Remembering 1917 fishing tragedy

The Scottish Fishing Museum's fifie, the White Wing.
The Scottish Fishing Museum's fifie, the White Wing.

A commemoration to mark the centenary of the loss of an Eyemouth fishing boat and her crew off St Abbs during World War 1, was marked this week.

The Janes of Eyemouth and her crew from Cellardyke, Fife, were blown up by a mine 11 miles south east of St Abbs Head.

Andrew Henderson (Jnr)

Andrew Henderson (Jnr)

The fleet was being guarded by a Royal Naval vessel, and the commander had just contacted the fishing boat’s skipper Andrew Henderson, 53, to tell of the mine in the drift nets when it went off.

Andrew, his sons Alexander, 29, and Andrew, 27, Thomas Boyter, 55, and James Wilson, 51, all died in the tragedy. It was to be their last fishing trip on the Janes as Andrew had another boat being built at Eyemouth, which was ready to be launched at the time of the tragedy.

The mine that blew up the Janes was laid by U-Boat UC42, lost less than a month later in an explosion of her own mines.

In a letter to Henderson’s widow, the naval officer in charge said: “I was the last person to whom your husband spoke in life. He had sent a message to me that there was an obstruction in his nets, so we had come within a boat’s length, and I was asking him about it when the explosion, which was undoubtedly caused by a mine becoming entangled in the nets, took place.

“When the smoke and spray had cleared away, nothing whatever was to be seen except broken pieces of wood, and there was no sign of the crew although we searched the spot carefully for some time.

“I am quite sure that everyone was killed instantaneously and that no one can have suffered any pain. Before leaving the place, I read the funeral service because I thought that you and the other friends of the crew would like this.

“I feel that nothing I can say can really comfort you, but we all consider that in meeting his death while working to bring food into the country, he has given his life for our cause just as much as a man who dies in the trenches.”

On Monday, the Scottish Fisheries Museum’s Fifie yawl, the White Wing, took to the sea off Cellardyke, and a wreath was laid on behalf of the Henderson Family and the Scottish Fisheries Museum.

There are plans to invite a small flotilla of historic vessels to attend a ceremony next year at the site of the explosion.