Fishing Disaster ‘Black Friday’

The following version of the story of ‘Black Friday’ has been taken from Will Collin’s, “Please take a cord”, arranged by Rennie Weatherhead:

“In the autumn of 1881, Eyemouth was the homeport for 55 fishing boats.  Seven were at the herring fishing at Yarmouth; the other 48 were line fishing from Eyemouth.  October 1881 had brought a spell of particularly bad weather and by Friday 14th, the Eyemouth fleet had been kept in harbour for a whole week.  On the Friday morning, the men gathered as usual to assess the weather and the likelihood of a day’s fishing at last.  During the night a gale from the east-southeast had finally fallen away about 5am.  The morning had dawned calm and clear although the weatherglass or barometer was abnormally low.  The older fisherman cautioned against putting to sea, but the younger men were impatient – bait was getting stale and families had to be fed.  Those with money tied up in boats and gear had loans to repay.”

“By 7.30am the first of the boats put to sea and one by one the other followed; those with reservations, unwilling to be thought of as ‘feart’.  Little did they know that a storm had already broken farther south…”


“The fishing fleet from Eyemouth sailed for just over three hours, a distance of some eight or nine miles and the first arrivals at the fishing grounds were shooting their lines when, as a St. Abbs woman wrote to a friend at the time, “a horrible sort of stillness fell over everything”.  The light wind died away and the sky darkened with storm clouds.”

“The suddenness of such a storm would catch some by surprise, but many responded with the automatic reactions of generations of experience at sea.  There was no time to haul lines already shot and they were let go.  The boats’ heads were brought round in to the wind and sails reefed.  Decisions were made whether to run for Eyemouth or weather the storm at sea.”

“Ashore, crowds of people gathered on the sea front and on the brae heads.  The school was closed and the children joined the others, straining to see through the driving spray and lashing rain.”

…you can hear the rest of the story of ‘Black Friday’ when you visit Eyemouth Museum and buy your copy of “Please take a cord”, for sale in the gift shop.

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