 33 
feet of sea water, the total pressure would be 
64,800 lb. So long as the pressure is equally 



1 86 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

distributed throughout the body by the body 
fluids, it has no effect." 

The total weight of a diver's equipment (that 
is, the parts which he actually wears, and exclu- 
sive of his air pipe) is about 175 lb. ; therefore 
a diver (say a twelve-stone man), fully equipped, 
would have a total weight of 343 lb. 

" The depth to which daylight penetrates 
under water varies with the locality. For in- 
stance, in some of the Scottish lochs the water 
is so dark that daylight is lost to the diver when 
but a few feet below the surface. On the other 
hand, off the Rock of Gibraltar and in some 
tropical waters, he can see perfectly clearly when 
thirty fathoms (180 feet) and more down. 

11 For deep sea diving, or work involving very 
long stays on the bottom at more than ten fath- 
oms (60 feet), men beyond the age of forty-five 
ought not to be employed. Really fat men 
should never be allowed to work in compressed 
air." 

The air pump is worked by two men for 
shallow depths, but three or even four men are 
required when the diver is working at a great 
depth. The air pump is fitted with pressure 



FACTS ABOUT DIVING 187 

gauges, which show the number of revolutions 
per minute required to raise the pressure to any 
number of pounds per square inch up to 75 lb. 

" On public works in England the rate of pay- 
to helmet divers is from 2/- to 2/6 per hour. In 
some cases, however, the men are paid a stand- 
ing wage of about 30/- to £2 per week, and 
an extra 1/6 per hour when diving. 

11 In the case of well work, flooded mines, 
salvage operations, &c, the pay depends upon 
the depth of water and the risk incurred. Well 
work : from 1 4/- to 20/- per shift. Flooded mines : 
from 20/- to 40/- a shift. Salvage work (ship 
raising) : in some cases where vessels are sunk 
in shallow water, the divers are paid a standing 
wage of 20/- a day, ' work or play ' ; in others 
the pay may be a standing wage of £2 a week, 
plus an extra sum per hour when diving ; or the 
men may be paid for diving time only, from 20/- 
a tide and upwards. In cases where the diver 
provides his own apparatus and linesmen, he 
may get 40/- per shift or tide. 

" In cases of deep sea salvage (cargo and 
treasure recovery), the divers are sometimes 
paid a weeky wage, plus a percentage on the 



188 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

value recovered, calculated according to the 
depth of water, &c. In the case of the 
'Alphonso XII.' and the 'Skyro' operations, 
Lambert and Erostarbe received £40 and £30 
a month respectively, plus five per cent, of the 
value of the specie they brought up. Lambert 
received ,£70,000, Erostarbe £10,000." 

Those few extracts from Mr. Davis's very 
interesting book do not by any means do full 
justice to the subject ; but they may perhaps 
help the reader to comprehend and appreciate 
more fully than he otherwise would the inci- 
dents of Henry Watts's life as a diver which 
have already been related and those which are 
now to be told. 



CHAPTER XVII 

DANGEROUS WORK. 

He holds no parley with unmanly fears : 
Where duty bids, he confidently steers. 

— Wordsworth. 

ON June 30th, 1877, an official from the 
Dalton-le-Dale Waterworks called upon 
Henry Watts with a view to securing his ser- 
vices. The special work required was to go 
down a " pilot shaft " to take out a plug and re- 
place it with a longer one. Henry asked how 
deep the water was, and on being told twenty- 
five fathoms (150 feet), he said, "Well, I am 
getting up in years, and I don't care to risk go- 
ing down that depth.* If any man's life was 
in danger I'd go down — I'd willingly go and try 
to save him, but I'll not go for pay." 

" Can you tell me where to get a diver then?" 

* Mr. Watts was then in his 51st year, and though quite able to 
do his ordinary work as a diver, in the shallow water of the docks 
and river, was past the age when he could go to great depths 
without serious risk. 



i 9 o LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

"Oh, anywhere about the Tyne," was the 
reply ; and from a number of names Henry 
gave him he finally secured the services of a 
Mr. Littleboy, a big stout man, about eighteen 
stone weight. 

A local newspaper of July 6th, 1877, in an 
account of what followed, says : — 

" On Thursday morning Mr. Littleboy went down 
again about 11 o'clock. His dress and the ma- 
chinery were all in good order, and his brother and 
a cousin attended to the air pump. A system of 
quarter hour signals had been adopted, and all went 
on well until about two o'clock. Then for the first 
time the signals of those on terra firma were not 
replied to, and naturally great alarm spread among 
those present. Attempts were made to pull Little- 
boy up the shaft, by means of the gear provided, 
but they unfortunately proved ineffectual. Failing 
to get diving apparatus from Seaham, those in 
authority at once communicated with the River 
Wear Commissioners at Sunderland." 

It was on Thursday that Henry had been 
asked to go out, and it was exactly a week after- 
wards that he was surprised by a visit from Mr. 
Wake, the River Wear Commissioners' engi- 
neer, who asked him if he was prepared to keep 
his promise about the Dalton shaft. He had 



DANGEROUS WORK 191 

forgotten the promise, but on being reminded 
of it said promptly, " Certainly, I'll go!" and 
he at once went off to see Mr. Dodds, the Com- 
missioners' general manager. 

That gentleman, of course, gave him permis- 
sion to go, at the same time telling him to be 
very careful and to take the best gear and the 
best assistants he could get. Mr. Dodds and 
Mr. Wake both went out to Dalton and re- 
mained there till Henry had finished his task. 

Arrived at Dalton he found two divers there 
from Seaham, but they had made no attempt to 
go down. Henry hastily donned his dress and 
descended. 

Having read the facts about diving in the 
previous chapter, the reader will be able to form 
some idea of what Henry had to risk in his 
voluntary task. The depth of the shaft from 
the bank to the surface of the water was 312 
feet, and from the surface of the water to where 
the diver had to work was 120 feet, # and the 
work had to be done, of course, in absolute dark- 
ness. 



* The depth of water had been reduced by 30 feet before the 
diving operations were begun. 



192 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

Let us, just for once, accompany him in 
imagination on his perilous journey. Take care 
with the diving dress, now ! We are in a hurry, 
yes, but a moment's gain by neglect now may 
mean an hour's wait presently to put it right — 
and it may mean more than that, so be careful. 
Is everything fixed ? Yes, well, on with the 
helmet — wait a minute, don't screw on the front 
glass just yet ; who's at the air pump ? for much 
depends upon them. And who's at the signal 
line and air pipe ? for that is as important as the 
air pump. Ah, they are all capable, trustworthy 
men ; screw up then ! 

The diameter of the shaft is ten feet, and 
across it is a winch with a steel rope to which 
is attached a " kibble," or basket, in which the 
workmen descend. Into the "kibble" he gets 
and is lowered carefully down the shaft — down 
and down, 312 feet he descends before he 
reaches the surface of the water. It is a long 
way down, but it is the easiest part of his 
journey. He pauses a minute on the stage 
there to gather his energies together, then, with 
an " All well," signal on the rope, he enters the 
water. There is here but a dread silence and a 



DANGEROUS WORK 



i93 



/OS-lfr 



-5///T 



3/6ift 



\* 4*22/^. 




A Short Shaft. 

B Deep Shaft. 

C Drift connecting 

A and B. 
D Water Surface. 

Note. — The section show- 
ing- earth between shafts 
is not drawn to scale, 
it has been widened to 
give a better idea of the 
two shafts. 



Depth of Well 430 ft. 
Depth of Water in Well 

120 ft. 
Diameter of Shaft B 10 ft. 

Section of Pilot Shaft, 

Dalton 

Pumping Station. 

Sunderland 

and South Shields 

Water Co. 



^l&kfole scale-x in. = 105-6 ft. 
W 



i 9 4 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

darkness that may be felt. What unknown 
perils is he going to? His only guide is the 
air pipe or the rope of the diver already below. 
He slips down it, down and down, but suddenly 
his hand grips the rope and he stops his descent. 

What is the matter ? There is a singing in his 
ears, and a horrible dizziness has seized him, 
while his whole body feels as though gripped in 
a giant vice. But he knows what these things 
mean. He has gone down so quickly that the 
pressure of the air in his dress has not been kept 
equal to the pressure of the water ; and here, as 
everywhere, Law, which knows no mercy, is 
waiting to punish instantly any mistake that 
may be made. 

But he has stopped in the nick of time. He 
hastily signals " More air! " regulates the valve 
in his helmet, and as the pumps go round more 
quickly, the pressure inside his dress overcomes 
that outside his dress, and once more he breathes 
freely. 

Down he goes again, for he is no more than 
half-way to where he would be ; down and 
down, but more warily now, for every foot he 
descends the pressure of the water increases. 



DANGEROUS WORK 195 

At last his feet touch the " brattice " or small 
stage ; he signals " Arrived ", and stands a 
moment to get his bearings. There is no ray 
of light, no sound, no movement ; he is alone in 
a dead world, 1 20 feet under water ! 

What next ? Cautiously he feels about the 
stage to find how wide it may be, but is careful 
not to let go of the other diver's rope. He kneels, 
slipping his hand along the rope, which leads 
underneath the stage. Be careful now, Harry, 
be very careful, for the least slip and you will 
never see daylight again ! 

At this depth the water pressure is 52 lb. to 
the square inch, so that there is on the whole 
surface of his body the enormous pressure of 
112,220 lb. — some 50 tons above atmospheric 
pressure ! But so long as the pressure inside 
and outside the dress is equal he feels no 
effect of it — at present. The danger will be in 
coming up again, for a too sudden release from 
that great pressure is as dangerous as a too 
sudden descent into it, more so indeed. But 
danger! He is surrounded by dangers. Let 
but the air pump go wrong for a few minutes, or 
the air pipe become jammed, and a fearful death 



196 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

awaits him. Not death by suffocation, no, that 
were kindly compared with what would happen ; 
for, the diving dress being flexible and the 
helmet inflexible, if the pressure of air inside 
the dress be reduced, the giant pressure of the 
water will squeeze his body up into the helmet 
— a fearful possibility view it how we may. 

But he is not thinking of these things, nor of 
the many other possibilities of his strange situa- 
tion ; his mind is intent on the task he has in 
hand. Across the narrow staging he gropes his 
way, till at last the other diver's rope is straight 
up and down, and he knows he is not far from 
him. Carefully he lays himself flat down on the 
staging and feels underneath it. Ugh ! He 
hastily withdraws his hand, for he knows now, 
only too well, what has happened. What is it ? 
He has felt the feet of the other man, which are 
jammed against the underneath part of the 
staging, for he is hanging head downwards like 
a fly on the ceiling, and Henry knows he is 
dead, must have been dead for some hours. 
The poor fellow had probably, as the newspaper 
report says, " taken a faint fit and fallen off the 
stage." Yes, and as the air supply was kept 



DANGEROUS WORK 197 

up without intermission, he had been forced up 
by it, head downwards, against the under side 
of the stage, where the pressure of air would 
keep him fixed and unable to move even had he 
been conscious, for the air-escape valve is in the 
helmet, and it being downward no air can es- 
cape till the whole dress is full at high pressure. 

Does the reader realize what had happened ? 
An ordinary inflated football is a familiar illus- 
tration of compressed air. Press it between 
the hands and feel its resistance. And that is 
only a very low pressure. Under the high pres- 
sure of these great depths the diver's dress will, 
unless he properly regulates the air-valve, be- 
come rigid, so that his arms and legs will stand 
out from him like iron bars, and with no more 
chance of his bending them than if they were 
made of that metal. 

So one can get some conception of what had 
happened to that poor diver at Dalton, and so, 
too, one can begin to realize the risk Harry 
Watts took in going to the rescue. Who then 
shall grudge him the honours paid to him for 
deeds such as this ? 

And Littleboy ? Alas, it was a terrible death ! 



198 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

One can but hope, if he did fall off the stage in 
a faint, that he never recovered consciousness, 
for oh, the eternity of horror if conscious while 
in such a position, and knowing there was abso- 
lutely no chance of help ! 'Tis a nightmare of 
a scene, pursuing one during sleep for many a 
night after reading of it. God help us, that 
men should perforce have thus to go hobnob- 
bing with Death for a crust of bread ! 

Henry Watts went down the shaft at nine 
o'clock in the evening, and came to the surface 
a quarter of an hour later to tell the news of 
Littleboy's death. Then after a short inter- 
val he descended again, and this time brought 
up the body of the unfortunate diver. 

Why did he come up after only a quarter of 
an hour under water ? Why not have finished 
what he had to do while he was below ? Very 
natural questions, and I asked him to explain. 
He said he came up because he wanted to get 
his breath, and also because he was being nipped 
by the pressure to such an extent that he thought 
his ribs were being broken. The scientific ex- 
planation is to be found in the book issued by 
Messrs. Siebe Gorman, & Co. I n the table show- 



DANGEROUS WORK 199 

ing the time limits allowed in deep water, &c, 
it is stated that to stop at the depth he was 
working at for twenty-five minutes it is neces- 
sary for the diver, in ascending, to take a stop- 
page of five minutes at thirty feet, ten minutes 
at twenty feet, and fifteen minutes at ten feet, 
a total of thirty-three minutes in ascending 
to the surface. This is, of course, to allow 
the proper time for decompression and to get 
rid of the nitrogen which has accumulated in 
the blood. To ascend after but a few minutes 
would not be dangerous, because the nitrogen 
would not have had time to get into the blood 
to such an extent as to be serious. 

Here, then, was Harry Watts, though many 
years past the time of life when it was safe for 
him to go into great depths, taking that risk, 
and the many others which accompanied it, for 
the purpose of trying to rescue a fellow man 
from danger; and finding it was too late to do 
that he still incurred the risk to recover the 
body. But that being done he would not under- 
take to do the work which Littleboy had tried 
to do, and men were got from Messrs. Siebe 
Gorman, & Co., London, to complete the task. 



200 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

Here we may appropriately introduce the 
following letter : — 

While Mr. Littleboy, diver, from Tyne Dock, was 
engaged in the well at Dalton Water Works, on 
the 5th of July, 1877, taking a plug out of a bore- 
hole, he accidentally met his death while at work, 
and could not be got out on account of the air pipe 
coming in contact with the pump, until we obtained 
the assistance of Mr. Henry Watts, diver for the 
River Wear Commissioners. Mr. Watts went down 
through 19 fathoms, 5 feet 6 inches [120 feet less 
six inches], before he released him. Total depth 
from surface, 72 fathoms [432 feet]. 

J. R. RUDDICK. 

Who was Mr. Ruddick ? For a long time 
this was a problem which no one could solve. 
Even Henry, who had the above letter from 
him, vowed that he had never known such a 
man. He spoke of Mr. Robson, the engineer 
at Dalton, and others spoke of him too, but no 
one seemed to know Mr. Ruddick. Then by 
an accident I discovered that Mr. Robson and 
Mr. Ruddick were one and the same person. 
The full and correct name is James Robson 
Ruddick, and he was the Master Sinker at 



DANGEROUS WORK 201 

Dalton. He was known to everyone by his 
family name of Robson, but of course when 
signing documents he was bound to put his 
correct name. 

Mr. Davis, Managing Director of Messrs. 
Siebe, Gorman & Co., Ltd., who kindly went 
through these chapters on diving with a view 
to correcting them, in commenting on the 
Dalton incident, says : — " You describe Watts 
as having been fully dressed before he went 
over the edge of the well. . . . Nowadays, 
we would, if at all possible, rig up a stage just 
above the surface of the water, where the diver 
would put on his heavy gear (boots, weights, 
and helmet), and thus be saved the labour of 
carrying all this deadweight. It is quite possible 
that Watts did carry this weight from the 
ground level to the water, and, in that case, all 
the more credit is due to him." 

Inquiry shows that Mr. Watts did go down 
fully dressed as described. The matter was so 
urgent that he got into his diving dress im- 
mediately on his arrival, and went down without 
a moment's loss of time. 

Here are some letters which show apprecia- 



202 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

tion of the successful work which Mr. Watts 
did at flooded mines, wells, &c. : — 

Wheatley Hill Colliery, 
near Ferry Hill, 

Dec. 27th, 1872. 

Gentlemen, — I am glad to be able to inform you 
that your very worthy servant, Mr. Watts, has 
succeeded in the most complete and satisfactory 
manner in liberating and setting to work the main 
pumping set of our colliery. 

The matter was threatening to become a very 
serious affair for the company, the bottom set of 
pumps having become choked by the piling up of 
the shaft with debris. Pumping consequently 
ceased, the water rose, filling up a considerable 
part of the mine, and threatening to drown all the 
horses and ponies. To have drawn the pumps out 
would have involved a serious cost. 

It was fortunate, therefore, for us to be favoured 
with the brave, heroic, and able services of your 
Mr. Watts, who had to accomplish his work under 
the most adverse circumstances, but who succeeded 
in the most pleasing and determined style. 

I am, gentlemen, yours very truly, 

Jos. Finney, Engineer. 

River Wear Commissioners, 
Sunderland. 



DANGEROUS WORK 203 

Wheatley Hill Colliery Office, 
Ferry Hill, 

June 20th, 1874. 

Mr. Henry Watts, Diver, 
Sunderland. 

My Dear Sir, — I write this by way of expressing 
my best wishes for your future, because of the 
hazardous calling named above, for which, how- 
ever, you seem admirably adapted in that strong 
perseverance and determination which it has been 
our misfortune to witness again of you at Wheatley 
Hill — misfortune as regards our accident to pumps, 
but, I should say, good fortune as it regards being 
able to secure the very noble services you have 
rendered us. 

I am happy to inform you that the pumps are 
again in full swing, and the miners, I dare say, 
thankful that a prospect of early work is presented 
to them. 

I have the pleasure to be, my dear sir, 
Yours faithfully, 

Jos. Finney, Engineer. 



Wheatley Hill Colliery Office, 
Ferry Hill, 

Jan. 20th, 1879. 
Dear Sir, — I am very happy to inform you that 
we are now in first-class order ; we have got our 
water down and sump all cleaned out. So much 



204 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

for your able services in taking off the clack door. 
Had it not been so we would have been in a sad 
plight. 

All friends send their respects to you, and would 
be glad to see you at any time, but not on such an 
occasion. 

Yours truly, 

W. Potts. 
Mr. Watts, Sunderland. 



Lambton Colliery Works, 
Fence Houses, 

Oct. nth, 1878. 
Dear Sir, — I have much pleasure in bearing testi- 
mony to the valuable services rendered by you at 
the Earl of Durham's Houghton Colliery, in recover- 
ing a i2in. set of pumps which had been lost by the 
breaking of a rope while the bucket was being 
changed, the water rising some twenty-five feet 
above the door. And although you had never been 
in the pit before, you succeeded in getting the 
pumps to work to my entire satisfaction in a little 
over two hours, and thus saved us the tedious and 
expensive process of drawing the set. 
I am, 

Yours respectfully, 

James Young, Supt. Engineer. 

Mr. Henry Watts, 

14, Sans Street, Sunderland. 



DANGEROUS WORK 205 

Trimdon Grange Colliery, 
County Durham, 

Feb. 10th, 1887. 
Mr. Watts, 

Dear Sir, — I have much pleasure in bearing testi- 
mony to the valuable services rendered by you at 
the Walter Scott pumping- pit, by your recovering 
a 24m. pumping set, and getting the clack out and 
replacing it again. It has saved us a great ex- 
pense, and also been the means of keeping the other 
collieries at work. Now we have got the bucket 
in the working barrel again and we are going all 

right. 

Yours truly, 

Geo. Bullick, Engineer. 



Hendon Paper Works. 

This is to certify that Mr. Henry Watts, diver 
for the River Wear Commissioners, did on the 
undermentioned dates put our deep well pump into 
working order to our entire satisfaction : — 

Our bottom clack, which is 17 feet below the 
surface of the water, we had tried to draw, and 
after all our attempts failed we sent for Mr. Watts, 
who came with his diving apparatus, went down, 
took off the bottom door, and took off the clack 
and replaced it with a new one. On examining the 
door he found that it also was cracked right across 
the centre. This he replaced temporarily with a 
mahogany door. Feb. 9th, 1877. 



206 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

Second Time. — After we had got a new door 
cast Mr. Watts was sent for and he again went 
down the well, took off the wood door and put on 
the metal one. Feb. 12th, 1877. 

Third Time. — The joint again failed, caused by 
the weld of hoop-iron breaking away. Mr. Watts 
was sent for to remake the joint, which he did. 
Feb. 13th, 1877. 

Fourth Time. — Mr. Watts was sent for to renew 
the joint of the door again. This was a bad joint 
to make, the casting being slightly twisted and 
rough from the foundry. Sept. 29th, 1877. 
Signed, 

Henry Glenny, Foreman. 



Sunderland and South Shields Water Co., 
Fawcett Street, Sunderland, 

2nd Sept., 1887. 
Mr. Henry Watts, Sunderland. 

Dear Sir, — I have pleasure in testifying to the 
valuable services rendered by you to this Company 
at their Cleadon Pumping Station, by your re- 
covering from the well a broken bucket sword and 
crossbar which was submerged in about five fathoms 

of water. 

Yours truly, 

J. W. Sutherland, Secretary. 

Mr. Watts was once engaged taking off the 
clack door of a 24m. set of pumps at Kelloe 



DANGEROUS WORK 207 

Winning Pit. There was a pump at Kelloe, 
and another at the New Winning Pit. The 
latter went wrong, and Henry went down to 
attend to it as stated, the pump at Kelloe 
keeping the water down in the meantime. 
While he was at work the pump at Kelloe 
suddenly stopped and the water immediately 
began to rise where he was working, and that 
with such rapidity that it was only with the 
greatest exertions on the part of those at bank 
that he was rescued, he having to be drawn up 
in a loop of rope. 

The chief engineer at Newbottle Pit, near 
Houghton-le-Spring, once came riding into 
Sunderland post haste to secure Mr. Watts' s 
services to put a bucket door on a pump. It 
was a dangerous piece of work, but was neces- 
sary, as the whole neighbourhood for three miles 
round was dependent upon the pump for water. 
He went off at once, and had a most exhaust- 
ing day's work, being under water most of the 
time, but succeeded in accomplishing the task. 
During the progress of the work he fainted, 
owing partly to the heavy work and partly to 
the fact that the air pump which supplied him 



208 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

with air had been placed in the engine room, 
hence warm air was pumped down to him. 
When he recovered he asked for a drink. 

" Drink of what ?" he was asked, for the en- 
gineer and officials doubtless thought that he 
had had enough of water, and would require 
something stronger. 

" Drink o' what ?" Wey, watter, ti be sure !" 
said Henry, and water it was, those standing 
around giving a hearty cheer at his decision. 

It was suggested to Henry that the Dalton 
Water Works incident was the most dangerous 
piece of work he had ever done as a diver, but 
he dissented from this and gave the particulars 
of what he considered the most dangerous task 
he had ever been engaged in. Near the No. 2 
Graving Dock was an engine which pumped 
the water out of a long- drift, and in order to 
repair the engine it was necessary to put a plug 
in position at the far end of the drift to keep 
the water out while the engine was being re- 
paired. The drift was forty-five feet in length, 
and so low that Henry with his diving gear on 
could not go along it on his hands and knees, 
but had to lie down almost flat and creep along 



DANGEROUS WORK 209 

in that position as best he could. One diver 
had refused to do the work when Henry under- 
took it. He went down under the water at the 
open end of the drift and made his way along 
it, but very slowly. There was an accumula- 
tion of fine coal dust in the drift, and his move- 
ments stirred this up ; it mixed with the water 
and so got into the air valve of his helmet, 
causing serious symptoms. When half-way 
along he felt he could go no farther and signal- 
led to be drawn up. But he could not turn 
round, and so as the men above pulled on the 
life-line he had to second their efforts by push- 
ing himself backward, which he continued to 
do till he got into the open water. But he 
would not give in, and went down again and 
again till he succeeded, though he had to be 
treated by the doctor after one of his journeys. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

A TRAWL NET. 

A frame of adamant, a soul of fire, 

No dangers fright him, and no labours tire. 

— Samuel Johnson. 

THE title at the head of this chapter seems 
a suitable one under which to gather a 
number of incidents in the career of Mr. Watts 
which cannot be properly placed under any of 
the headings already used, and yet are of suf- 
ficient importance to be recorded. 

Here, for instance, is a letter from the columns 
of the Sunderland Daily Echo which requires 
a little explanation. It is headed " Sunderland 
Infirmary : a Grateful Patient," and reads : — 

Sir, — Allow me through the columns of your 
paper to return my heartfelt thanks to the Sisters 
and Medical Staff, and especially to Mr. Ranson, 
the House Surgeon of the Sunderland Infirmary, 
in which institution I have been an inmate for the 
last five months. During that time I had my leg 
amputated, owing to injury sustained by my being 
caught in a coil of rope while mooring my vessel 



A TRAWL NET 211 

at the Wearmouth Drops. I must say during- the 
time I was in the Infirmary that I received the ut- 
most attention and greatest kindness. I could not 
have had more at my own home. I also take this 
opportunity of publicly thanking Mr. Henry Watts, 
diver, and his son, and all other persons who have 
kindly assisted me. 

Yours truly, 

Alex. Mather, 
Late Master of " Hay & Catherine," 

of Arbroath. 
5, St. Vigeans Road, 

Arbroath, Nov. 29th, 1877. 

The above does not do justice to Mr. Watts s 
share in the matter. A short newspaper report 
states that on June 26th, 1877, while the " Bon 
Accord," steam tug, was going up the river her 
keel came in contact with a rope attached to the 
schooner " Hay and Catherine," lying at Wear- 
mouth Drops. The master of the schooner, 
Alex. Mather, was standing close to the rope 
on his vessel, and he was caught up by it and 
dragged to the ship's side, where his left foot 
was pulled almost completely off, dangling only 
from his mangled leg by a narrow piece of skin. 
Mr. Henry Watts, who was near the Lambton 
Drops preparing to dive, heard the shouts for 



212 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

help, and he and his son at once jumped into 
their boat and boarded the schooner. They 
freed Mr. Mather from the rope, rendered first 
aid to him, and Henry hailed the tug, took him 
ashore in her, and then sent for a cab and took 
him to the Infirmary. The patient, as stated 
in his letter, was in the Infirmary several 
months, and, his wife not being in a position 
to come to him, Henry acted the part of the 
Good Samaritan during that time, and finally, 
on his recovery, promoted a subscription among 
some Scottish captains and sent him home to 
Arbroath. 

It would be difficult to find a better instance 
of pluck and determination than the following : — 
Henry was in a boat in the river preparing to 
run a rope out, when the ship's anchor fell, 
smashing the boat, breaking his leg and throw- 
ing him into the river. In spite of his serious 
and painful injury he actually swam ashore to a 
boat slip, up which he crawled a little way, and 
from there was conveyed in a cab to Dr. Ward's, 
in Church Street. 

Early on the morning of June 7th, 1870, a 
pleasure party of eleven persons, three adults 



A TRAWL NET 213 

and eight children, went up the river in a gig 
for the purpose of spending the day in the 
higher reaches of the river. The Sunderland 
Weekly Times of June 7th, 1870, from which 
the facts of the case are taken, states that "A 
gig called the ' White Lily ' put off from the 
Low Quay. . . . On board of her were 
Mr. Friend Lamb, boat builder, his wife and five 
children, the ages of the children varying from 
two years up to ten ; and Mr. Hartley French, 
cashier to Mr. Lamb, who also had three of his 
children along with him." The boat had got 
opposite Burdes's Lime Kilns, when the steam 
tug "Wansbeck" came down the river. As 
she passed the boat her paddle caught it or 
one of the oars, the boat being capsized and 
the whole of the party thrown into the river. 
Mr. Watts was making his way up the river to 
dive when the accident occurred, and he im- 
mediately went to the assistance of those strug- 
gling in the water, and, along with other willing 
helpers, succeeded in saving the whole of them. 
When the party was first got on board the steam 
tug it was found that two of the children were 
missing. Henry suspected that they were still 



2i 4 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

in the boat, which was floating on the water 
bottom upwards. He made all haste to the 
boat, managed to right her, and there sure 
enough were the two little ones, who were 
soon restored to their friends. Henry claims to 
have saved but one of the party, but as a matter 
of fact he helped to save the majority of them. 

He got the whole of the party ashore and did 
not leave them till he had seen them safely off 
home. Then he returned to the keel in which 
he was working and said to the young fellow in 
her (a man named Robert Wilson), " Hurry up, 
now, and get into the boat, we shall have to 
make up for lost time." 

Whether it was the desire to hurry or simply 
a matter of awkwardness is not known, but at 
any rate Wilson fell overboard into 24 feet of 
water and would certainly have been drowned 
had not Henry jumped in and saved him. The 
rescue is reported in a local paper as follows : — 

" Narrow Escape from Drowning. — This 
morning about nine o'clock, a man named Robert 
Wilson fell out of a boat at Lambton Drops. Mr. 
Henry Watts, who has during his lifetime rescued 
26 persons from drowning, and was engaged in the 



A TRAWL NET 215 

same noble way at the boat accident this morning 
[the accident referred to above], at once went to the 
aid of his companion, and succeeded in landing him 
without much harm being done." 

And here is a letter from the person res- 
cued : — 

Sunderland, 

Sept. 9th, 1875. 
Dear Sir, — I feel it my duty to express my grati- 
tude to our respected townsman, Mr. Harry- 
Watts, for the heroic manner in which he saved 
me from drowning on the 7th June, 1870, while 
employed on the River Wear near Hetton Drops, 
when I accidentally fell overboard in about 24 feet of 
water. Mr. Watts sprang from a vessel lying near 
into the water and rescued me from my perilous 
position. I declare this to be a true statement. 
Robert Wilson, 

16, Addison Street, Hendon. 

We have already seen how ardent an advo- 
cate of temperance Henry became after his 
conversion, and the following incident will show 
how ready he was to put his principles into 
practice. On Nov. 4th, 1873, ne na d been 
diving at South Hylton, and when his work 
was finished he went across the river to see 



216 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

Squire Ettrick about the removal of some stones. 
While they were talking near the North Ferry- 
landing, a valuable horse, with dray attached, 
belonging to Messrs. Ridley & Cletter, brewers, 
Newcastle, accidently fell off the ferry into the 
river, dragging the dray laden with casks of ale 
with it, and was being washed up the river by 
the strong current. 

Squire Ettrick on seeing the accident turned 
to Henry and said, " Oh, dear me, diver, that's 
a bad accident. That horse is worth a hundred 
guineas, and I'd give a great deal to have it 
saved." 

"Wey, aw think aw could save't reet enuff, 
Squire, on conditions," said Henry. 

11 What conditions, diver ? Be quick ! Be 
quick ! 

<4 Aw'll hetta throw th' cargo owerboard, 
that's the first condition." 

To this the Squire agreed, and plucking off 
some of his clothing, Henry plunged into the 
river, reached the dray, tumbled the barrels of 
liquor into the river, loosened part of the horse's 
harness and then mounted its back. But now, 
never having driven a horse in his life, much 




'when aw got ontiv its back aw find mesel in a fix. 



A TRAWL NET 217 

less mounted one, he found himself in a quan- 
dary. 

" When aw got ontiv its back," he said, "aw 
fund mesel in a fix. Aw didn't knaw which 
rein ti pull, an' ef aw shouted 4 Away ! ' or ' Gee 
whoa !' aw didn't knaw which way th' beast wad 
gan. Well, aw jist had ti larn how ti steer him. 
Aw pulled yan rein a wee bit and seed which 
way he went, and then pulled t' other yan, an' 
so aw steered him ashore." 

The Squire was delighted and Henry got ^5 
for his services ; but he still regrets that he did 
not knock the bungs out of the barrels before 
jettisoning them ; for they washed ashore, and 
he heard that there was a great deal of free 
drinking in the neighbourhood of Hylton as a 
result. 

Here is Squire Ettrick's account of the in- 
cident : — 

This is to certify that Mr. Henry Watts, of 14, 
Sans Street, Sunderland, saved a valuable horse, 
November 4th, 1873, belonging to Messrs. Ridley 
and Cletter, brewers and wine merchants, New- 
castle. The horse slipped over the end of the boat 
at Hylton Ferry with a dray laden with casks of 



218 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

ale. Mr. Henry Watts went into the water up to 
his neck, threw off all the casks into the river, and 
then got the horse's harness undone from the dray 
at great danger to his life. 

Anthony Ettrick, J. P., 

North Hylton, 7th Sept., 1875. 

On one occasion both Mr. Watts and his son 
narrowly escaped death while engaged in diving 
operations. There were six of them on No. 2 
Crane Float, belonging to the River Wear 
Commissioners, Mr. Watts as diver, his son 
and a cousin named Lonsdale, with three other 
men, and they were at work near the old South 
Pier, right opposite the North Dock, lifting 
stones. Henry was under the water and his son 
was attending to him, when the latter looking up, 
saw a steamer coming out of the North Dock. 
He soon saw that something was wrong with 
the steamer. They tried to put her helm to 
starboard so as to turn her head towards the 
river entrance, but she would not answer her 
helm. It was found afterwards that the rudder- 
chains had jammed in the cleats, a shackle they 
had put on being too big to go through. 

The steamer therefore came right across the 



A TRAWL NET 219 

river and was heading straight for the crane 
float. Tom Watts saw what was going to 
happen, and hurriedly pulled his father to the 
surface, but as soon as the diver's head was out 
of the water of course he had to get into the float 
himself, the weight being far too heavy for the 
son to pull in. The steamer struck the crane 
float and knocked a huge hole in her, but by that 
time the son had got his father's helmet off, and 
he at once dragged him aft and put him into 
their boat which was in attendance, sending the 
other men in with him. As he was about to 
get into the boat himself he saw Lonsdale 
coming up out of the cabin. 

" What are you doing here, man ? " he asked, 
"you should be in the boat. Pick up some- 
thing quick and jump overboard ; the keel is 
sinking ! " and even while he spoke down she 
went, bow first, the stern rising high in the air 
as she went under. 

Young Tom Watts jumped overboard, and 
being as much at home in the water as a duck, 
he soon came to the surface and looked about 
him. He saw Lonsdale clambering among the 
wreckage, and as he was sinking and unable 



220 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

to help himself, Tom swam to his relief. But 
no sooner had the young fellow got alongside 
him than Lonsdale, in a panic, flung both arms 
round his neck, and the suction from the sinking 
keel drew them both down. 

Presently they came to the surface again, but 
Lonsdale had such a grip of his rescuer that the 
latter could not get clear of him and was per- 
fectly helpless. He heard his father shout to 
the men in the boat, " My God ! My lad's going 
to be drowned ! Pull for your lives ! " 

The men did pull, and Henry, who, with his 
diving gear still on, had jumped into the bows 
of the boat, was just in time to reach over and 
catch the two men as they were sinking again. 
He pulled them into the boat, but so great was 
the strain that his wrist was severely injured. 
Lonsdale, poor fellow, received such a shock 
that he died a few weeks afterwards from the 
effects of it. 

When that terrible calamity the Victoria Hall 
disaster happened on June 1 6th, 1883, when 183 
little children were suffocated or crushed to 
death, the door of the staircase leading from 
the gallery having jammed, Mr. Watts was 



A TRAWL NET 221 

among the foremost of the helpers. One local 
paper commenting on the rescuing of the bodies 
says, " One man worked splendidly, and too 
much praise cannot be given to him. I think 
it was Mr. Watts. When others were excited 
and did nothing but wring their hands and cry 
out, he was cool and collected and rendered 
immense assistance." 

A stray leaf from a pamphlet embodying part 
of the report of the annual meeting of local 
preachers, at which the then Mayor (Mr. J. W. 
Wayman), presided, contains a flattering refer- 
ence to Mr. Watts. The meeting had evidently 
been held just after the disaster, and the Mayor 
in referring to it said, " I want to pay a tribute 
to one of your own members, I refer to my 
friend Henry Watts. I saw him lay hold of 
those little corpses one by one and move them 
with as soft a hand as a mother would. I do 
not hesitate to say here that he is a hero." 

But that calamity is too sad to dwell upon 
even after so great a lapse of time. Let us 
turn to a service of a very different character 
which Mr. Watts rendered to the town. 

In the Museum in Borough Road is a Pre- 



222 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

historic Canoe, found in the bed of the River 
Wear by Mr. Watts when engaged in diving 
operations. The account of it given in the 
19 10 Spring issue of the Sunderland Public 
Library Circular, is as follows : — 

"This is one of the most important additions 
ever made to the antiquities department of the 
Museum. This ancient dug-out canoe was found 
in the bed of the River Wear at Hylton, near Sun- 
derland, about 25 years ago, and was recently pre- 
sented to the Corporation by the River Wear Com- 
missioners. As may be seen, it was hewn out of 
an oak tree trunk ; it is upwards of 2,000 years 
old, and may even date back to the stone age. It 
may, indeed, be claimed to be Sunderland's earliest 
boat, and the forerunner of the many noble vessels 
which have for centuries been launched on the Wear, 
and have made Sunderland's reputation as the 
largest shipbuilding town in the world. 

"The details of its discovery are as follows: — 
It was discovered by Mr. Harry Watts, the well- 
known Sunderland diver and life-saver, when em- 
ployed by the Commissioners to remove the ' Brix- 
ons,' large stones forming the remains of a bridge 
which spanned the river at Hylton. The canoe lay 
at the river bottom, covered with alluvial mud and 
shingle, and contained human bones, which, unfor- 
tunately, were not secured. Its size is about eleven 



A TRAWL NET 223 

feet long by two feet broad, by one and a half feet 
deep. Stone implements shaped like chisels were 
also found in the bed of the stream near the same 
spot, together with deer horns, relics of the times 
when ancient Britons, clad in skins, and armed 
with stone axes, hunted the red deer in the prim- 
eval forests of the county of Durham. Proof of 
the existence of such forests in times of yore is not 
wanting, in the shape of huge trees found water- 
logged in the bed of the stream ; and it was doubt- 
less from the trunk of a similar giant of the forest 
that the canoe itself was made, probably carved 
out by stone axes, assisted by fire." 



CHAPTER XIX 

LIFE-BOAT SERVICES. 

Man the Life-boat ! Man the Life-boat ! 

Listen to the tempest's roar ! 
Man the Life-boat! Man the Life-boat! 

Hark! Hark! A ship ashore! — Old Song. 

IT is probable that if a true and detailed ac- 
count of the local Life-boat services were 
written, the name of Henry Watts would be 
found on almost every page of that history from 
about the year 1850. What Mr. Samuel Storey 
had said in 1877, when presenting him with the 
medal from the sailors of the town, was no ex- 
aggeration : " There never was any occasion of 
shipwreck, or of any disaster, but at which he 
had been found perfectly willing to suffer all the 
trouble and danger necessary in order to do good 
on these occasions." 

Not only was he a prominent figure in the 
work of the Life-boat, but he has been con- 
nected with the Volunteer Life Brigade since 
its formation. In the Annual Report of that 



LIFE-BOAT SERVICES 225 

Society for 1909-10 there appears in the list of 
Committee and Officers the names of two " Hon. 
Life Members, by special vote and without sub- 
scription ;" the first being Mr. Henry Watts, 
Sunderland ; and the second Commander C. F. 
W. Johnson, R.N. 

Mr. Watts being so closely associated with 
the local Life-boat service, a short account 
of the origin and development of that service 
may be appropriately introduced here before 
touching upon the particular instances in which 
Mr. Watts took part ; and the more so that I 
have been favoured with the loan of some an- 
cient and original documents dealing with the 
subject from a local point of view ; and am per- 
mitted to quote from a work published by the 
highest authority on the subject. These ex- 
tracts and documents taken together may be 
considered as an authoritative and valuable re- 
ference ; they will set at rest many doubts ; and 
will, the local secretary assures me, render a dis- 
tinct service to the cause in Sunderland. We 
will deal with the general subject first. 

By the kind permission of the author and 
publishers I am permitted to quote from The 
Q 



226 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

Life-Boat and its Work, by Sir J. C. Lamb, 
Deputy Chairman of the Royal National Life- 
boat Institution, a work just published by the 
Institution, price i/-, to which excellent little 
book the reader is referred for details of the 
service, illustrations, &c, which cannot be given 
here. 

"It is impossible," says the author, "to as- 
sign to any one person the merit of inventing 
the Life-boat. 

" Lionel Lukin, with his plans for increasing 
the buoyancy and stability of boats, was first in 
the field in this country. ... A coach 
builder in Long Acre, he was a very worthy 
member of the Worshipful Company of Coach- 
makers, of which he became Master in 1793." 
It appears that, having purchased a Norway 
yawl he converted her into what he called an 
" unimmergible boat," tested her on the Thames 
and took out a patent. The patent is dated 2nd 
November, 1785. 

"At about the same time, William Would- 
have, a house-painter in South Shields, who 
taught singing in the charity school, and event- 
ually became parish clerk, a versatile and ec- 



LIFE-BOAT SERVICES 227 

centric genius, was trying to design a boat which 
would neither sink nor remain upset ; but his 
final model was not made until 1789, between 
three and four years after the date of Lukin's 
patent. 

"A third claimant to the invention was Henry 
Greathead, also of South Shields. This gentle- 
man received ,£1,200 from Parliament, and a 
gold medal and fifty guineas from the Society 
of Arts, besides other rewards." 

Dealing with a voluminous correspondence 
on the merits of the claimants, the author says, 
"The materials now available are perhaps 
scarcely sufficient for an unassailable judgment ; 
but what emerges from the conflicting claims 
may be stated thus : Lukin, when he took out 
his patent, had not thought of self-righting 
qualities, and did not propose to construct a 
boat to be specially employed in saving life ; 
neither did he propose to establish a Life-boat 
service. His aim was to make all kinds of 
boats safe and buoyant. . ." 

" Wouldhave, unlike Lukin, thought much of 
build and design . . . and he intended that 
his boat should be a Life-boat and nothing else. 



228 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

The kind of seas encountered at 
the mouth of the Tyne made it important that a 
boat stationed there should have self-righting 
qualities, and this gave direction to his aims. 
A firm of brewers allowed him to test his 
models in their tanks, but it was an accident 
which suggested the solution of the problem. 
In a ramble, early in 1789, he happened to see 
a woman who had just been drawing water from 
a well. Her skeel was full, and on the surface 
of the water there floated the half of a circular 
wooden dish. While he chatted with her before 
helping to lift the skeel to her head, he tried to 
make the wooden fragment turn over, but at his 
every attempt it righted, and would not remain 
upside down. Woodhave . . . went off 
to continue his experiments at the brewery. 
Presently he ran into the office of the firm, 
saying that he had discovered the principle he 
was looking* for. 

"Soon afterwards an advertisement appeared 
in the Newcastle Courant offering a premium 
of two guineas for a plan or model of a boat 
capable of living in the stormy seas at the mouth 
of the Tyne. Wouldhave was ready, and sub- 



LIFE-BOAT SERVICES 229 

mitted his model, which is preserved in the 
Public Museum at South Shields. 

" A careful consideration of the facts will, I 
think, lead to the conclusion that Wouldhave 
was the father of the self-righting Life-boat, and 
Lukin of the staunch non-self-righting sailing 
Life-boat. 

11 How, then, did Greathead's name become 
associated with the Life-boat ? The answer is, 
that he was a skilled boatbuilder, accustomed to 
the sea as a ship carpenter and mate, and he 
was employed to build the Life-boat." 

The author deals with this part of the subject 
exhaustively, and shows that the only part that 
Greathead had in the design of the boat was in 
suggesting that its keel should be curved or 
"rockered," which was adopted. The com- 
mittee which had to adjudicate upon the models 
and plans was not satisfied with any of them, 
but thought enough of Wouldhave's model to 
award him half the premium — which he refused, 
but left them his model. Two members of the 
committee then utilised the ideas of the different 
models and plans, constructed a model of clay, 
and it was from this that Greathead built the 



2 3 o LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

first Life-boat. He built the second Life-boat 
in 1798, and before the end of 1803 na d built 
31 boats. 

Between the North and South Marine Parks 
at South Shields, is a monument to the memory 
of Wouldhave and Greathead, and close by, 
under a shed, stands the superannuated Life- 
boat " Tyne," built in 1833 to replace the first 
Life-boat. She was reconstructed in 1845, and 
was withdrawn from service in 1887. She had 
saved 1,024 lives. 

M The National Institution for the Preserva- 
tion of Life from Shipwreck," now known as the 
11 Royal National Life-boat Institution," was 
established in 1824. 

Having given this short outline of the origin 
of the Life-boat, we may now turn to Sunder- 
land's connection with the service. 

In reply to a request for information as to 
the establishment of the Life-boat service at 
Sunderland, the secretary of the Royal National 
Life-boat Institution says : — " A Life-boat was 
first stationed at Sunderland in April, 1865, and 
was named 'The Florence Nightingale." 

But while that is true as far as the National 



LIFE-BOAT SERVICES 231 

Institution is concerned, it does not by any 
means represent the beginning of the Life-boat 
service at this port. 

Mr. W. J. Oliver, the local secretary of the 
Royal National Life-boat Institution, and the 
secretary of the Sunderland Volunteer Life 
Brigade, has kindly lent me some old docu- 
ments which came into his possession many 
years ago, and from these it is possible to con- 
struct a short history of the Life-boat service 
at Sunderland. Among these old documents 
are four balance sheets. No. 1 is headed, " A 
brief statement of receipts and expenditure of 
the Life-boat Fund, from its commencement up 
to 181 1." It begins with 1800, and shows "Up 
to May, 1800, Voluntary Contributions, £zil 
14s. 4d." 

Rewards to ' Ajax' - 

Cost of boat and carriage 

Incidentals 

Balance - 



;6I85 14 





185 O 


io± 


3 3 


8 


15 


9h 


£377 H 


4 



In 1802 there was sufficient money in hand 



232 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

to lend the Library ^200,* which brought in 
^ioa year till 1.8 10, when the principal began to 
be paid off. In 1808 an item is shown as "New 
Boat, ,£106"; and the "rewards" gradually 
rise from £1 7s. 6d. in 1803, when they are 
first mentioned, to £4.3 15s. 2d. in 18 10, 
the point of which observation will be seen 
presently. 

No. 2 balance sheet is for one year only, and 
is not by any means so encouraging a statement 
as the previous one. It is from May, 181 1, to 
May, 1812. It begins with a balance in hand 
of £92 6s. /d., shows £50 of the principal 
money repaid by the Library Trustees, and 
^150 borrowed on account of the balance, and 
yet finishes with a balance due to the treasurer 
of £27 12s. 3d. During this year ^150 had 
been paid for alterations to the second boat 
(they are called " the large boat " and u the 
small boat "), but the biggest item in the year's 
accounts is " rewards," which has jumped up 
to ^218 lis. od. The first two items on the 
credit side of this balance sheet are worth 
mentioning : — 

* This was, of course, the Subscription Library. 



LIFE-BOAT SERVICES 233 

Oct. 19th. Thos. Oliver, who had 

his leg broken - £9 o o 
Mr. Gregson, surgeon, 

attending Oliver -^11 6 6 

The third balance sheet deals with six years, 
18 1 2-1 8 ; and the fourth, which appears to be 
the last issued, is from May, 18 18, to Jan. 9th, 
1 8 1 9. Only two items from this account need be 
mentioned ; the " rewards " have dropped to 
£% 3s. 6d. ; and there is an item on Feb. 5th, 
181 8, of "printing address, 18/-." Fortunately 
a copy of this address has been preserved with 
the balance sheets and some other old papers, 
and it is of sufficient interest and importance to 
be given in full. It was printed by G. Garbutt, 
Sunderland, in Jan. 18 18, and explains the rise 
and fall of the " rewards " : — 

LIFE-BOATS. 

An Appeal to the Sailors, Keelmen, Coblemen, &C, 
of the Port of Sunderland. 

The inhabitants of this town and neighbourhood 
a few years ago, lamenting the frequent loss of so 
many valuable lives by Shipwreck near this Port, 
without having any means of attempting to save 
them, humanely entered into a subscription to pro- 



234 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

vide a Life-boat, under the management of a Com- 
mittee, never doubting that numbers of brave water- 
men, such as sailors, keelmen, coblemen, and 
others, would be ready to volunteer their services 
in manning it for the rescue of their fellow-creatures 
from an awful and untimely death. 

The shipowners have since that time provided a 
small fund, at the discretion of the Committee to 
keep the boat in repair, and to give a small recom- 
pence to such brave men as might venture on those 
praiseworthy occasions, and which they wish still 
to do. From this fund, with the assistance of the 
Commissioners of the Port, there have been two 
boats added, at a very considerable expense, and 
upon an improved plan, so as to afford the greatest 
confidence in them. But the Committee and every 
friend of humanity have now to regret, that all the 
kindness and regard of the inhabitants and ship- 
owners are likely to become ineffectual, from the 
avarice of those men, to whom their suffering fel- 
low-creatures look up, to put in practice the only 
means of snatching them from impending death. 

To gain money appears now to be the principal 
object of those who offer themselves to save the 
shipwrecked mariner, not only in going off in the 
boats, but those who assist to launch them into the 
sea. You mothers who might become widows — 
you children who might become fatherless — you 
fathers and mothers who might become childless — 
and you who might lose your near and dear friends, 



LIFE-BOAT SERVICES 235 

from the avarice or want of humanity in those men 
— what would you say of them ? — You would no 
doubt for ever reproach them for their want of fel- 
low feeling. 

Such individuals ought to consider, that by their 
exertions on those occasions they are not serving 
the committee, the shipowners, or the inhabitants, 
except by raising in them feelings of gratitude at 
their praise-worthy endeavours ; but that they are 
then serving the sufferers, and their friends and re- 
latives, together with the cause of humanity, for 
which their own feelings must or ought to be a 
reward. 

The boats are provided, and every necessary con- 
venience, the rest depends on the manly exertions 
of those who are able and who are conversant in 
their management. But it ought to be made known 
generally, that there is no fund equal to the exor- 
bitant demands which have been made, for it is now 
nearly exhausted ; and that if such a practice be 
continued the boats will become useless, and many 
poor sufferers must perish. 

By Order of the Committee. 
Sunderland, January 17th, 1818. 

On the face of it this extraordinary document 
shows the sailors and fishermen of the port in 
anything but a favourable light. But there is 
another side to the question. Let the reader 



236 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

turn once more to chapter two, and consider the 
terrible struggle for existence which the poor 
people of the town had to contend with at the 
time this appeal was issued, and he will cease 
to wonder that they asked to be paid for their 
services. It was not that they were less willing 
than those of their class, either before their 
time or since, to risk their lives in the endea- 
vour to save others, but, speaking generally, 
they were in the grip of bitter poverty, and 
were fain to earn an honest shilling whenever 
opportunity offered. The "Appeal" is a pre- 
judiced statement, and ignores the main factor 
in the case — the wretched poverty of those it 
denounces. 

What has been said goes to prove conclusively 
that the Life-boat was in use in Sunderland 
from 1800, but even that date is not the earliest 
at which an organisation existed for the saving 
of life in the case of shipwreck. In Mr. Oliver's 
possession is a well-made oaken box, 17 ins. 
long, by nJ/£ ins. wide, by 8 ins. deep, with a 
brass tablet let into the top of it inscribed, 
"Sunderland Humane Society, 1791." The 
inside of the box is marked off into small com- 



LIFE-BOAT SERVICES 237 

partments, showing that it was used as a medi- 
cine chest. It was taken over by Mr. Oliver 
from the old Life Brigade house. 

Among the old papers already mentioned is 
a photograph of a boat, on the back of which is 
written, "Sunderland's First Life-boat, 181 1." 
The boat shown on the photograph is very 
different from the modern Life-boat. It is more 
like what is called, in the Royal Navy, a whale 
boat as to size and general outline, though 
different in construction. It is a ten-oared boat 
(two men on a thwart), and is clinker built. 
There is no rudder, but a thole pin is shown at 
each end for steering with an oar. There are 
thole pins for the oars, too, instead of rowlocks, 
and bow and stern are shaped alike. The word 
" Sunderland" appears on one end of the boat, 
and near it a plate is affixed, on which, with the 
aid of a magnifying glass, can be made out the 
words " Life-boat Committee," and underneath 
"Morgan Wake,"* but the rest of the inscription 
is undecipherable. At the other end are the 
words, "Life-boat No. 1," and this no doubt 

* Mr. Morgan Wake was the builder of the boat, and on the 
photograph he is shown sitting near to it. 



238 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

led the original owner of the photograph to 
consider it a picture of Sunderland's first Life- 
boat. But the number, I believe, is intended 
only to distinguish it from Life-boat No. 2, for 
the old balance sheets show clearly enough that 
there were two Life-boats here as early as 1808, 
one being bought in 1800 at a cost of ^185, and 
the other in 1808 at a cost of ^106. But the 
photograph cannot be the picture of either of 
these two boats, for the simple but sufficient 
reason that photography was unknown at that 
period, and did not become a commercial possi- 
bility till about 1840. As a matter of historical 
fact Daguerre only commenced his experiments 
in 1824 ; and Fox published his invention of 
the negative photographic process (which made 
such a photograph as the one under consider- 
ation possible) in 1839. And if the boat were 
built in 181 1, she could not, thirty or thirty-five 
years afterwards, have been in the excellent con- 
dition the picture shows her to be. It is 
obvious, therefore, that this is not a picture of 
Sunderland's first Life-boat. 

To return to our history. In spite of the 
statements in the " Appeal," the records show 



LIFE-BOAT SERVICES 239 

that there was no interruption of the Life-boat 
service at this port. 

In Mr. Oliver's possession is a cutting from 
the Illustrated London News (1858), showing 
the " Arrival of a new Life-boat at Sunderland." 
The boat is on a carriage which is being drawn 
by four horses, and a large concourse of people 
is shown watching the proceedings. A great 
banner is displayed on which are the words 
"Presented by Miss Burdett Coutts," but I can 
find no further record of this boat. 

We come now to the history of the "Sunder- 
land Branch of the Royal National Life-boat 
Institution," which was instituted on April 27th, 
1865. This Branch, though attached to the 
National Institution, was worked quite inde- 
pendently of it for some years, its funds being 
provided by the local shipowners and by public 
subscription. The first entry in the minute 
book reads as follows : — 

" April 27th, 1865. 

11 Sunderland Life-boat, 'Florence Nightingale.' 

u At a preliminary meeting held on Thursday, 
April 27th, 1865, in Mr. Anderson's office, Villiers 
Street, at which Captain Ward, the Inspector of 



2 4 o LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

Life-boats, attended, Mr. Thomas Anderson, Mer- 
chant, in the chair, the following gentlemen were 
appointed as a local committee of management, to 
be increased if required : — Thomas Anderson, Esq., 
Chairman, Messrs. George C. Pecket, Robert Ord, 
Junr. , James Horan, John Firth, Edward Dawson, 
Richard Oliver, and William Thompson, Junr. 

" Resolved : It was proposed by Mr. Pecket and 
seconded by Mr. Ord, that Mr. John Lambton be 
appointed Hon. Treasurer. 

" Proposed by the Chair and seconded by Mr. 
Horan that Capt. Heard be appointed Hon. Secre- 
tary. Also proposed by the Chair and seconded by 
Mr. Ord that Mr. G. C. Pecket, Junr., be ap- 
pointed Assistant Hon. Secretary. 

"The thanks of the Committee are tendered to 
the Royal National Life-boat Institution for the 
handsome and valuable gift of the ' Florence Night- 
ingale,' and also to Captain Ward, the Inspector, 
for his kindness in exhibiting the boat's powers to 
the public of Sunderland. 

" Proposed by Mr. Horan and seconded by Mr. 
Anderson that Captain Heard, Hon. Secretary, and 
Messrs. Pecket and Ord be appointed to wait on 
the Dock and River Commissioners to ask them to 
erect a building for the Life-boat ' Florence Night- 
ingale ' as soon as possible. 

" Proposed generally that the Committee meet at 
the end of each quarter to audit accounts and provide 



LIFE-BOAT SERVICES 241 

for the good management of the boat ; and also 
on any special occasions as required. 

Signed, 

Thomas Anderson, Chairman. 

The next meeting was held on May 2nd, 
1865, when William Boys, mariner and fisher- 
man, was appointed coxswain of the boat, " at 
the usual sum of £% per annum, to be paid 
quarterly from April 1st; and that Joseph Clarke 
be appointed second coxswain." 

At the same meeting it was " Unanimously 
agreed that the thanks of the meeting be given 
to the Mayor and inhabitants of the town and 
county of Derby for the handsome present of 
the ■ Florence Nightingale' Life-boat, and begs 
to assure them that the hardy seamen of this 
Port will be ever ready to render a good account 
of the valuable gift whenever their services may 
be required in manning her." 

A few extracts taken from the same Minute 
Book will tell the subsequent history of the Life- 
boat service in Sunderland. 

April 18th, 1871, " At a meeting of the joint 
Committees of the R.N. L.I. and the Sunderland 
Life-boat Institution, held at the Commission 

R 



242 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

Rooms, Exchange Buildings, George Hudson, 
Esq., in the chair, it was moved by Aid. Reed, 
seconded by Mr. Humble, that the Life-boats 
and all other property belonging to the Sunder- 
land Life-boat Institution be now handed over 
to the Royal National Life-boat Institution. 
Carried unanimously. 

11 Moved by Mr. Pecket, seconded by Mr. 
Porrett, that the boats and property be accepted 
by the local Committee on behalf of the 
R.N. L.I. Carried. 

" Moved by Mr. Pecket, seconded by Mr. 
Porrett, that the two Committees be amalga- 
mated. Carried." 

Feb. 5th, 1872. This was " the occasion of 
the launching of the new Life-boat presented to 
the parent society by Mrs. Eliza Foulston." 

Jan. 1903. (No day given.) " The Com- 
mittee report the receipt of a new boat from the 
parent institution for Hendon beach." 

Oct. 25th, 1905. The Committee was unani- 
mously in favour of a motor boat being placed 
at the North Dock, and instructed the honorary 
secretary to ask the parent institution to place a 
motor boat there instead of the row boat. 



LIFE-BOAT SERVICES 243 

On April 26th, 19 10, the Committee having 
considered a letter from the parent institution, 
resolved to accept the offer of installing a motor 
in the North Dock boat, but with regard to the 
withdrawal of the South Outlet boat, they asked 
that the station should be retained till experience 
of the motor boat had been gained. 

This minute finishes with the appointment of 
a sub-committee to find a suitable mooring place 
for the motor boat, and brings us up to date 
with the Life-boat service.* 

A few words are necessary with regard to the 
Volunteer Life Brigade. It was owing to the 
efforts of the late Capt. Coulson that the Brig- 
ade was established at Sunderland in 1879. The 
Board of Trade would not acknowledge two 
Brigades in one Borough, that is, they would 
not accept a Brigade for Roker and another for 
the South Side of the river ; so the Sunderland 
Brigade is divided into two sections, known as 
the Roker and the South Pier Divisions. These 
Brigades have been called into action over 



* At the time of writing- Sunderland has three Life-boats, one 
stationed at Hendon beach, one at the South Outlet, and the 
third at Roker. 



244 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

seventy times, and have landed, by means of 
the Rocket apparatus, 292 persons."* 

The Life-boat and the Rocket apparatus form 
the principal means adopted for saving life on 
the coasts of the United Kingdom. The 
Rocket apparatus is the exclusive property of 
the Board of Trade. 

For the benefit of the reader who is not fa- 
miliar with these two life-saving services, it may 
be well to explain that the Life-boat service is 
recruited from men accustomed to the sea, be- 
cause they save the lives of the shipwrecked 
mariners by going out to the wrecked ships ; 
whereas the Volunteer Life Brigade may be, 
and often is, composed entirely of civilians — 
tradesmen and ordinary workmen, special know- 
ledge of the sea not being so necessary to them, 
as they work their apparatus entirely from the 
shore and do not need to go on the sea. 

Coming now to the services of Mr Watts in 
connection with the Life-boat and Life Brigade, 
no definite records are available giving all the 
particular instances in which he was a willing 

* From an unpublished paper by Mr. W. J. Oliver, the Hon. 
Secretary of the Sunderland Brigade. 



LIFE-BOAT SERVICES 245 

helper. But after a careful study of the local 
returns of wrecks made to the Royal National 
Life-boat Institution, and helped by various 
other papers and sources of information, it is 
possible to give a short general outline of his 
services. 

Many years before the Volunteer Life Brigade 
was organised, and when the helpers were 
sailors, coastguards, pilots, fishermen, and any 
others who cared to volunteer, Mr. Watts was 
a prominent helper, and seldom allowed other 
duties to keep him from the scene of action. 
His recollection of such work of rescue goes 
back to the time when he was a young man of 
twenty-two. The reader must remember that 
most of these incidents have, by request, been 
recalled by Mr. Watts, now in his 85th year, 
and it is not to be expected that he can charge 
his memory with the exact dates. But where it 
has been possible to verify them this has been 
done. 

One memorable occasion which he recalls 
with great interest was when one of the early 
Life-boats was launched to go to the help of two 
vessels behind the old North Pier. When 



246 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

opposite the bar a heavy sea broke aboard the 
boat and washed Coxswain Davidson overboard. 
Henry, who was at the second oar, sprang aft, 
caught him and held him till, with the assistance 
of some of the crew, he was got on board again. 
The oars were broken, and the boat thus help- 
less, drifted on to the North Glacis. All those 
in the boat were so exhausted and numbed by 
the sleet and the dreadful cold, that they had to 
be run along the beach to restore warmth and 
animation. The crews of the vessels were 
rescued by the North Side Life-boat. 

As to this incident I find in the minute book 
of the Sunderland Life-boat Society on Oct. 
24th, 1882, a resolution appointing John David- 
son Coxswain of No. 4 Life-boat. 

Here is an extract from a report sent to the 
Parent Society by the local secretary on Oct. 
24th, 1894 : — " The ' Jernaes,' barque, of Nor- 
way, from Falmouth to Shields, in ballast, wind 
N.E., blinding showers, very heavy sea. At 
twelve, midday, the ' Jernaes ' stranded on Hen- 
don beach and became a total wreck. No lives 
were lost, but one of the crew died after landing. 
The Life-boat was manned and attempted to 



LIFE-BOAT SERVICES 247 

go out between the piers, but was driven by the 
force of the sea against the roundhead and six 
oars were smashed. She returned to the boat- 
house, got new oars and tried again, but failed, 
and there was no steam tug to be got." Mr. 
Watts was one of the crew on this occasion. 

Once a ship, loaded with pit props, ran ashore 
behind the South Pier in a gale of wind, the 
crew being saved by the Life-boat. The agent 
for the ship being anxious to save her boat, 
which he said was very valuable, offered " a 
good reward " to any one who would save it. 
11 Times were very hard in Sunderland then," 
said Harry, " so three of us, Charley Chisholm, 
Tom Hedley, and myself swam off to the ship 
in the presence of hundreds of people. There 
was no other way to get to her. We reached 
her safely after a big struggle, brought the boat 
ashore all right, and received seven-and-sixpence 
each for our services, and were employed to dis- 
charge the ship — a very difficult task." 

On consideration, the boat does not appear 
to have been of such great value after all, if one 
is to judge from the " reward " paid for getting 
her ashore. 



248 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

Among the letters preserved by Mr. Watts 
is one from Ralph Thompson, the Coxswain of 
the Life-boat " Florence Nightingale," refer- 
ring to Henry's assistance in saving the crew 
of 18 men from the barque "Julia Ravenna," 
which was wrecked on the South Pier end. 
There is also a letter from the Board of Trade, 
dated Jan. 28th, 1886, thanking him "for the 
services rendered to the Chief Officer Coast- 
guard at the wreck of the schooner ' Maggie.' ' 

With regard to the " Julia Ravenna," Henry 
tells how when the men had been brought 
ashore, some of them wanted to try and get 
back to the ship again ; but as the Life Brigade 
men saw that she would very soon break up, 
they cut the connection between the shore and 
the ship. This so exasperated one of the crew 
that he rushed at Henry and kicked him in the 
stomach, injuring him so seriously that he bled 
from the nose and mouth, and was very ill for 
some time. It is some satisfaction to know that 
the brutal rascal who did this got a severe drub- 
bing from the spectators. 

On Sunday, Nov. 14th, 1875, the Italian 
barque " Yole " with a crew of 14 and a North 




HARRY WATTS SETTLED THE DIFFICULTY BY DASHING INTO 
THE SKA. 



LIFE-BOAT SERVICES 249 

Sea pilot, came ashore on Hendon beach in a 
heavy sea, a strong gale blowing from the 
E.N.E. The Life-boat was launched and pro- 
ceeded to the vessel, though, as the report 
states, " With all the power of the crew's 
brawny arms the advance was slow," and just 
as she was nearing the ship, the barque's cable 
parted and she drove ashore. The boat, unable 
to reach her, let go her own anchor, but they 
could not keep the boat's head to the sea, and 
finally had to slip the cable and make for the 
shore, the boat being damaged. 

In the meantime the Life Brigade was at 
work, and amongst those in the forefront was 
Henry Watts. One by one, with the utmost 
exertions, the crew were brought ashore, but 
when about half of them had been landed the 
life-line broke. Now the ship was being bat- 
tered to pieces by the gale and the rocks, and 
might part asunder at any moment. So what- 
ever had to be done must be done without a 
moment's loss of time. Then Harry Watts 
settled the difficulty by dashing into the sea, 
catching the end of the rope, bringing it ashore 
and fastening it up with the shore end, and the 



250 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

work of rescue was resumed. Only just in time, 
too, for hardly had the last man been landed 
when the ship went to pieces. 

And so, with variations, the story might go 
on and on, for there was seldom a storm on 
this coast in those days without a wreck, and 
seldom a wreck without Harry Watts being there 
to help in rescuing the unfortunate seamen. The 
brig "Tagus," of Aberdeen, in November, 1883; 
the schooner " Mariner," of London, in Decem- 
ber, 1878 ; the S.S. " Broomhill," of Dundee, in 
February, 1881 ; the " Victoria," of Sunderland, 
in April, 1877; the barque "Jernaes," in Octo- 
ber, 1894; the S.S. "Stephenson," of London, 
in December, 1881 ; the " Rienzi," " Gladys," 
" Ottercaps," "J. B. Eminson," two Italian 
barques, a three - masted schooner, the brig 
" Blucher ;" — these, and many other wrecks 
Henry assisted at, the total number of lives he 
helped to save by means of the Life-boats and 
Rocket apparatus being over 120 — a worthy re- 
cord surely. 



CHAPTER XX 



IN HARBOUR. 



So He bringeth them unto their desired haven. 

— Psalm cvii., verse 30. 

\ I 7HEN he was in his seventieth year, and 
V V had served the River Wear Commis- 
sioners considerably over thirty years, Mr. Watts 
retired. The constitution of the River Wear 
Commissioners does not permit them to pen- 
sion their servants, but they would have been 
quite willing to pension him in effect by finding 
him a nominal position had he so desired it. 
But he had been a careful and good-living man, 
and he expected that his savings would be suf- 
ficient to keep him for the rest of his life. He 
invested these savings in house property, but 
the investment did not turn out so well as ex- 
pected, and in the course of a few years he be- 
gan to be in rather straitened circumstances. 
The fact was not generally known ; had it been, 
the town would not so far have forgotten his 



252 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

services as to allow him to be in want during 
his old age ; in fact it became known after Mr. 
Carnegie had pensioned him that he had but 
forestalled others in that kindly act. 

However, whatever his circumstances, Henry 
went about the town as cheerful and pleasant as 
ever, and the writer who had many conversa- 
tions with him during this time, never once 
heard him complain. 

On October 21st, 1909, Mr. Andrew Carnegie, 
the donor of the three Branch Libraries which 
Sunderland possesses, came by special invitation 
to open the last of the three — the Monkwear- 
mouth Branch Library. 

Before he came to the town Mr. J. G. Addi- 
son, who had given the site on which the Monk- 
wearmouth Branch Library is built, and was 
therefore to take part in the opening ceremony, 
wrote to Mr. J. A. Charlton Deas, the Public 
Librarian, asking for Mr. Watts's record, as it 
had occurred to him (Mr. Addison), that when 
Mr. Carnegie was in Sunderland something 
might be done for Mr. Watts in connection 
with the Hero Fund which Mr. Carnegie had 
established. 



IN HARBOUR 253 

Then the matter was mentioned to the Mayor 
(Coun. Arthur F. Young) by Mr. Addison and 
Aid. J. G. Kirtley, who asked his Worship if he 
would bring the matter before Mr. Carnegie. 
This he readily promised to do, as he had 
known Mr. Watts for many years and had a 
very great respect for him. 

Mr. Carnegie having arrived, the Mayor and 
Mr. Deas conducted him over the Central 
Library and Museum. Mr. Watts had pre- 
sented his medals to the Museum a few months 
previously, and when they came to the case in 
which these are kept they were pointed out to 
Mr. Carnegie, who asked " What did the man 
do to get all these ? " 

As he seemed to have an idea that the medals 
were war trophies, a short outline of Henry's 
work and character was given to him. Looking 
at Henry's photograph he said, " A fine old 
man. I'd like to have met that man and shaken 
him by the hand. How old was he ? " 

" He is about 84," was the reply, " and it is 
possible to shake hands with him yet." 

" Oh ! " said he, " I'd give something to have 
that pleasure." 



254 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

"You shall have that pleasure this evening, 
then," and arrangements were at once made to 
bring Mr. Carnegie and Mr. Watts together. 

As they turned from the case containing the 
medals Mr. Carnegie asked, " What are the old 
man's circumstances ? " and on being told that 
he was not very well off he at once said, " He 
shall never want again in this world ! Ah," he 
continued, "he has evidently been a brave man. 
It is fine to come across a man who is not only 
a physical but a moral hero. If ever you come 
across any of these heroes of the Fund who 
have children with ability which requires bring- 
ing out by higher education, I wish you would 
report it to the officials of the Hero Fund Trust. 
By getting hold of these children we might be 
raising a grand crop of people of the right kind." 

After the ceremony at Monkwearmouth in the 
evening, Mr. Carnegie was presented with the 
Freedom of the Borough, in the Reception 
Room at the Town Hall, and it was while wait- 
ing for this meeting to begin that Henry Watts 
was introduced to him. They talked together 
for a long time, so long indeed that the meeting 
was kept waiting for a while. 



IN HARBOUR 255 

During his speech, which followed the pre- 
sentation of the Freedom of the Borough, Mr. 
Carnegie, referring to Henry Watts, said that 
he had been introduced that day to a man 
who, he thought, had the most ideal character 
of any man living on the face of the earth. 
He had shaken hands with a man who had saved 
thirty-six lives. " Among the distinguished 
men whose names the Mayor had recited they 
should never let the memory of that Sunderland 
man die. Compared with his acts military glory 
sank into nothing. The hero who killed men 
was the hero of barbarism ; the hero of civilisa- 
tion saved the lives of his fellows." 

During his stay in Sunderland Mr. Carnegie 
was the guest of the Mayor (Mr. Young), and 
that evening after dinner Mr. Carnegie said to 
the Mayor, " Well, now, what about Mr. Watts? 
What do you think about £4. per month ? " 

The Mayor remarked that Mr. Watts would 
be delighted. 

''Well," said Mr. Carnegie, "We'll make it 
£5 a month. Bertram," he said, turning to his 
secretary, "see that the necessary particulars 
are sent on to the officers of the Hero Fund." 



256 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

The following day Mr. Carnegie, his secre- 
tary, the Mayor and Mr. Deas motored over to 
Newcastle, and while going round that city the 
war monument in the Haymarket, designed by 
Mr. T. Eyre Macklin, the sculptor, was pointed 
out to him. 

11 Yes," he said, " it is a fine monument, raised 
to the memory of a lot of brave fellows who lost 
their lives in taking life ; but he is a nobler man 
who risks his life to save another's. It gave me 
greater pleasure to shake hands with Harry 
Watts than it would do to shake hands with a 
great soldier. One of the things which will live 
in my memory in connection with this very 
pleasant visit to Sunderland, is my meeting with 
that fine old man." 

A little later he remarked, "Well, I have fixed 
Harry up all right, and arranged with Bertram 
that he is to have 25/- a week for life, and if his 
wife survives him she is to have it after him. 
A fine old man : the bravest man I have ever 
met !" 

And thus was Henry Watts freed from all 
financial cares and enabled to enjoy the evening 
of life quietly. 



IN HARBOUR 257 

One of the most lasting impressions made 
upon the mind of the writer when, as a boy, he 
entered the Royal Navy in 1865, was a double 
line of old battleships moored in the river Med- 
way. A naval pensioner or two on each vessel 
served to keep them clean and in order, but 
otherwise they were rarely visited, being on the 
" Past Active Service " list. But to him it was 
a great delight to board one of them when op- 
portunity offered. How stately they looked ; 
how gracefully they sat upon the water ; and 
what memories of the past they evoked — glori- 
ous memories of a time when England stood 
alone against the world, and these old battle- 
ships upheld her honour and glory ! And how 
roomy and comfortable they were compared 
with the modern iron man-traps which Science 
evolved to take their places ! 

I pity the man who, walking the decks of one 
of these " Wooden walls of old England," could 
not conjure up from the past the cocked-hatted 
Admirals and Captains fearlessly walking the 
decks 'mid smoke of powder and the scream of 
shot and shell ; the jagged shot-torn sails ; the 
smoking guns and the half-naked, pig-tailed 



258 LIFE OF HARRY WATTS 

Jacks, with deep, hairy breasts and tattooed 
arms, hurrying to and fro serving the guns. 

Some of these ships were with Jervis (after- 
wards Lord St. Vincent), that grim old Admiral 
who, in February, 1797, engaged and defeated 
the great Spanish Fleet off Cape St. Vincent ; 
some were companions of the " Formidable " in 
her long list of victories under Lord Rodney ; 
Duncan knew some of them and Lord Cochrane 
knew others ; while a few could boast of the 
proud distinction of having helped Nelson at 
Trafalgar ; oh ! but they were mighty warriors 
all of them, and each had a brave record. 

And there they lie, worn-out leviathans of 
the past, put out of service by the Law of 
Progress, which is eternal and respects nothing. 
But though Science may despise them, and 
Youth hurry by with scarcely a passing glance, 
yet shall they live in the memory of all who 
love their country, of all who respect honour- 
able service and duty faithfully done. 

In writing the final words of this imperfect 
story of the life and labours of Harry Watts, I 
feel that I cannot do better than liken him to 
one of those fine old ships. Like them he bears 



IN HARBOUR 



259 



the scars of a long and honourable service ; and 
though now, in his 85th year, he is, like them, 
laid by in harbour as " Past Active Service," 
there is still that about him which commands 
our respect, still that dignity of bearing which 
only such service can bring ; and a history which 
may well inspire the younger generation to em- 
ulate his heroic deeds. 



Old Age is my Guest — but my duty I've done, 

With God's help, to the last! 
A?id the Future? — I've lived it, and face it again 

Colours nailed to the mast ! 
And the present? — Ah me, but the I?igle-nook's warm, 

Let me dream of the Past ! 




26o 



LIST OF PERSONS SAVED BY HENRY WATTS. 

i. — While at Quebec, in 1839, a fellow apprentice, 
named Richard Nicholson, fell overboard, and Watts, 
though then a mere boy, jumped in and rescued him. 

2. — At Miramichi, on board the "Cowen," the Cap- 
tain (J. Luckley), capsized a canoe he was bringing to 
the ship and was thrown into the water. Watts, who 
was waiting for him at the gangway of the ship, immed- 
iately plunged into the water, taking a rope with him, 
and so saved the Captain. 

3. — While coming through the Pentland Firth on 
board the brig "United Kingdom," a lad named Watson 
was washed overboard in a heavy sea. Watts sprang 
over after him and with difficulty managed to regain the 
ship with him. 

4 & 5. — While in the " Protector," in 1845, and lying 
at Woolwich, a barge foundered with two men on board, 
and both of them were rescued by Watts. 

6 to 11. — In 1847, while lying at Rotterdam in a ves- 
sel called the " Express," the boat of a foreign ship was 
smashed by an anchor dropping into it, throwing the 
six men who were in her into the water. Watts jumped 
into the boat belonging to his own ship and reached 
them in time to save them all. 

12. — In 1852 a boy named Paul was drowning outside 
the South Pier when Henry jumped in and rescued him, 
after great exertions. 



26l 



13. — The same year he plunged into the river and 
saved a boy named Maughan, who had fallen from 
Smurthwaite's Wharf. 

14. — A young woman, while a strong sea was run- 
ning, attempted to commit suicide from the shore below 
the pier. Watts, after an exhausting struggle, brought 
her to land. 

15. — Rescued a girl who had fallen into the canal at 
Cardiff. 

16. — Rescued William Smith, a trimmer, who fell into 
the dock while going on board a vessel. 

17. — In 1854 he saved a boy at Wapping Dock, and 
as a result had a serious illness lasting three months, 
due to swallowing some of the poisonous water. 

18 & 19. — In very severe weather he jumped over- 
board to save two boys at the South Outlet, and not- 
withstanding that he took the cramp, he brought them 
to shore. 

20 & 21. — In 1863 a girl and a boy fell from the quay 
near Panns Ferry into the river. Watts, who was near 
at the time, jumped overboard, swam to them and saved 
them. 

22. — In 1866 a boy named Smith fell from a dredger 
at No. 2 Graving Dock, and was rescued by Watts. 

23. — Sept., 1866. A boy named Hall fell overboard 
near the River Wear Commissioners' Quay. Watts 
jumped from the breakwater and saved him. 

24. — A boy fell from the Custom House Quay and 
was brought ashore by Watts. 

25. — In 1868 a boy named John Fox, living in Mill 



262 



Street, fell from a boat at the Mark Quay. Watts 
swam to him and, with great difficulty, rescued him. 

26. — July, 1869. James Watt, a shipwright, fell into 
the South Dock basin. Watts swam to the man and 
landed him in safety. 

27. — June, 1870. A boat containing a pleasure party 
of eight children and three adults capsized in the river. 
Watts saved one of the party, and was in fact instru- 
mental in saving them all. 

28. — Same day he jumped into the river and rescued 
a man named Robert Wilson. 

29. — The same year he rescued a boy who had fallen 
into the river near the Tide Gauge Jetty. 

30. — August, 1875. Jumped into the River Wear to 
the rescue of a boy named Edward Bolton, being him- 
self nearly drowned, owing to the boy clutching him 
round the legs. 

31. — September, 1876. Rescued a boy named James 
Taylor, who had fallen into the river near Mark Quay. 

32. — November, 1876. Saved another boy named 
Henry Dobson, who had fallen into the river, swimming 
with him until a boat came to the rescue. 

33. — May, 1877. A man named John Lonsdale was 
dragged overboard from a keel, where he and Watts 
were working, by a heavy chain with which he had be- 
come entangled. Watts dived over after him, released 
him from the chain, and brought him aboard the keel. 

34. — May, 1881. Jumped into the Graving Dock, 
though encumbered with his diving dress, and rescued 
a lad named Jones, who had fallen in and was drowning. 



263 

35. — August, 1884. A boy named James Riseborough 
had fallen into the outer basin, and a big dog had been 
sent in to the lad's help, but instead of helping he was 
actually drowning the boy. Watts came up, saw what 
was happening, and jumped in and brought the lad to 
shore. 

36. — May, 1892. A boy named Fatherley fell into the 
South Dock. Henry and his wife were, at the time, 
walking along to their home, then on the South Dock. 
Hearing the cries Henry at once turned back, his wife 
begging him not to go. (He was then 66 years old.) 
However, she reached the dock side first, and when she 
saw the lad struggling in the water she cried out, " Be 
quick, Harry ! Be quick !" Henry jumped in, swam to 
the boy, brought him to the dock side and held him 
there till a rope was lowered. This he fastened round 
the boy's waist and he was hauled up, the same process 
being repeated with Henry. 



A SAD LIST. 

The following is a list of Mr. Watts's relatives who 
were drowned, and it may in some measure explain his 
constant desire to save others : — 

When Henry was a boy his brother was drowned in 
the Bristol Channel. 

Next, two of his nephews, William and Henry Sloan, 
were drowned from a steam-boat in the North Sea. 



264 

A cousin, Captain Crozier, took his daughter away 
for the good of her health, and both were drowned 
while away. 

The mother of his second wife, while at the Fish 
Market with her husband, was suddenly missed and was 
never seen again ; but her market basket was picked up 
in the river by the ferryboat-man. 

Apart from the above it may also be mentioned that 
a niece of his had two children killed in the Victoria 
Hall Disaster. 



MR. HENRY WATTS S MEDALS. 

Mr. Watts some time ago presented his medals and 
certificates, which have been awarded him for life- 
saving, to the Sunderland Corporation. The medals 
are to be seen in the Sunderland Museum, in the room 
adjoining the Art Gallery, and the certificates are ex- 
hibited in the Reading Room of the Hendon Branch 
Library, Villette Road, in the district in which Mr. 
Watts resides. The following are the medals : — 

(1). — Bronze Medal and Honorary Clasp of the Royal 
Humane Society. Inscription : " Henry Watts, 21st 
August, 1868. (Duplicate). Clasp : " 8th May, 1892." 

(2). — Gold and Bronze Medal. Inscription : "Pre- 
sented to Mr. Henry Watts for his courage and humanity 



265 

in saving the lives of 25 persons from drowning. 1868." 
On the other side : " Diamond Swimming Club and 
Humane Society." 

(3). — Gold Medal. Inscription : " Presented to Mr. 
Henry Watts by Mr. Richardson for searching the 
River Wear and recovering the body of his grandson. 
1875." On the other side : " Mr. Henry Watts, diver 
at the recent Tay Bridge Disaster, has saved the lives 
of 35 persons from drowning, besides rendering valuable 
Life-boat and Rocket-line services. 4th August, 1884." 

(4). — Silver Medal. Inscription : "Presented to Mr. 
Henry Watts by the Sailors of the East End of Sunder- 
land in appreciation of his many kind services to them. 
April, 1877." On the other side : " One of the original 
medals taken from the Bazaar, James Williams Street, 
and found in the ashpit at Southwick. 5th August, 
1878." 

(5). — Silver Medal. Duplicate of No. 4. 

(6).— Gold Medal. " Presented to Mr. Harry Watts 
by the United Temperance Crusaders for his ready 
courage in saving 33 persons from drowning. Septem- 
ber 4th, 1878." (The original medal was given in 1875.) 

(7). — Silver Star Medal. Inscription : " Presented to 
Mr. Henry Watts as a mark of approbation for saving 
many lives from drowning. 1878. G.H.R." 

(8). — Bronze Medal. Inscription on rim : u Henry 
Watts for saving life from drowning on various occa- 
sions." Also inscribed : " Awarded by the Board of 
Trade for gallantry in saving life. V.R." 



266 



LIST OF CERTIFICATES, ETC. 



(i). — Parchment Certificate from the Royal Humane 
Society, dated 17th October, 1866. . . Awarded for 
saving the life of William Hall. 

(2). — Certificate from the Diamond Swimming Club 
and Humane Society, dated September 22nd, 1868. 
Awarded "for saving the life of a boy in the River 
Wear, he having previously saved 24 lives." 

(3). — Honorary Testimonial of the Royal Humane 
Society, dated the 17th August, 1869. Awarded for 
saving the life of James Watt, July 21st, 1869. 

(4). —Vellum Certificate of the Royal Humane Society, 
dated 21st September, 1875. Awarded for saving the 
life of Edward Bolton on the 18th August, 1875. 

(5). — Illuminated Address, presented with the dupli- 
cate medals on December 3rd, 1878. 

(6). — Certificate presented with the Bronze Clasp of 
the Royal Humane Society on June 15th, 1892, "for 
having saved life from drowning." 



IN DEX. 



A Daring feat 
Addison, Mr. J. G. ... 
Admiral Jervis 
" Adolphus," wreck of 
A False Admirer 
After Thirty Years ... 
Albert Medal Proposed 

A Plucky Act 

Apprenticed to the Sea 
Apprentices boarded out 
A Strange Scene 
Atkinson's, Mr., Diary 



Back to the Sea 
Bailey, Jim, episode 
Baling- out the room 
Ballast Hills ... 
Ballast, disposal of 
Do. Town built on 



PAGE 

249 
252 

258 

108 

4,7 
92 

156 
212 

33 

100 

22 

18 



55 
89 
29 

13 
96 

9 6 > 97 



"Balmoral Castle" wrecked 62 
Batavian ship " Blucher " ... 89 
Bible presented 
Binks, Mrs. .. 

Birth, date of 

Blown up when diving 

"Blaymonge" 

Blood poisoning 

Board of Trade medal 

Bolton, Ed. rescued.. 107, 129 

Boy saved, Commissioners 



...128 
... 31 

*3> 35 
...110 
... 87 
...118 
...141 



Quay 

Boy and girl saved ... 
Boys, two rescued ... 
Boys, Wm., Coxswain 
Booth, Captain 
Branfoot, Mr. W. J. 
Branch Libraries 
Bullick, Mr. George... 



.104 
.103 
.103 
241 

• 55 
.124 
.252 
.205 



Casters and Keelmen 

" Castlereagh," The 

Certificate, R.H.S. 

Do. of discharge 

Cholera in London ... 

Cochrane, Lord 

Commissioners, Town 

Condition of Streets 

Conversion 

Do. facts of his 

Do. A test of 

Do. A, in the park.. 

Cook, Captain Thos. 

Coutts, Miss Burdett 

" Cowen," The 

Crab, attacked by 

Crass, Mr., draper .. 

Crawford, Jack ... 14, 



17 
28 

127 

62 

2 

258 
15 
15 
66 
70 

■ 7 2 
78 

, 62 

2 39 
48 

hi 
25 

'34 



Dalton Waterworks... ...189 

Do. Shaft ... .. 192 

Davidson, Coxswain ...246 

Deas, Mr. Charlton 252, 253 
Death of Henry's father ... 48 
Devil fish, fight with ...102 

Diamond Swimming Club 122, 
123, 126 
Diving, facts about .. -177 

Do. dangers of ... ...182 

Diver, begins as ... ... 62 

Diving Bell Incident ... 81 

Divers, rate of pay ot ...187 

Diving Bell first used .. ior 

Dodds, Mr. C. H., 95, 163, 170 
Dog, saving his . •••59 

Donaldson, Jimmy, story of.. .24 
Dunning Street ... ... 25 



Campbell, Mr. J. G. 123, 128, 156 
Carnegie, Mr. Andrew, 252, 253 



Early days 
Early marriage 
Education, lack of 



27 
52 
86 



268 



Entangled when diving 108, 109 
" Elizabeth Jane " ashore 
Epoch-making- Event, An 
" Erato," of Hamburg 
Ettrick, Squire 
" Express," The 



61 
. 66 

•*73 
.216 

• 55 

. 81 
.119 

• 46 
•258 
.121 

• 48 
> 54 
203 

75 
100 

241 
242 
,213 

33 
107 

25 

32 

14 

Glenny, Mr. Henry ... ...206 

Gold medal presented 128, 129 
Gold watch presented . . . 131 

Greathead, Mr. Henry 

227, 229, 230 
Grey, Mattie and Jeanie 57 

Hamburg, A passage to ... 86 
Hanson, Mr. Thomas ... 72 

Harry is pensioned ... .-256 

Harry's most dangerous task 208 
Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry... 157 
Heard, Captain, R.N., 126, 240 
Henry's optimism ... . .. 75 

Henry's humour ... ... 88 

Herrington Street Chapel ... 75 
Hero Fund ... ... 252,254 

Hetton Drops, escape at ...no 
Hodgson, Mr. Joseph ... 88 

Home of the Watts ... 29 

Horse, valuable, rescued ...216 



Facing death ... 

Faith, cured by 

Father, last good-bye to 

Final words ... 

First acknowledgment 

First life saved 

First wife ... ... 52 

Finney, Mr. Joseph ... 202, 
Flag Lane P.M. Chapel ... 
Food, price of, 1850-60 
"Florence Nightingale" 

230, 239, 
Foulston, Mrs. Eliza 
French, Mr. Hartley 

Gage, Captain 
Gallant rescue, A 

Galley's Gill 

Garrison Pottery, The 
Gasworks, beginning of 



Improvement Act, 1826 
Indentures 



36-45 



indentures ... ... 30-45 

Incidents in religious life ... 78 

Interlude, An ... ... ... 83 

" In Harbour " 



83 
25 1 



Jammed under a ship ...116 

James Williams St. C.L.C....143 

"James," The ... ... 49 

" Jernaes " wrecked ...246 

"John Murray" wrecked 53, 61 
"John Muller," The... ... 57 

Journal, beginning of ■••8,9 

" Julia Ravenna " wrecked, 248 



Kayll, Aid 

Keelmen and Casters 
Keelmen in arms 
Kelloe Winning Pit ... 
King's Entry ... 
Kindly teachers 
Kirtley, Aid. J. G. ... 



.130 

• 17 

• 25 
.207 

• 52 

• 3i 
•253 



Laing Warehouse opened ... 87 
Lamb, Mr. George ... ... 61 

Lamb, Mr. Friend ... .213 

" Lena," The brig ... 33, 46 
Letters of appreciation 202-206 
Life-boat services ... 224-250 



Life-boats, " An Appeal 
Littleboy, Mr., diver 
Lonsdale, Mr. J., rescued 
Luckley, Captain, rescued 
Lukin, Mr. Lionel 



" Maggie," Wreck of 
Mainsforth Ter. Chapel 
Marriage Customs ... 

Do. Henry's second 
Maryport, an escape at 
Mather, Capt. Alex... 
11 Martha," The brig 
Mathew, Father 



233 
190 

115 

48 

226 



248 

75 

53 

93 

114 

211 

62, 92 

47 



Maughan, boy named, saved 58 



Meat money 
Medals stolen... 

Do. duplicates given 
Millfield, incident at... 
Miramichi 



3 6 > 4' 
'43 
152 
"5 
48 



269 



Money recovered ... 112, 113 
Do. for services, refused 170 

Monkey's Yard 93 

Do. property deeds 93 
Motor boat, North Dock ...242 

Narrow Escapes ... 117-218 

Nelson, Lord 258 

Newspaper reference, First 103 
Newbottle Pit ...207 

Nicholson saved ... 47 

Do. Coun. J 130 

North Dock opened 17 

Novel use for a diver, A ...172 

Old Market, The 14 

Oliver, Mr. W. J. 231 

Open-air Festivities ... ... 21 

" Past Active Service " 257 

Paupers in Sunderland ... 19 
Paul, boy named, rescued ... 57 
Payment of crews ... •••99 

Pentland Firth 49 

Pleasure party rescued 213 

Poisoned by Thames water 4 
Poisoned air, Working in .175 
Poor cess ... ... ... 19 

Poor, condition of ... ... 18 

Population of Sunderland in 

1821 13 

Port Seaham ... ... ... 14 

Potts, Mr. W. 204 

Poverty of the workers ... 21 
" Princess Alice" sunk ...147 
Prehistoric Canoe ... .222 

Presentation Bronze medal... 124 
Do. Gold medal ...124 

"Protector," The 50 

Provisions, Price of, in 1820 24 
Public indifference 63 



131 
128 
I, 2 



33 » 46, 49 
... 25 



Quebec 
Queen Street ... 

Recognition ... ... ...120 

Rennison, Mr. G. H. .. 149 

Retirement ... ... ...251 

"Rewards" 233 



R.H.S. Certificate 

Richardson, Mr. 
River Thames 

Do. Wear Commissioners 

61, 62, 92, 251 

Do. Wear Improvements... 98 
Robe, Mr. John ... ..123 

Robinson, Mr. W. ... ...123 

Robson, Mr. S. R. ... 152, 157 

Rodney, Lord ... ...258 

Rotterdam ... 55, 56 
Royal N.L.I, established ...230 
Ruddick, Mr. J. R 200 



Sanderson, Mr. Thomas 
Sailors' Tribute, A ... 
Scoffer answered, A 
Schooner "Susan"... 
Seaham Harbour 
Seamen and drink ... 

Do., six, saved ... 
Second wife, Death of 
Shipwrights' Wages, 1820 
Ships, Long detention of 
Shipwrecked three times 
Shore life ended 
Singing ninnies 
Silver Street ... ...21,52 

Sierra Leone .. 
Silver medal presented 
Smurthwaite's Wharf 
Snowball, Mr., solicitor 
South Pier, Old 
South Dock ... 
Straitened Circumstances 
Streets, Condition of... 15, 
Struggle for existence, 21, 
Stocks used ... 

Stafford, Mr 

Starts housekeeping .. 
Sunderland when Watts was 

born .. 
Sunderland in 1819 



22 
135 

78 
"3 

47 
56 
94 
25 
99 
61 

33 
24 

79 

58 
136 

57 
94 
16 

17 
6 

2 5 
27 
24 
31 
52 



Do. Parish Paupers, 20 
Do. V. Life Brigade 

2 3i» 243 
Do. Life-boat fund ...231 
Do. First Life-boat... 237 
Do. Branch R.N.L.I. 

239, 242 



270 



Sunderland River & Port ... 95 
Sunderland Daily Echo Lead- 
ing- articles... ... 132, 145 

Sunday School incident ... 30 
Suicide, would-be, rescued... 59 
"Susannah," The brig- 59 

Storey, Mr. Samuel ... 135, 136 
Sutherland, Mr. J. W. ...206 

Stafford Street Mission ... 72 
"Stormy Petrel," The ... 88 
Swimming to a Ship ••• 2 47 

Tay Bridge Disaster ••• l S9 

Temperance cause ... ... 76 

Test of religion ... 80 

Teetotal helmet, A 87 

Terrible possibility, A ...196 

Theft of medals, thief caught 

Three months' illness ... 4 

Thompson, Mr., draper ... 61 
Do. Sarah Ann ... 93 
Do. Mr. W., Mayor 127 
Thompson, Ralph, Coxswain 248 
" Tommy the Bellman " ... 23 

11 United Kingdom," The ... 49 
United Temperance Crus- 
aders ... ... 129, 148 

Victoria Hall Disaster ...221 



Wake, Mr. Morgan 237 

War Monument, Newcastle, 256 
Wapping Dock, Rescue at 2, 61 
Waterworks, Beginning ot .. 14 
Wading across the river ... 17 

Watts family, The 27 

Watts as a diver ... .106 

Watts, Mr. Tom ... ...219 

Watt, James, rescued ..126 

Watson, Mr. R. H 148 

Watson, George, saved ... 49 
Wardle, Captain George ... 62 
Wallace, Captain, murdered 50 
Wages of seamen, 1826 ... 47 
Do. as apprentice, 36, 41 
Ward, Captain •••59 

Wilson, Mr. D. ... ...171 

William Watts drowned ... 27 
Wilson, Robert, rescued ...214 
" Wooden Walls," England's 

2 57 
Woolwich, men rescued at... 50 
Work at a weaving factory 33 
Wouldhave, Mr. W., 226, 228, 229 
Wreck of the "Richard"... 28 
Wright, Mr. D 104 

" Yole," barque, wrecked ...248 
Young, Mr. James ... .. 204 

Young, Mr. A. F. (Mayor)... 253