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Historic Barometer Gifted to Scottish Fisheries Museum

by Linda Fitzpatrick News

Historic Barometer Gifted to Scottish Fisheries Museum
Historic Barometer Gifted to Scottish Fisheries Museum

The Scottish Fisheries Museum has been gifted an historic and poignant wooden Barometer presented to a fisherman who lost three sons in the Eyemouth Fishing Disaster which took 189 lives 140 years ago, on 14 October 1881.

The Barometer, which was donated by David Johnston, was presented to James Johnston by the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners’ Royal Benevolent Society after his sons John, James and Walter drowned when their pilot boat Concord was swamped crossing the submerged bar at Dunbar Harbour during what is also known locally as ‘Black Friday’. Alongside the Barometer, which will go on show in the Museum on Anstruther Harbour in the East Neuk of Fife, a warning was given to ‘study the glass’.

The harsh caution reflected the fateful error in judgement made that morning at Eyemouth Harbour, a close-knit community dependent on haddock fishing for its livelihood.

Fisherman in Berwick and Spittal had stayed in port and heeded the warnings of ‘the Barometer (which) showed great indications of stormy weather’¹, whilst fishermen from Eyemouth and neighbouring harbours including Burnmouth and Coldingham ventured out because the weather appeared fine.

Reaching the fishing grounds, the fishermen shot their lines in a light north westerly breeze. Hours later, at midday, the severe storm ‘broke out with terrific and awfully sudden violence….immediately raising a fearful sea along the coast’².

Few of the wooden boats made it safely back to Harbour. Most were overturned or dashed upon Eyemouth’s Hurkar Rocks with 189 fishermen (129 from Eyemouth) drowned and many in sight of family, friends and onlookers standing on shore helpless.

Linda Fitzpatrick, Curator at the Scottish Fisheries Museum, says:

“We are grateful to David Johnston for donating this Barometer to the Museum’s nationally recognised heritage collection. It is a very moving memorial to a great personal tragedy in his family and will help us describe, commemorate and remember the horrendous and enduring impact the Eyemouth Fishing Disaster had on fisherfolk and fishing communities.”

The barometer will be placed on show later in the month in the Museum’s Safety at Sea Gallery..


The Scottish Fisheries Museum Trust Ltd
St Ayles, Harbourhead, Anstruther, Fife KY10 3AB
Tel (within UK): 01333 310628
Tel (from outside UK): +44 1333 310628
Charity Number: SC 006185 VAT Reg Number: 270 2790 64
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