Eyemouth as seen through a minister’s eyes

The cover of Bryan Webster's collection of Eyemouth tales
The cover of Bryan Webster's collection of Eyemouth tales

A collection of tales from Eyemouth, many of them broadcast by the BBC on their Morning Story slot, can now be found on Kindle.

They are told by Bryan Webster, a Methodist Church minister who worked in Eyemouth from 1957 to 1954 and reveal his deep affection for the town and its people, whose dialect and customs provided him with a rich source of material.

Brian said of ‘Eyemouth and the Hecklescar stories’: “Along with the stories I present some of my recollections of life in the old town back then.

“For the stories I called the town Hecklescar. I also use this name in one of my novels.

“In many of the stories I use by-names like Slim Jock, Candles and Brasshandles.

“This is no invention of mine. Almost everyone in the town had a by-name; that was the only way you could tell them apart. Many families had the same surname: Dougal, Collin, Swanson, Windram, Craig, Maltman, Paterson, Aitchison.

“I ran into the confusion of names as soon as I set foot in Eyemouth.

“At my welcome meeting, I went forward to meet ten ladies who had been making the tea and were sitting in the side. ‘Hello,’ I said, ‘I’m Bryan Webster.’ The women introduced themselves - and with only the faintest of smiles, eight of them said,‘I’m Mrs Dougal.’

“You had to be cautious, however. You had to know whether they accepted their by-name or whether it had been slapped on them by their neighbours.

“I know my old friend W L Collin accepted that everyone knew him as Bing, and I’m sure Willie One Valve was proud of his title. On the other hand, I suspect that Cabbage didn’t particularly like hers.

“It took me about six months to make out what the locals were saying to me.

“As a minister I quickly learned that when someone was hard up, they were not broke, but dying, and when the end came, they didn’t die but ‘got away.’ And there are words now that I can’t do without, like skumfished, when you are too hot, swithering, when you can’t make up your mind, and scunnered when life is mucking you about.”

Bryan also learned very quickly how seriously fishermen took their superstitions - such as it being unlucky to have a minister anywhere near their boats - and he has woven these into his stories that will have a familiar ring to them for many.

You will find ‘Eyemouth and the Hecklescar Stories’ on Kindle at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01G5GEQP2