On this day in history : 14th October 1881 – Scotland’s worst ever fishing disaster occurs when a Berwickshire fishing fleet gets caught in a violent storm – 189 fishermen lose their lives….

Granite memorial in Eyemouth; depicts a broken sailing mast – Image credit : Walter Baxter CC BY-SA 2.0

Locals still know the day, when some 29 boats were swallowed by the sea off the south coast of Scotland in hurricane force conditions, as Black Friday…. Most of the fleet was from Eyemouth; 129 men from the town drowned, around 10% of the male population…. A further 24 from Burnmouth died, 15 from Newhaven-by-Edinburgh, 11 from Cove, 7 from Fisherrow, Musselburgh and 3 from Coldingham….

Bronze memorial at St. Abbs, figures of women and children looking out to sea – Image credit : Karen Bryan CC BY-SA 2.0

Fishing, being such a vital part of the economy, meant the fishermen had ignored the weather forecast that day…. Times were hard and not being able to afford losing a day’s income meant the fleet had set out as usual…. By lunchtime their worst fears were being realised – they were caught in the most violent of storms…. Those boats that could headed back to harbour but some were already beginning to sink, many more capsized and others were smashed against rocks…. The only glimmer of brightness out of this dark time being when fishing boat Ariel Gazell limped back into harbour at Eyemouth two days after the storm….

Eyemouth Harbour – Image credit : Peter Nisbet at English Wikipedia – Public domain

A massive relief fund was launched to help the families of the lost fishermen and the community – more than £5m in today’s equivalent was raised….

A commemorative tapestry of the tragic event can be seen in Eyemouth Museum….

One thought on “On this day in history….14th October 1881

  1. Another very interesting and sad story Hazel, but it shows what these men had to go through to put food on our plates and in the mouths of their families. Even today with modern equipment fishing is a perilous occupation, few think about that as they enjoy their fish and chips……………


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