Monday, 21 February 2011


A last photo this evening from Eyemouth in the Scottish Borders, not a memorable photo for scenic quality but with 'the fleet in' - two boats are gone from the picture. After 300 years in the fishing, the last Fisherrow fishing family 'the Fairnies' have sold up and the Margarets and Nova Spero left Eyemouth harbour today.

With the recent awards won for my People and Songs of the Sea project - I had hoped that 'at last' more media coverage might come to the actual stories WITHIN my project. Frankly, there are times that I have been left quite sickened by some of the upbeat uninformed headlines written about me winning the award as THIS STORY IS NOT ABOUT ME but the PEOPLE OF THE SEA. In my frustration, I even put at the top of my last Press Release (this is a SERIOUS story PLEASE highlight the crisis in the fishing). Yet much media coverage has completely chosen to ignore the issues... Accordingly, I write this blog to mark today's events so one day, perhaps when folks reflect "where did the fishing boats go?"  For those who want to know more and maybe look for news online there will be nothing except this from me today. The BBC TV News, STV News, Scotland's national newspapers - NO ONE will bother to remark that the last family owned fishing boats from Fisherrow were sold from Eyemouth today because of the ever rising cost of fuel combined with the strangling legislation on the industry making it uneconomic to continue to try and fish, that the fishing industry is quietly slipping away one, two, three boats at a time from harbours all around Scotland's coast! It seems only specialist papers such as the Fishing News have any interest to cover this but - we, WE are losing Scotland's fishing industry and the culture of the fishing community and this seems news worthy to me! - What is being done?

Sometimes the enormity of an event is unseen in a number. Today events may only be seen as a loss to one family but what exactly does that mean. The Fairnie's have sold two boats - two crews have lost their jobs. With the sale of the boats - now gone from the industry will be the skills and expertise that has been passed on from generation to generation - and now we see the numbers increase. The Fairnies have made their living from the sea over hundreds of years as did many Fisherrow fishing families. Considering all these families - now the numbers really mount up. The fishing community of Fisherrow was not clearly visible by some geographical line because fisher people tended to marry fisher folk from other coastal communities so the numbers increase again and we see - the culture of these fisher folk was part of Scotland's culture so today, when the bigger picture is considered - today really was the end of an era. The sale of the last Fisherrow boats, a loss to East Lothian, to Eyemouth's fleet, to Scotland's fishing industry and its heritage - a loss to us all.

I was telephoned by Eyemouth Harbour Master Ivan Stevenson and told the news "get yourself to Eyemouth - the Fisherrow boats have been sold and are leaving today." It was a 120mile round trip for me (and, after a musical weekend with the Dubliners I had just driven 300miles and arrived back very tired) but yes, today was important and I am very glad I got the call. As a matter of 'respect' it felt like it was the correct thing to do so I did make my sad journey. And took my most recent award for a last photo attempt to see IF the Press THIS TIME will highlight the serious issues. Yes the Berwickshire News, East Lothian Courier and East Lothian News HAVE given coverage to the current crisis in fishing but other papers have not even touched on it - not an interesting story for their readers... But this subject is certainly of interest to me and others I know so, I asked to go to the Harbour Office to see today's entries. Having been researching my project, some months back as part of my ongoing research - I was given the details of the Fairnie family tree and some of their fishing photos. Reading the office entry today, I commented to the Harbour Master - "SOLD and AWAY" - For such a short line, for those who know the bigger picture it is a short entry but one which says it all. Yet, for those who don't know, how can they understand. Wanting to explain more - I placed the Fairnie family tree and photo of the Nova Spero by the entry to try and convey a fuller story...

The event recorded in the diaries of Eyemouth Harbour - "MARGARETS AND NOVA SPERO LEFT FOR PETERHEAD 16.00HRS. SOLD AND AWAY"

I wonder - what thoughts are going through the minds of those on the boats tonight as they sail their boats away? No photos in this blog from me as the boats sailed out today, just my last photo tonight from Eyemouth as I prepared to leave - aware I'd be back to the harbour but that this day was the end of an era. And, when I reached Fisherrow and called to the Farinie's home - there, Jennifer Fairnie (wife of one of the two Fairnie brothers selling up today) she used the same expression in conversation with me:


The end of an era - words that convey a tight, sick feeling in the pit of the stomach, words that burn the eyes with tears that try to fall. 

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