Eyemouth Fort played a brief but important role in Scotland’s history and that place in the country’s past now has a permanent marker on the site.
Last week a stone cairn complete with historical and archaeological information about the 16th century fort was unveiled by Tom Dawson of St Andrews University and Fiona Glover from Friends of Eyemouth Fort.
At the unveiling ceremony, an excited Fiona told the crowd gathered at the entrance to the fort: “Five years ago I was on the community council and we felt that this was a very interesting site.
“There was a sign there but it kept being moved about when the grass was cut and when we looked closer we found this fantastic fort.
“The dream has been fulfilled. We have put Eyemouth on the map of Scotland because of its historical importance.”
It was a combination of Fiona’s enthusiasm and the fort’s position on a prominent headland at risk of erosion by the sea that persuaded St Andrew’s University staff to come on board.
Tom Dawson, a researcher at the university and also a member of SCAPE (a charity that researches, conserves and promotes the archaeology of Scotland’s coast at risk of erosion), has been key in building up a picture of what the French fort would have looked like in 1557. Using the archaeological data from the site of Eyemouth fort, historical drawings and documents and aerial photographs they have been able to build up a picture of life in the fort.
Unveiling the cairn and information board at the fort entrance Tom said: “I remember getting a letter five years ago from Fiona and it was her enthusiasm and excitement that got us interested. Over that time there has been so much activity and participation it’s been fantastic.”
The activity has included the UK Civil Air Patrol taking aerial photos of the headland, schooldchildren making models of the canons at the fort, Jus Rol volunteers helping to strim the grass so the outline of the fort is clear and of course the work of the Friends of Eyemouth Fort and the University of St Andrews.
A 3D interactive model of the headland fort is now in Eyemouth Museum, the Friends have taken their story to the Scottish Parliament where they were invited to make a presentation by MSP Paul Wheelhouse.
Praising the work of the Friends, Mr Wheelhouse said: “I hope other communities are able to look to the Friends of the Fort of Eyemouth with the admiration I have for them and are encouraged to consider their own community based project to ensure the preservation of historical artefacts at risk of being lost to coastal erosion or development pressures.”
It was the English that first built a fort on the Eyemouth headland in 1547, during a period of war between England and Scotland as Henry VIII tried to marry off his son Edward to Mary, later Queen of Scots. It was the first Trace Italienne style fortification in Britain but it was partially demolished under the Treaty of Boulogne in 1550.
French troops had been brought over to help the Scots in their war with King Henry and when the border skirmish broke out again in the mid 1550s the fort was rebuilt for the French troops brought back to Scotland by the regent, Mary of Guise. In its day the fort held 500 French troops before being demolished again under the Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis in 1559 which ended the war between England and France.
Little importance was paid to the site over the centuries, much of the stonework transported down to Eyemouth town and used to build houses etc, but the work of the Friends of Eyemouth fort has ensured that its historical importance doesn’t get lost again. The entrance to the fort is marked by the cairn and information board and the 3D model in Eyemouth Museum has brought its relevance back to prominence.