The Wreck of the “Betsy Caines”, 1827

Wreck of the “Betsy Cains”

On the 17th February 1827 the collier Betsy Cains set our from South Shields for London and Hamburg with coal, but was wrecked on the Black Middens near Tynemouth Bar.

“North Shields, 18th Feb. Yesterday afternoon the wind shifted from NW to SE and blew a heavy gale, with thick showers of snow. This morning the BETSEY CAINES, Wilson, which sailed yesterday morning, put back; struck upon the Bar and afterwards got upon the rocks near the Spanish Battery and bilged. Crew saved by the DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND lifeboat. Most of the materials saved, but it is feared the vessel will be wrecked. It continues blowing a hard gale from ESE.” (Lloyd’s 1969 Lloyd’s list: 20-FEB-1827, No.6196)

This straightforward account from “Lloyd’s List” was echoed in the local press but they then went on to recount the legend of the Betsy Cains which was widely held at the time. This is how it is described by W. Senior, writing in “The Mariners Mirror”, Volume 1, 1911, The Legend of the “Betsy Cains”

The Newcastle Courant after describing the circumstances of the wreck in its issue of February 24th of that year gives the story briefly. “In 1688,” it says, “the Betsy Cains brought over to England William Prince of Orange and was then called the Princess Mary; for a number of years she was one of Queen Anne’s Royal yachts and at that time was considered a remarkably fast sailing vessel.” The tale was evidently widely believed in, for the same journal, recording on the 3rd March that the wreck had broken up, adds, “in relating the loss of this (supposed to be the oldest British) vessel we cannot refrain from remarking the excitement of curiosity not only to have a view of her as she laid in a wrecked state, but to obtain some part of her in token of the event for which she was most remarkablethe bringing over of William III. Individuals in Shields have received letters from the Orange Lodges and persons in various parts of the country requesting to procure them a piece of the vessel.”

This is the story which was taken up by the Stone family and is still held by some contemporary relatives today, in spite of the fact that it is well known that William travelled to England on a Dutch frigate of about 30 guns called the Brill on Thursday 1st November 1688 and his wife Mary followed in the royal yacht Mary in February 1689.

The Betsy Cains had nothing to do with bringing the royal couple, William and Mary from Holland to England in order to ascend the British throne.