Eyemouth Bantry sculpture

Jill Watson's bronze statue memorial to the 1881 fishing disaster
Jill Watson's bronze statue memorial to the 1881 fishing disaster
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A major new sculpture is planned for Eyemouth Bantry to commemorate the families who lost their menfolk in the 1881 east coast fishing disaster.

The ‘Widows and Bairns’ sculpture, 5m long x approx 1.4m high, depicting 78 widows and 182 fatherless children, will cost an estimated £100,000. Organisers already have “expressions of interest from numerous individuals, Scottish Borders Council and the Fallago Environment Fund” and are looking for the final £25,000.

It will complete the project that began in 2006 to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the worst fishing disaster in Scotland’s history. On October 14, 1881, a hurricane devastated the fishing fleets off the east coast.

Artist Jill Watson was commissioned to complete sculptures in the four affected Berwickshire fishing ports depicting the exact number of widows and fatherless children left in each community.

Funds stretched to sculptures at Cove, St Abbs and Burnmouth. However, only a token representation in Eyemouth’s Old Cemetery was possible at the time.

Organisers say: “This year there is the possibility of obtaining funding for the full Eyemouth sculpture.

“It is proposed that a new sculpture which shows all 78 widows and 182 fatherless children left in Eyemouth be cast, finished and installed on Eyemouth Bantry at General’s Wynd, by October 2015.

“This will be a major sculpture that will let Eyemouth people take pride in how those families rose above the disaster and allowed Eyemouth to come back as a fishing port.

“Its impact will affect all viewers, residents or visitors. It will remind everyone of the power of nature and the wind, the dangers of fishing and the importance of the community. It will be part of Eyemouth’s cultural heritage and a major attraction in Eyemouth, East Berwickshire and Scotland. It will be an inspiration and help today’s community in the future.”

It took Eyemouth 50 years to recover from the disaster and there was hardly a family untouched in the town.

Now everyone is invited to a special one day exhibition in the Hippodrome, Harbour Road, Eyemouth on Saturday, May 3, from 10.30am to 3.30pm. Details of the proposed major new sculpture will be on show, as will the site, signage and related items and people are being invited to add their own family stories.