Remembering Crail fishing tragedy 250 years on

Crail Harbour
Crail Harbour
  • Families gather
  • 250th anniversary
  • Eight victims recalled
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Relatives and family members of a group of East Neuk fishermen will be gathering in Crail next weekend for a special commemoration.

They will be observing the 250th anniversary of a disaster which occurred in the burgh’s harbour, in which eight local fishermen lost their lives.

Few details are known about the precise cause of the tragedy, which occurred just as their boat was leaving Crail harbour and claimed the lives of Henry Burns, Thomas Cunningham, James Dewar, William Runciman, Andrew Taylor, John Brown, James Key and John Ramsey.

On Saturday, May 16, at 11.00 a.m., relatives will be assembling to throw a memorial wreath into the water outside the harbour.

Then they will be donating a new public bench, bearing the names of the victims, to the local community.

Alan Runciman, one of the descendants, explained: “In 1765, eight local fishermen lost their lives. Six wives and over 30 children were affected – that’s a huge impact for a community like Crail.

“We’ve been researching the disaster and looking for a good way to commemorate it.

“Although family descendants are now scattered all over, we decided to meet up in Crail in 2015.

“Naturally, the idea of throwing a wreath into the water in commemoration came immediately. But also we wanted to leave something permanent to mark the disaster.”

Mr Runciman continued: “Crail harbour is a beautiful place, yet, for us, it is a sad place too.

“We want our permanent mark to be uplifting, so that’s why we raised funds for a public bench.

“It’s in the shelter of the seawall. We’re pleased it’s in such a beautiful setting.

“It’s been inscribed, so there will always be a reminder of the sacrifice made by those eight Crail fishermen 250 years ago. Their names are on the plaque.”

Interested local people and visitors are welcome to come along to the harbour and join around 50 family descendants of two of the victims, William Runciman and Henry Burns.

A website www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space:Crail_Fishing_Disaster tells more about the tragedy and how the community rallied round.