We are very pleased to welcome back Susan Lynn, one of our popular speakers, who will talk about the practice of impressment during the 18th and early 19th centuries, when maritime communities lived in fear of press gangs who captured men for naval service. This will include how the gangs got their men and, also, some daring escapes.
It will be the first time that local historian Susan, who has strong family ties to North Shields, will share her research about the press gangs.
She said: “Impressment was prolific on the Tyne and second only to London. This was because there were such big maritime communities in North and South Shields and Newcastle, so there were plenty of men with seamanship skills.”
The press gangs, who operated in teams of 10 or 12, led by a lieutenant, toured the pubs and quaysides, looking for men who they could capture. Sometimes they would be taken straight to a Royal Navy ship, or to a lock-up overnight until the tide was right to take them to a ship.
“When the press gangs were out, there was nothing the men could do except fight or run,” said Susan.
“Wives and families would hear afterwards that their men had been captured and were left without any money. Later some arrangements were made for women to go to specific places for money to keep the family going until the men returned.”
The talk is part of a series linked to the current exhibition in the Old Low Light heritage gallery, ‘Merchant Navy – Tyneside Stories’.
Susan is chair of the North Tyneside branch of the Northumberland and Durham Family History Society and is also a Newcastle City Guide. She gives a range of talks about the region’s heritage. She now lives in the Gateshead area, but her parents came from North Shields where her grandfather had a wharf.
Image: 1. The Press Gang by George Morland 1763-1804 (c) Royal Holloway, University of London