It's mostly all quiet off the North East coast these days, but 45 years ago a beached ship at South Shields had local folk heading down to the mouth of the River Tyne to view the drama.

Given the seafaring history of our region, it wasn’t that uncommon to see a vessel in trouble off our shores in the rough North Sea.

If we take the stretch of water between Whitby and Berwick, there were around 380 recorded shipwrecks between 1740 and 2000.

Happily, the stricken ship in our main picture from April 19, 1976, was quickly back at sea.

The 4,400-ton collier Duncansby Head had beached in dense fog on the soft sand alongside the Groyne lighthouse.

The Groyne in South Shields - minus the Duncansby Head - today
The Groyne in South Shields - minus the Duncansby Head - today

South Shields' short Groyne Pier had been built between 1861 and 1867, predating the lengthy construction and eventual completion of the Tyne's main North and South Piers by nearly three decades.

The iron lighthouse, one of the town's well-known landmarks, became operational in 1882.

Back in 1976, the North East coalfield was in operation and colliers still shipped coal from staiths on the River Tyne to London and elsewhere.

Hundreds of sightseers gathered to see the Duncansby Head before it refloated under its own steam.

But early morning strollers and fishermen had dashed for safety when they saw the ship looming through the fog.

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South Tyneside Parks Superintendant, Jim Pearson, was on the Groyne when the drama began.

He told the Chronicle: “The fog was dense, then suddenly this huge shape loomed up in front of us and we realised it was a ship’s bow.”

The ship was backed off the beach by the master and Tyne pilot in bright sunshine eight hours after running aground, and the collier was soon back afloat.

Don't miss our new Memory Lane local history website that's packed with archive photographs and has an easy-to-use picture colourisation tool.