Baltic and Schooner Northern Light

Jo Rodriguez

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Apr 24, 2006
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Hi Tammy, Although Mark and I both had reports/documents that said that my Great Grandfather was the captain of Baltic during this rescue we both, later, discovered reports and photos that confirmed that Captain Davies was the captain on this particular journey.
 

Mark Baber

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And, in any event, as the second article in this thread reports, it was the United States Lines' Republic, not White Star's Baltic, which rescued the Gander Deal crew.
 

Craig Parsons

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Mar 23, 2009
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Mark / Jo

To say that I was excited when my brother stumbled upon this site, was an understatement. I work here in Newfoundland at the Marine Institute. The Northern Light belonged to my grandfather, Tom Parsons from Bloomfield, Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland. Rex Parsons who drowned was my Uncle.
This is an exciting story and I have done some local research about six years ago and have copies of some pictures of the rescue and of the Baltic Official Log book pages as well as local newspaper clippings. There is a book by a local gentlemen who wrote a story of the nine schooners that left St. John's at the same time, many of which were lost.
I was not aware of many of this information that happened from the UK aspect of this story. It is excellent to know that these men received medals etc for their brave work.

This site has now rekindled my passion to search for more information.

It does have another twist to the story. On board the Baltic at the time was a young Cambridge University student who took a motion picture of the event.
He sold this in New York at that time, and the proceeds of $125.00 were given to my Grandfather.

My grandfather's insurance on the schooner expired during his ordeal as he expected the voyage to be only a short trip. He lost all and spent his later years working on local coastal vessels sometimes under the command of his son, Peter, who survived the ordeal and with his other son, Tom, my father.

My quest to maybe find this footage is now on again as I will start with the New York times who have a number of archived articles on this event.

Thank-you to all for this information and any other that might help.
 

Mark Baber

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Hello, Craig---

Glad that you and yours found the stuff posted here interesting and helpful. That's one of the rewards of regurgitating articles like this.

;-)

In case you're not aware, there are two photos in the 23 December 1929 edition of The Times (London), one showing Northern Light herself and the other, the Baltic boat crew and the survivors rescued by them.

Finally, although what I've posted so far is all from New York, The Times carried two other articles besides the one Jo transcribed. One reported on the New York medals mentioned earlier, but the other details a Liverpool award ceremony not previously mentioned here. I'll transcribe and post that later tonight or tomorrow.
 

Jo Rodriguez

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Apr 24, 2006
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This is why I love the internet! What would be the chances of us all connecting and telling the various parts of this story without it?
I posted my original question over 6 years ago and here we are today still adding to the story.
Craig, did your granddad talk about the shipwreck much?
Mark, a picture of the medal ceremony in Liverpool is in the article I was supposed to send to you. I actually had the stuff out and was prepping to mail it to you a couple weeks ago but I was missing one page. -My papers, like my life are chaotic!- I have a couple more boxes to look through so hopefully I'll find the missing page.
 

Mark Baber

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MAB Note: This article appears to describe a different Liverpool ceremony than the one mentioned in the 6 March NYT article which appears above.

The Times, 20 January 1930

BRAVERY AT SEA
---
AWARDS TO RESCUERS

---
In the Liverpool Town Hall on Friday Captain Evan Davies, third officer
J. H. Walker, and five members of the crew of the White Star liner
Baltic were presented with awards for gallantry at sea by the Lord
Mayor, Councillor L. D. Holt, on behalf of the Liverpool Shipwreck and
Humane Society. The Baltic, under the command of Captain Davies, rescued
on December 6 last five members of the crew of the schooner Northern
Light, a freighter, bound from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Bonavista
Bay with a general cargo. The schooner had drifted into great danger in
the heavy seas, and flew the distress signal "Wish abandon." Captain
Davies skilfully manoeuvred the Baltic to a position windward of the
Northern Light, and a lifeboat was lowered and manned by a volunteer
crew in the charge of Mr. Walker. The boat went to the distressed
vessel, which was about 300 yards away, and brought to safety five of
the crew. Rex Parsons, the captain's son, lost his life.

The Lord Mayor presented Captain Davies with an illuminated address and
a silver medal. An address and clasp were handed to Mr. Walker, who
received also a combined clock and barometer; and silver medals and
addresses were presented also to Chief Petty Officer J. Boylan, Bosun's
Mate J. Fitzgerald, Storekeeper J. Whelan, Quartermasters P. Codd and W.
Williams, and Able Seaman A. Cole.

[The balance of this article, describing another award, has not been
transcribed.]

-30-
 

Lydia Still

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Feb 6, 2009
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I have been reading your articles with interest, as my grandad was Peter Codd. He received several medals but unfortunately I am not in possession of them. My grandad passed away twenty five years ago and I was too young to know the story behind the medals he had received. It has been fascinating to learn about the rescue.
 

Mark Baber

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As I said a few messages up, Lydia, hearing things like this is one of the great rewards of what we do here. Glad you found this stuff helpful.
 

Arthur Sutton

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Apr 2, 2009
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I am trying to find out more about John Whelan, one of the Northern Light rescuers on 6 December 1929. I have a nice scanned photo of him - if anyone would like a copy I’ll be happy to email it.

It was good to read the newspaper reports. Aside from the medals it was nice to see they all got $100 which I imagine was a tidy sum back then. I would be very interested to see the newspaper pictures, as this would add a lot to my research. Also, does anyone know if there is a website for the Life Saving Benevolent Society of New York?
 

Mark Baber

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if anyone would like a copy I’ll be happy to email it.

Sure. My email address is in my profile.

I would be very interested to see the newspaper pictures

I don't remember if any of the NYT articles had photos; I'll check tonight.

a website for the Life Saving Benevolent Society of New York?

I've never found one, but there is now a page on the Seamen's Church Institute web site to the effect that the Institute had taken over administration of the Association.
 

Craig Parsons

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Mar 23, 2009
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Jo and Mark

Thank-you for your prompt response. My grandfather died before I was born and I understand that he did not speak much of the event. There has been a book published covering a number of ships from Newfoundland that were lost at that time.
 

Lydia Still

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Feb 6, 2009
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There is a mention of this rescue on a website called The Sea Gallantry Medal Deneumann01


I believe my Grandad received three medals. Bronze, Silver and Gold and one of these medals was presented by the King. My brother and cousin have the bronze and silver but the gold was sold a long time ago.
 

Arthur Sutton

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Apr 2, 2009
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The Liverpool Shipwreck & Humane Society report of their ceremony states;-

"Illuminated vote of thanks to Captain Evan Davies in command of the White Star s.s. Baltic. Silver clasp, Certificate of thanks and Combined Clock and Barometer to 3rd Officer James Holland Walker (in charge of the life-boat)and Silver Medal, Certificate of Thanks and 20/- each to John Fitzgerald, John Boylan, John Whelan, Peter Codd, William H Williams, George A Riley, John Roberts, George Delahay and Albert E Cole, the life-boat's crew for rescuing 5 of the crew of the St. John's N.F. Schooner "Northern Light" which was abandoned in a sinking condition during heavy weather in the North Atlantic on the 6th December 1929.

The Captain reports as follows;- "At 9.45 a.m. a two-masted schooner was sighted which proved to be the "Northern Light" of St' Johns, N.F., without any sails set, about four points on the port bow. A strong Westerly gale was blowing with a very high sea running. I altered course and bore down for the schooner, thinking she was a derelict, but on getting closer I found she was flying distress signals indicating that they wished to abandon her. I maneuvred "The Baltic" into a position windward of the disabled schooner and prepared No. 10 life-boat for lowering. Oil was brought up for pouring on to the heavy sea that was running.

When everything was ready No. 10 boat was lowered and despatched in charge of the third Officer with a crew of nine men. Oil was poured on to the sea and the life-boat went away, the "Baltic" keeping broadside to windward and making a good lee. The life-boat returned to the "Baltic", and survivors and boats crew were taken on board by ropes and ladder. The sea was too bad despite the large quantity of oil used, to hoist the life-boat and I decided to cast it adrift. The abandoned schooner was bound from St. Johns, Newfoundland to Bonavista Bay with general cargo. The Captain and four men were rescued out of a total crew of six, one, aged 20, the Captain's son, being drowned while coming off the "Northern Light". to the life-boat. At 11-46 a.m. all on board, full speed ahead and proceeded on voyage"

I am also aware that John Whelan was awarded the Sea Gallantry Medal (bronze), a "pin" (bronze engraved medal without ribbon) from the Life Saving & Benevolent Association of New York, and Lloyds Medal for saving life at sea.

If anyone has any copies of newspaper reports with photos, I would be very pleased to have a copy.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Richard

Thanks for sharing.

I did cover the rescue at some length when I wrote my book on the 'Big Four'. I included photos and I had some material on Walker as well. If it's not something you are already aware of, I'd be happy to let you see the relevant section.

Best wishes


Mark.
 

chriswms

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May 26, 2019
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I recently came across the award certificates for James Walker, a distant relative, and found this forum very useful. I found the movie of the rescue and will post a link here for anyone interested.
James H. Walker--outtakes | Moving Image Research Collections
Thank you for posting this link, just happen to come across it as I was searching for information about the rescue of the Northern light. My grandfather was one of the rescuers that set out from the Baltic in the lifeboat (W H Williams). Unfortunately my father is no longer with us as I know he would have been chuffed if he saw the footage of his father carrying out the rescue, the medals awarded to my grandfather have now passed on to me. Once again thanks for posting the footage, you have made a proud grandson very happy