Berwickshire remembers ‘Black Friday’ 130 years ago

John Peters has created this artists impression photograph to commemorate the anniversary of Black Friday, on October 14th 1881 the worst Scottish fishing disaster ever recorded.
John Peters has created this artists impression photograph to commemorate the anniversary of Black Friday, on October 14th 1881 the worst Scottish fishing disaster ever recorded.

On October 14, 1881, 130 years ago tomorrow (Friday), the worst Scottish fishing disaster ever recorded proved disastrous for Berwickshire’s fishing community.

In Eyemouth it is known as ‘Black Friday’ and the storm affected all the fishing villages on the Berwickshire coastline.

After weeks of bad weather the local fleet were becoming impatient to go to sea. On Friday, October 14, 1881, they awoke to a calm morning and, ignoring the low reading on their barometer, they put to sea.

By midday they had just begun their line fishing when the whole country was hit by a violent storm. The boats rushed home but many failed to make it safely into the harbour. They either capsized or were smashed on the Hurkar Rocks at the Eyemouth harbour entrance. Their families on the pier looked on helplessly.

A total of 189 men lost their lives that day. They left 93 widows and 267 children.

The Berwickshire coast was worst hit. Eyemouth alone lost 129 men, and one third of its fleet. Others were from the nearby villages of Burnmouth (24), Coldingham Shore (3) and Cove (11). Seven men were also lost from Fisherrow and 15 from Newhaven.

Two days after the disaster, one of the Eyemouth boats, the ‘Ariel Gazelle’ limped into the harbour. Her crew were all safe. Instead of trying to make for the shore, they had struck out to sea and rode the storm.