Many of you know my oldest Glasgow connection via the village of, now-forgotten, Grahamston, but my ancestors gradually moved eastwards to settle in Eyemouth, where they soon entered the fishing fraternity.
It was there, 142 years ago, on October 14, 1881, that Scotland’s worst fishing disaster occurred off the south-east coast, when a violent storm swallowed up 29 fishing boats, most of them from Eyemouth in Berwickshire. A total of 189 men lost their lives, 129 of them from Eyemouth.
In 1881, east coast fishermen were still going to sea in sail and oar-powered boats that were known to be deathtraps in severe storms. despite that poor weather forecast, they put out to sea to fish as normal, and indeed the early conditions were not bad at all.
The fishermen of Eyemouth ignored the weather forecast on that fateful day, which is still known locally as Black Friday. At lunchtime, however, the whole fishing fleet was engulfed in what would now be classed as a hurricane. The boats that could be controlled headed for harbour, while some began to sink miles out to sea.
Eyemouth had been the boom town of the fishing industry, landing huge catches of haddock and herring, but its harbour was one of the few not to be improved after an earlier Moray Firth disaster.
In all some 129 men from Eyemouth perished –( 5 of my Scott ancestors) – along with 24 from Burnmouth, 15 from Newhaven by Edinburgh, 11 from Cove, seven from Fisherrow in Musselburgh and three from Coldingham.
The sheer scale of the Eyemouth disaster is very difficult for us to contemplate, as we now live in a safety-conscious world where, thankfully, maritime workers no longer face death on a daily basis.
That is due, in a large part, to the fantastic work done by the RNLI-an entirely voluntary association who, this year, celebrate their 200th year in existence.on the 4th of March 2024.
I have written 4 books on every harbourage around our Scottish coastline for them previously, and for the past 2 years have continued to support their charitable cause thru my free walks.
That said, if you can spare an odd pound or two, I regularly pass your donations onto our two most local stations in the west of Scotland ie. Troon and Largs. Thank you all for your support. Kevin.