On 28.06.10, I visited Eyemouth in the Scottish Borders.
Having spent four years photographing fisher folk, along the Edinburgh to Eyemouth coast for my People and Songs of the Sea project, I asked the Harbour Master at Eyemouth to write down the names of every local fishing boat. When visiting, I had been thinking that the majority of the fleet must be out at sea... to my shock and great upset, I learnt that there were now only a few local boats left. I was aware that, during my project, boats had been being sold off, boats decomissioned etc, etc. BUT, I did not realise just exactly to what extent and speed was the industry's decline.
The Harbour Master gave me a list of boat names and said, at least I was taking an interest - the industry was suffering and the heritage of the fishing community was slipping away but it did not seem to be a story that was receiving much attention in the newspapers, I thought that was wrong. People who fish have generally come from generations of fisher folk, such rapid change in the industry effects everyone, not just the economic standing of the area but it's cultural identity. Eyemouth is a town which has been built on the fishing. For fishermen, fishing is not a 9-5 job and what happens to one boat has far wider consequences with a knock on effect which touches the whole community, the whole area. I took the list of names I was given and set about my photography record. The first photograph I took, the dark blue boat on the left in the picture is the "Homeland" - a boat sailed by two young brothers from North Shields. Young men in an industry which so desperately needs the young to carry it forward to the future, lads with the sea and fishing in their blood.
Tonight, RIP the Homeland which has gone down at sea.
The small fishing boat has been hit by the huge Rosyth to Zeebrugge ferry. The ferry was in the local fishing grounds, the small fleet of boats fishing just a mile or so off shore. The incident, in sight of the land and those from the Berwickshire coast who could see something was happening as the tragedy unfolded. Since, the local boats have been out looking for the body of one of the brothers on the Homeland who did not make it. Tonight, the search has been called off. For now, a quiet stillness has settled over the town and nearby communities. For days to come, questions will be asked as to why a 10,000 ton ferry has its route through these fishing grounds? Yet sadly, all the questions in the world will not bring back this young man, a son, a brother, a friend. His memory now, and forever, in the thoughts of those who knew him - the community extending their condolences to his family and friends, those who will grieve the hardest for his loss.
Home land, ‘Homeland’ – what are you to me?
A place I was brought up in, or a boat that sailed the sea?
A fisherman's life is lost, when so much was yet to come
Hearts are heavy grieving, for the North Shields fishing son
NB: A call for questions to be asked is NOT an accusation of blame against ANY party. No one at sea would ever want to endanger the risk of another. However, in the bigger picture of events, questions need to be asked to do as much as possible to ensure that no such similar incident happens again in the future. On a small boat, when men are engaged in fishing - there is MUCH NOISE and activity going on. So engrossed in that process, it would be possible not to see or hear such a huge vessel approaching. So high up in the water, it would be difficult for the ferry to see a small boat below AND, even if it did - the speed of such a huge and heavy vessel moving through the water would prevent rapid action being taken to avoid collision. Questions can enable an ACCURATE picture of events to be built up so that, in as much as is possible, something like this does not happen again. Unfortuantely, fishing is one of the MOST dangerous occupations. Accordingly, all that can be reasonably, logically done to minimise the risks for those at sea needs to be done.