Eyemouth steps back in time with exciting new project

EYEMOUTH is taking a step back in time this summer as the Museum and High School join together for an exciting new project featuring what have been dubbed as Eyemouth's very own 'Lindisfarne Gospels'.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 23rd June 2010, 12:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd June 2010, 12:00 pm

While preparing for the move to the new school building at Gunsgreen last year, school librarian Anne Renstead stumbled across a number of interesting finds including school admission lists dating back from the turn of the 20th century and two books written by former pupils in the mid-1940s.

And now after teaming up with staff at Eyemouth Museum, she is hoping to give the whole of the town an opportunity to find out just what High School pupils were writing about over 60 years ago.

Both she and Jenny Dougal of Eyemouth Museum are confident that the displaying of the books through a scheme they have called the Eyemouth Heritage Project, will generate interest around the town and further afield.

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Speaking to 'The Berwickshire News' this week, Anne said: "The two books are extremely interesting, the first isa history of Eyemouth but the second is called 'Pioneers of Eyemouth' and features people who the children felt were making a real difference to the town at the time."

Jenny added: "There are some familiar names in there. For example the parents of famous Eyemouth piper Peter Craig are mentioned for their pioneering work in farming. There are a lot of agriculturalists in the book but then of course there are also things written about those who were involved in the fishing industry."

The books, which were the brainchild of High School teacher Mary Christie, attracted a fair bit of attention back then which led to a team from the BBC visiting the old High School.

Unfortunately, records of this broadcast haven't yet been traced but Anne is keen to reunite the original authors of the books, many of whom still live in Eyemouth and are now on their late 70s, to find out about their experiences of putting them together.

Anne continued: "Hopefully by trawling through the BBC archives we will be able to track down the broadcast about the books but in the meantime I am keen to do an event at the school which will bring together the pupils who wrote the book, who I like to call 'the creators', so some of our current students can find out what Eyemouth was like back then.

"One of our current English teachers at the school has had a look at the books and thinks they could be incredibly useful learning tools for students.

"You just have to read a few pages to see the differences between then and now. The words the pupils used back then and their style of writing are so different.

"Some of the children here have looked at the books and couldn't read the writing because it is so different from theirs.

"These books give a fantastic insight into the history of the town. I'm planning to set up a new local history group with first year pupils at the start of the new school year and we'll definitely been using them."

The plan is to put the books into digital form so they can be used in the classroom and displayed in the museum and accessed by visitors.

And Jenny said that she hopes the books will excite the imagination of residents just like they did back then when everyone was keen to have a read.

She continued: "After a feature on the books was broadcast on the BBC, there was a lot of interest in them and they did a tour of museums around Scotland before coming back to Eyemouth.

"They were then available for people to hire for a small fee each time. They had been beautifully bound but unfortunately after being passed right around the town they weren't in such good condition.

"For that reason for the the purposes of the exhibition the original books will have to be in a glass case - we don't want them getting spoilt. To us they are as important as the Lindisfarne Gospels!

"We will hopefully have the books in DVD or CD-ROM format and will have print outs of the most interesting pages."

"The exhibitions that tend to go down the best with local people are the ones that have strong links to the town, for instance recent ones on diving and the RNLI, and I hope that this one will be a popular draw.

"People living in in Eyemouth in the 1940s got really excited about the books and wanted to see if anything had been written about them or their family and friends.

"I'm hoping that we'll be able to trace the ancestors of the people who the authors singled out as being 'pioneers'. One of the original pupils, Wilma Craig, has been a big help in trying to track people down.

"Both myself and Anne are confident that the project will ignite people's enthusiasm which would pave the way for the current crop of High School pupils to do something similar."

Watch this space in coming months for further details on the project and its launch date.