The Eyemouth Disaster

Published 10 April 2022

Burnmouth’s memorial to the Eyemouth Disaster of 1881

The days leading up to 14 October 1881 didn’t have the best weather. Such were the wind and storms that most of Eyemouth’s fishing boats had been confined to the harbour for the previous week. As were the boats of several other harbours along the Berwickshire coastline.

In the morning the local fishermen gathered on the harbour to assess the weather. An overnight gale had fallen away by 5am. Things looked calm and clear. But the barometer readings were strangely low.

Still the boats set out. Bills needed to be paid. Food needed to be put into the table.

Many of them never came back.

What they didn’t know was that they were sailing towards a hurricane.

Those boats that could, headed back to land. Others never stood a chance. Some of those that made it close to the shore didn’t make it into harbour, being smashed on the rocks.

St Abbs’s memorial to the Eyemouth Disaster

The Eyemouth Disaster, or ‘Black Friday’ as it came to be known locally, was a major disaster resulting in the death of 189 fishermen who were out in their boats. It was a catastrophe, decimating communities. Ten percent of Eyemouth’s male population – 129 men – died that day.

Lives were lost too in nearby fishing villages. 24 in Burnmouth. 17 in Newhaven. 11 in Cove. 7 in Fisherrow. 3 in Coldingham Shore.

In recent years a number of memorials have been erected in the various fishing villages affected. Some are on the Berwickshire Coastal Path route; others a short walk away.

They’re heartbreaking to look at, depicting the worried women and children of the village looking out to sea, wondering if their husband, their dad, their grandad, their brother, would make it home.

Each one is a powerful memorial to lives lost. To families destroyed. It’s heartbreaking to view those memorials. But the memorials ensure those lost lives are not forgotten.

Eyemouth Disaster Memorial at Cove Harbour

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