Heritage trail commemorates Eyemouth fishing disaster

A HERITAGE trail linking the recently completed sculptures along the Berwickshire coastline that are a lasting memorial to the families of the fishermen lost at sea during the storm on Black Friday, October 14, 1881, is currently being worked on now that the £15,000+ funding for it has been successfully achieved.

A 10,000 grant from the National Lottery's latest round of Awards For All grants has made this part of the commemoration possible, added to a Scottish Borders Council Community Grant Scheme contribution of 5000 and other fund raising efforts.

In 2006 a 125 Memorial Association was set up to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the 1881 disaster, and since then they have been working on permanent reminders of the day that had such a huge impact on fishing communities along the Berwickshire and East Lothian coastline for many years afterwards. Sculptures at Burnmouth, Eyemouth and St Abbs were unveiled last October, although there is still a considerable amount to add to the Eyemouth one which will eventually depict every widow and child left behind by the fishermen who never returned from their day's fishing.

This part of the project still has some way to go (approximately 70,000 is required) as the completed Eyemouth sculpture will be five metres long, plus there is a sculpture to be completed for Cove.

And the 125 Memorial Association's ambitions don't stop there. They plan to have permanent memorials at all the coastal communities affected by the 1881 fishing disaster between the England/Scotland border and the Firth of Forth, including Fisherrow and Newhaven.

A stand alone project within the overall memorial plans is the heritage trail linking the sculptures. Along the trail there will be eight 'waymark' bronze plaques to guide the local community and visitors.

The 'waymarks' will be produced by artist, John Behm, who has created similar plaques on the Southern Upland Way. A former resident of Berwickshire, John was selected by the association, following a huge international response to their plans.

Speaking about the project, John explains how the trail will work: "The sculpted bronze plaques are designed so that rubbings can be made from them. Once you've taken rubbings, you should be able to collage them together into a patchwork picture, illustrating aspects of the life of the fishing: hard-working fisher lads and fisher lassies; the baiting of lines; fifies under sail; the gear and the craft of it all."

The 'waymarks' will be accompanied by a series of community workshops and installed by the end of the year, linking the Eyemouth, St Abbs and Burnmouth sculptures designed and created by local artist of international repute, Jill Watson from Cove.

James Evans, chairman of the association said of the latest grant funding from the lottery: "This is excellent news for the committee. The funding will allow us to move onto the next stage of the project which aims to educate and inform people about the East Coast Fishing Disaster, more commonly known as 'Black Friday' which claimed the lives of 189 fishermen.

"Supported by Scottish Borders Council, Dunira Strategy and local artists, Jill Watson, Fi Martynoga and Susheila Jamieson the Association have been working tirelessly over the past 18 months with a variety of different groups to ensure that a poignant reminder of the disaster exists for years to come and make people aware of the risks faced by fishermen today. In addition, funding is also underway for a second series of sculptures through individual sponsorship of a child or widow sculpture."