South Scotland

'Black Friday' sculpture unveiled in Eyemouth

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Media captionEyemouth fishing tragedy depicted in sculpture

A sculpture commemorating the families who were affected by Scotland's worst fishing disaster has been unveiled in Eyemouth.

A total of 189 men were killed in waters just outside the town's harbour when a severe storm struck in October 1881. All but 70 came from the town.

Many of them drowned within full view of their families on the shore.

The tragedy, which became known locally as Black Friday, left 78 widows and 182 fatherless children in the town.

A five-metre long bronze sculpture called Widows and Bairns has been unveiled.

It was created by sculptor Jill Watson, who was commissioned to design memorials representing the surviving widows and children from four of the communities affected by the disaster - Cove, St Abbs, Eyemouth and Burnmouth.

"I have made a monument that commemorates the women and children left behind after the fishing disaster," she said.

"It is the exact number of women and children so the figures are small on a very tall, narrow harbour wall.

"It is all made in bronze. The wall is almost as important a part of the sculpture as the figures on top - it creates the space for them."

The design also aims to reflect the unfolding events of Black Friday.

"The sculpture is a timeline - it starts on Friday afternoon when the storm struck," said Ms Watson.

"You have the women from the Harmony and Radiant boats - those two boats were smashed up literally in front of everybody's eyes.

"They heard the men shouting and they could do nothing to help them because the sea was so rough."

Image caption A wax model of the memorial shows the detail of the sculpture to commemorate Black Friday
Image caption The sculpture was unveiled in Eyemouth to mark the Black Friday tragedy

The sculpture then moves along all the way to Sunday evening by which time hope had "more or less failed".

"At the end you have got a family - a young girl who is leading her weeping mother and other young children into the future," said Ms Watson.

"It is a slightly optimistic note because you have got five metres of grief and tragedy and helplessness so we have got a slight hope note at the end."

Each individual character in the sculpture represents one of the people affected by Black Friday.

"Each figure you see on the memorial is a real person - they have a name and an age and it is all recorded - so descendants will be able to come and find their ancestors," said Ms Watson.

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