Chris finds Eyemouth Disaster link

Chris Allen, actor in Follow the Herring, descendant of an Eyemouth Disaster victim himself
Chris Allen, actor in Follow the Herring, descendant of an Eyemouth Disaster victim himself
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A descendant of a fisherman killed in the Eyemouth Fishing Disaster is to take part in a play about the tragedy.

Chris Allen, 48, from South Shields, is on the production team of Get Up and Tie Your Fingers, a play set against the Eyemouth Disaster of 1881, which is about to embark on a national tour.

Yet only when researching his family tree earlier this year did he discover his own family’s link to the disaster.

His distant cousin Johnston Borthwick was just 17 years old when his boat got caught in a storm on October 14, 1881.

The vessel was among 20 ships lost in the storm and Johnston one of 189 men who lost their lives.

“It’s very sobering to think that he lost his life before he’d even had the chance to live it,” said Chris, who will accompany the play on a three month tour of the east coast, following the traditional route of the herring fleets from Scotland to the south coast of England.

“It was a tragedy that would have touched every single family in that small fishing community – and when I agreed to work on the production, I had no idea it had also touched mine.”

Get Up And Tie Your Fingers, by Ann Coburn, co-produced by Newcastle theatre company The Guild of Lillians and The Customs House, South Shields, gives a fictional account of three women who watched the drama unfold.

The tour visits Cockburnspath and Berwick.

The production forms part of Follow the Herring, a participatory arts project linking the shared heritage of east coast communities. At each venue, the cast of three will be joined by a local community choir who will perform a specially commissioned score from composer Karen Wimhurst, based on traditional songs.