The Eyemouth Disaster

On Springthyme SPRCD 1002
John Watt & Davey Stewart - Shores of the Forth

Written by John in 1964. On Friday, October 14, 1881, 149 fishermen from the Berwickshire village of Eyemouth lost their lives in a great storm. The song was compiled from information supplied by the late Storey Collin, Eyemouth harbourmaster, with whom John became very friendly. The Fife tune The Boatie Rows follows the song. The allusion in verse three refers to the marriage custom of Creeling of the Groom.

1: By the dowie rocks o Hurkur,
Though deadly were the signs,
Oot sailed the Eyemouth Fifies
Wi a thousand baited lines;
Though a glass-like sea and cloudless sky,
Made the elders bid them stay;
For these are the times that brave men die,
But the halflins held the sway.

2: Two score and five sailed out that day,
For the deep hole they were bound;
With all sail set from Eyemouth Bay,
None better could be found;
And fourteen score o fishers brave,
Sent out one heart-felt plea,
That they’d be spared upon the wave,
To reap the white fish from the sea.

3: Three leagues from shore the lines were cast,
And the wind it held its breath;
While the sails hung limp frae every mast,
And the sea was still as death;
But death was the bride that cam at noon,
Cut the ribbons frae the creels;
’Twas a raging wave hit Eyemouth toon,
And took her bonnie chiels.

4: The wind it raged and the sea ran high,
Stripped the sails frae every mast;
And many brave boys were soon to die,
E’er that long night was past;
First home the Onward stout and true,
Andrew Dougal to the fore;
Nae tear in his een though his son he knew,
Lay dead on Eyemouth’s shore.

5: Wives and bairns stood at the quay,
Jim Stott was one week wed;
Press Home came ploughing through the sea,
But Jimmy he was dead;
The Brothers lay on the rocks at Ross,
The Janet ’neath the waves;
The cruel seas gain was Eyemouth’s loss,
Aye the sea was a cruel grave.

6: The Excellent beached at Holy Isle,
Tom Martin washed ashore;
On Eyemouth’s coast for mile on mile,
The death toll mounted more;
While at Monday’s wake the crowd they wept,
And despaired each dawning day;
As poor limp corpses they were swept,
To the shores of Eyemouth Bay.

7: There’s many a bride has lost her groom,
As the death toll quickly grew;
Craigs and Collins met their doom,
Aye Burgon, Fairbairn too;
Maltman, Scott, all Eyemouth bred,
They died in the wind and rain;
Oh the flooer o Eyemouth toon lay dead,
But her sons would rise again.

8: From the Orkneys to the Channel Isles,
On that October day;
The wind it blew two thousand miles,
From Hoy to Newlyn Bay;
And seven score mothers’ sons and nine,
They died off Eyemouth’s shore;
These bonny boys who held the line,
Would plough the waves no more.

9: The grinding turn o the hearse wheel,
In October eighty one;
Made every man and woman kneel,
In prayer for Eyemouth’s sons;
For this was the price they had to pay,
The living and the dead;
And the price that Eyemouth paid that day,
To earn her daily bread.

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