Berwick upon Tweed: October 2019

Kay and I spent a long weekend just north of Berwick, partly in celebration of her birthday. We know that coastline reasonably well, so we had a clear idea of what to expect and where we wanted to visit. Of the two full days, we spent the first to the North, in Scotland, and the second to the south, in Northumberland.

We went first to St Abbs, the village rather than the nature reserve, and found there this sculpture which depicts the sad longing, looking and waiting in the wake of what has become known of the Eyemouth Fishing Disaster of 1881. 189 fishermen, many of them from Eyemouth itself, but others from neighbouring village harbours, were lost that day in a vicious storm. I find these figures, gazing forever over the North Sea to be very evocative.

Further up the coast is Dunbar, another, slightly larger fishing village. These figures were placed very recently (2016) by the road that leads down to the harbour. The sculpture, by Gardner Molloy, suggests the everyday hardship faced by “fisher-wives” as well as fishermen in the 18th and 19th centuries. The creel being loaded into the woman’s back could apparently weigh as much as 100lbs, and was to be carried over the Lammermuir Hills to Lauder where the fish would be sold. That’s a distance of roughly 30miles along what has become known as the Herring Road. That was routine for them – and is barely imaginable for us.

On Kay’s birthday we drove down to Bamburgh and walked on the beach in beautiful sunshine. Lots of people about of course, but still that sense of the scale of sky and sea which evokes a deeply spiritual response. This is not just a lovely place to be – though it is surely that – the inexorable movement of tide and sea, the far distance of the horizon, the glorious sky; these are inspirers of worship that I find these days much more powerful than anything I encounter in church. If that makes me some kind of a heretic, then so be it! The pictures don’t, perhaps can’t, do it real justice, but here they are anyway.

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