The Eyemouth Maritime Museum

eyemouth disaster

Although fishing has given Eyemouth much wealth over the years, it has also taken back from the town, and its form of currency has been the lives of the fishermen who have ventured out to the treacherous rocky seas beyond the harbour wall.

The biggest single toll exacted by the sea happened on an October day in 1881, a day that would become known to the town as Black Friday. When the crews of the large Eyemouth fishing fleet set out it was a morning of glorious sunshine that gave no hint of the vicious storm heading their way.

There were 45 boats at sea, when the sky turned black and barometers dropped. It is still a matter of controversy as to why the Borders fleet was the only one to set out that day. Other fishing communities up and down the coast were warned of the dangers posed by the incoming storm.

The storm broke around midday, unleashing hurricane strength winds that tossed the small fishing vessels around and hurled fishermen overboard. The boats turned to head for the safety of the harbour but, it being low tide, faced the treacherous Hurkar Rocks at the entrance of the harbour. Several boats were dashed against them, their crews drowning in the water only yards from where helpless families watched in despair.

The list of fatalities stretched to 189 men and boys, with 129 of those coming from Eyemouth, a third of the fishermen of the town. The after-effects of the disaster were felt for years to come, as the disaster ruined the town, not only in human terms but also economically.

The Eyemouth Museum displays a tapestry designed and woven by local people as a moving commemoration of those who died in the disaster. The tapestry consists of four panels, beginning with an image of a storm and ending with symbols of sunrise and a new day, signifying hope for the future.

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