The Tynemouth Medal Trust exists in order to award the Tynemouth Medal, an award which was established in 1895, with the first award being made retrospectively, for an incident witnessed by the founder of the trust during 1891.
The trust historically awarded only a medal, struck from Silver and identical in design, save the name of the recipient engraved on the rear, until 1911, when a decision was made to introduce a Gold medal for acts of exceptional bravery and a Parchment Certificate.
The Tynemouth Medal exists to be awarded to:
Those who had done a ‘heroic deed’ – in the widest acceptance of the phrase – either within the ebb and flow of the Tyne or its adjacent sea, or by Tynesides on a foreign sea, or by foreigners in local waters, and who in the opinion of the Trustees is deserving of an award within the spirit and objects of the Trust.
In the history of the trust, there have been only 4 recipients of the Gold medal, 87 recipients of the Silver medal and 64 recipients of Parchment Certificates.
The last award was made during 1993 – following a period of inactivity, it is the intention of the Trust to award a number of medals during 2020.
On the 13th October 1891, after darkness had fallen, the schooner “Peggy”, running for shelter in the Tyne from hurricane force winds, drove ashore in a storm, on the rocks on the West side of the Spanish Battery. The Life Brigade, who were on standby bad weather watch, quickly took the Breeches Buoy apparatus down to the rocks, establishedc ommunication with the vessel and rescued most of the crew. The ship end of the hawser needed to be fastened to the mast at some height above the deck in order to lift the breeches buoy clear of the rocks and waves as much as possible, so the crew needed to climb the rigging to get into the breeches. One crewman, however, Frank Whittet, was badly injured after twice falling from the rigging while trying to do so and, being unable to climb up again, he was left on board tied to the rigging after the four others had been safely landed.
One of the Tynemouth Coastguards on duty at the wreck was George Edwin Hoar who, when he found out about the hapless man still on the ship, volunteered to be hauled out to the vessel in the breeches buoy in an attempt to bring him ashore. He then climbed into the buoy and was hauled off to the ship. When he saw what the situation was, he signalled to be hauled back to the shore, where he arranged to be hauled back to the ship and, when he reached it, to have the hawser slackened off in order that he would be lowered onto the deck. This was all accomplished and he managed to untie Whittet, drag him onto the buoy, wrap his legs around the seaman’s and grasp him firmly around the waist, whereupon the hawser was hauled taught again and the pair were brought safely to the shore.
The conditions in which Coastguard Hoar had accomplished this very difficult feat were horrendous ; hurricane force winds were blowing, huge seas were running in, alternately totally burying him and Whittet, crashing them against the rocks then throwing them high up on a wave as they travelled in the buoy and threatening to tear the crewman from his grasp, and it was pitch dark. The winds were so strong as to cause structural damage in Tynemouth Village and to make it dangerous to walk the streets because of the flying debris. He displayed immense courage in his actions and undoubtedly saved the life of the crewman, who would otherwise certainly have perished. At the time of the wreck, he was awarded the Albert Medal for his bravery ; he was later to become the first recipient of the Tynemouth Medal.
Among the many people who were very impressed with Coastguard Hoar’s gallantry was a New York lawyer, a Mr.E.B.Convers, who was at the time staying in Tynemouth with a lawyer friend, John Stanley Mitcalfe. Upon his return to America, Mr.Convers worked on a plan to give tangible expression to his admiration and, in a letter date marked New York, December 14th 1894, enlisted the help of Mr. Mitcalfe, Mr. Joseph Cowen and Mr.Horatio Adamson to act as founder trustees and the award committee of a trust which would henceforth recognise any such gallantry with the award of silver medal or a parchment.
He had had a silver medal designed and produced and he would fund the trust, which he named the “Tynemouth Medal Trust” in honour of the gallantry of the men of that village. The three gentlemen were requested by Mr.Convers to act as Founder’s Trustees and as an ex-officio Committee of Award ; the three consented to the request and Mr.Mitcalfe was appointed Honorary Secretary, his first task being to communicate to Mr.Convers their high appreciation of the trust which he had placed in them and their admiration for what he was doing. The one condition which Mr.Convers imposed upon the three Trustees was that his, Mr.Convers’s, identity was to be “strictly suppressed” and that any enquiry as to his identity should be responded to by saying that he was “a gentleman of the Hudson who has friends by the Tyne”. Upon enquiry as to the parameters to be used in the consideration of the award of the medal, Mr.Convers responded on 15th January 1895 that he wished the medals to be given to “those who had done a “heroic deed” – in the widest acceptance of the phrase – either within the ebb and flow of the Tyne or its adjacent sea, or by Tynesiders on a foreign sea, or by foreigners in local waters.”
The Tynemouth Medal
The medal designed by Mr.Convers bears upon the obverse a scene from a viewpoint to the North of King Edward’s Bay at Tynemouth, with Pen Bal Crag surmounted by the Lighthouse and the many buildings which stood within the Castle, and, in the background, Tynemouth North Pier with its lighthouse.
The scene, therefore, depicts the scene as it was in the few years at the end of the century when the pier was originally completed and before the Pen Bal Crag lighthouse was
demolished. In the foreground left is a large ship, sinking by the stern, and a lifeboat is putting off into the stormy seas to go to her rescue Around the top of the medal is the
inscription “PALMAM QUI MERUIT” and around the bottom “TYNEMOUTH MEDAL”. The reverse of the medal is blank in the centre to allow for the engraving of the recipient’s name, with a laurel wreath around the outer edge. The ribbon is usually dark blue, but six medals awarded in July 1911 for an attempted rescue of four boys who were drowned at Whitley Bay were mounted on special red, white and blue ribbons in honour of the coronation of King George V.
The inscription “Palmam qui meruit” is, it is not known whether intentionally or not, an abbreviation of Lord Nelson’s motto “Palmam qui meruit ferat” – “Let him who has earned the palm bear it”.
At a meeting of trustees on 9th October 1911 it was decided that a further award of a Gold medal should be introduced to award those involved in ‘Special Cases’, as well as a Parchment Certificate.
To date, 4 Tynemouth Gold Medals have been awarded, 87 Tynemouth Medals and 64 Parchment Certificates.
Among the Trustees of today, several traditions still continue ; members of the Committee of the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade and members of the family of Mr.Mitcalfe are Trustees of the Tynemouth Medal, in addition to members of the Local Council Authority.