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"A considerable town and parish in the county of Berwick. The town is a borough [burgh] of barony, of which Mr Home of Wedderburn is proprietor and superior. At the beginning of the last century Eyemouth was a small fishing village, which afforded a retreat for smugglers; but, shortly after the union that pernicious trade being much quashed, the gentlemen of the county took advantage of the excellent natural harbour formed by the river Eye, and erected a pier on both sides by voluntary subscription ... Population in 1801, 899."
From the Gazetteer of Scotland published 1806, Edinburgh.
See An old-time fishing town: Eyemouth: its history, romance and tragedy with an Account of the East Coast disaster, 14th October, 1881 by Rev. Daniel McIver, published at Greenock in 1906.
Pre-1855 inscriptions for the parish are contained in the Scottish Genealogy Society's volume of Berwickshire Monumental Inscriptions (Pre-1855).
However, many older Eyemouth gravestones will be lost or otherwise unreadable. This is because in the mid-19th century a new cemetery was created by covering up the old cemetery with 6 feet of earth. Apparently the flat gravestones were buried under the earth, while the upright gravestones were removed. Some of these upright stones have been preserved, for example some being used to build the new watchhouse in the corner of the cemetery, but many others are probably lost. (source: Rev. McIver's history of the town - see the Bibliography section).
Rev. McIver's history of Eyemouth (see the Bibliography section) contains a lot of information about churches in Eyemouth, especially Chapter XIII: "The history of religion in community", pages 293-329. Subjects covered include:
- pre-Reformation religious history of Eyemouth, the Roman Catholic Church etc.
- Episcopalianism, seemingly unbroken in Eyemouth from 1560-1690, including a list of chaplains
- Presbyterianism (Church of Scotland), with the first minister arriving at Eyemouth in 1690, including a list of ministers to 1903, and a history of the (then) recent church buildings
- Baptist Church, from circa 1807-1836, and then revived from 1858-1879
- Primitive Methodists who "came over the Border and in 1835 planted a chapel"
- United Presbyterians (formerly members of the United Secession Church and the Relief Church), whose earlier members had worshipped "in the meeting houses of the Associate Synod at Coldingham and Ayton"
- With the Disruption of 1843, the Free Church. The local Church of Scotland minister Rev. John Turnbull broke away as well to become the new Free Church minister.
- Evangelical Union Congregational Church, from 1861 onwards
- The Episcopalian Church of Scotland, from 1883 onwards
The parish church (Church of Scotland) has registers dating from 1710. Old Parish Registers (before 1855) are held in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh, and copies on microfilm may be consulted in local libraries and in LDS Family History Centres around the world. Later parish registers (after 1855) are often held in the National Records of Scotland as are any records of non-conformist churches in the area (often unfilmed and unindexed, and only available there).
The parish registers available worldwide on microfilm include some kirk session records:
- In part 739/1: minutes for 1709-1718 and 1729-1793
- In part 739/3: minutes of poor's fund and accounts for 1731-1777
More information on kirk sessions and their records can be found in the Church Records section of the Berwickshire page.
The presence of non-conformist churches in the parish is revealed by Rutherfurd's Southern Counties Register and Directory which lists the following in the year 1866:
- Free Church
- United Presbyterian Church
- Evangelical Union
- Baptist Church
- Methodist Church
There may have been other non-conformist churches at different times. See the Church History section.
Graham and Emma Maxwell have transcribed and indexed the Eyemouth United Secession Church Baptisms 1841-61 and Marriages 1843-1850.
Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths began in Scotland on 1st January 1855. For further details of this see the National Records of Scotland website.
Description and Travel
You can see pictures of Eyemouth which are provided by:
Lib Windram has gathered a lot of research material relating to Eyemouth and surrounding areas, including MI listings (pre-1855 listings and a new survey of Eyemouth Middle Cemetery), 1881 census listings, and for Eyemouth valuation rolls (for 1880-1881) and the poll tax listing for 1695. She is willing to do lookups for researchers with ancestors in this area and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Eyemouth Fishing Disaster occurred on 14th October 1881. 189 fishermen were killed, of these 129 were from Eyemouth, 24 from Burnmouth, 15 from Newhaven, 11 from Cove, 7 from Musselburgh, and 3 from Coldingham Shore (figures from Rev. McIver's book). For a detailed account see Peter Aitchison's book Children of the Sea: the story of the Eyemouth Fishing Disaster, published in 2001 by Tuckwell Press, ISBN 1862322406, and 258 pages. Carefully researched it sheds new light on the disaster, and includes details of all those lost that day.
Rev. McIver's book about the town (see the Bibliography section) also covers the 1881 disaster.
Ordnance Survey maps covering Eyemouth include:
- Landranger 67: Duns, Dunbar & Eyemouth area - scale 1:50000, or 1.25inch:1mile, or 2cm:1km
- Pathfinder 423: Eyemouth & Grantshouse - scale 1:25000, or 2.5inch:1mile, or 4cm:1km
Eyemouth is also covered by an old Victorian one-inch to the mile Ordnance Survey map published by Caledonian Maps. The relevant sheet is sheet number 34 "Eyemouth" which also includes Burnmouth, Chirnside, Cockburnspath, Coldingham, Edrom, Foulden, Grantshouse, Preston and St Abb's Head.
The National Records of Scotland holds the following as part of its collection of maps and plans:
- 1881: Eyemouth harbour. Scale 1:5220. Size 43x27cm. Grid (map) reference NT9464. NRS reference RHP.4242
- 1882: Plan of Eyemouth harbour. Scale 1:2500. Size 68x54cm. Grid (map) reference NT9464. NRS reference RHP.4239
You can see maps centred on OS grid reference NT944641 (Lat/Lon: 55.870079, -2.091052), Eyemouth which are provided by:
Here are some figures showing the parish's population through time:
- 1755 - 792
- 1801 - 899
- 1811 - 962
- 1821 - 1165
- 1831 - 1181
- 1861 - 1804
An advert in The Scotsman newspaper of 4th April 1849 gives some insight into the parish school in Eyemouth. A parochial schoolmaster was required, someone "qualified to Teach the usual Branches of Education, including Latin and Navigation". The advert described the schoolhouse which contained "Four Rooms and a Kitchen" and was "fitted up with gas", something that was only introduced to the town two years earlier according to Rev. McIver's history (see the Bibliography section above). This history book itself has some information about schools in Eyemouth in the 19th century - see pages 125-126.