Eyemouth walk, oral history and inside tulips

A walk around the town of Eyemouth last weekend proved to be interesting. Eyemouth is a historic town 23 miles (37K) from Dunbar and only 5 miles (8.1K) from the border between England and Scotland. It is still a fishing town with some large boats and fishing in the town goes back more than 800 years. Some of this history is on show at the Eyemouth Maritime Centre which is situated at the harbour’s edge. The Centre also records details of the widespread smuggling that went on in the 19th century to avoid taxation on basic items such as salt, but also spirits such as brandy and gin, and more luxurious goods such as lace. It’s a very well designed museum. Our walk took us to the far side of the harbour, where we passed (1st photo) the steam powered drag boat Bertha which may have been designed by the famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, although this appears to be disputed. The 2nd photo shows a picture postcard view of the harbour, although postcard producers would probably have waited until the D R Collin lorry had departed. At the far end of the harbour is Gunsgreen House, an impressive building originally built by a smuggler and now a museum. Away from the harbour, you come across the statue of Willie Spears (see photo 3) a fishermen’s leader at the time of the great disaster of 1889 when 189 men from Eyemouth and surrounding towns and villages, were lost at sea in a huge storm. Eyemouth is perhaps not as visually attractive as other fishing towns on the south east of Scotland but it’s well worth a visit.

Steam dragboat Bertha

Steam dragboat Bertha

Eyemouth harbour

Eyemouth harbour

Willie Spears

Willie Spears

When I retired 2 years ago, one of my aims was to do some local history about my home town of Dunbar, and two years later, I’ve started. My intention is to research shops and shopping in Dunbar in 1950. The research project will firstly involve using a number of secondary sources such as newspapers, council minutes, organisational records and photos from the local history museum. I will also be aiming to interview people who lived in Dunbar in 1950 and my initial plan is to interview people over 80, who would be 15/16 in 1950. As part of the background reading, I’ve been looking into oral history in order to examine definitions, techniques and interpretations. Writers such as Paul Thompson state that oral history is not new, as much history was handed down in stories told by the older members of early societies. Modern oral history takes the form of recording the narratives of people who lived through historical events or periods, and it is only in recent times that people other than members of the ruling elite have had the opportunity to give their version of events. So there is value in older people’s own stories, whether they were e.g. farm workers or farm owners. I hope to interview a cross section of Dunbar society in 1950 in order to get a range of views on what happened e.g. when people went shopping. My research background is very helpful in organising such a project but I’m learning new perspectives by reading the views of oral history practitioners and academics.

Over the past 3 weeks in Dunbar, we’ve had an east wind, very cold at times but fairly light. Some days, the sea at the back of our house has disappeared with the incoming haar (sea mist) and there has been a ubiquitous greyness. I would say that every cloud has a silver lining, except on most days, there were no clouds to be seen, just one long uninterrupted grey sky. However, one silver lining is that the tulips have lasted much longer this year, as often they are blown apart in strong westerly winds. This gave me an opportunity to do some close up photography on the tulips and the following 3 photographs show how the insides of the flowers can take on an abstract quality, as if some other form of life was growing inside the tulip.

Inside a tulip

Inside a tulip

Inside a tulip

Inside a tulip

Inside a tulip

Inside a tulip

 

 

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