Old Poems

St. Abb, St. Helen and St. Bey

St. Abb, St. Helen and St. Bey
They all built kirks to be nearest to the sea,
St. Abb's upon the nabs,
St. Helen's on the lea,
St. Bey's on Dunbar sands
lies closest to the sea.

The Lovely Girls of Coldingham

The Shore for Cuddies and Buddies
Northfield for clashes and lees,
Couldingham for bonnie young lassies
Hymooth for randies and thieves.

This 19th century rhyme gives us an interesting insight into the nature of the folk of the local communities. There are many today, who would still describe Eyemouth as a den of "Randies and thieves". While few now live at Northfield, gossip (clashes) is still an art that is practiced locally, and I am sure that one or two of the more scandalous rumours have been lies.

Over the years, several shore lads, have succumbed to the charms of the pretty young lassies. While there are not may horses (cuddies) left in the Shore, it is with a happy heart that I can confirm the pretty young lassies have yet to abandon Coldingham completely.

The slighly less than glowing character of the people of Eyemouth and the superiority of the people of St. Abbs is highlight in the following extract:

"Between Abbs Head and Berwick, however is situated Eyemouth, a fishing-village pure and simple, with all that wonderful filth scattered about which is a sanitary peculiarity of such towns. The population of Eyemouth is in keeping with the outward appearance of the place. As a whole, they are rough, uncultivated, and more druken in their habits than the fishermen of the neighbouring villages. Coldingham Shore, for instance, is only three miles distant, and has a population of about one hundred fishermen, of a very respectable class, sober and well dressed, and "well to do." - The Fisher Folk of the Scottish East Coast, "Macmillian's Magazine" No.36 October 1862.

Ritchie Neill

Ritchie Neil was a stubborn deil,
But the fishers made him his lips unseal,
And put his senses in a creel.

Richard Neill was a native of Longformacus, in Lammermoor, who, about the end of the 18th century, traversed the country in the capacity of pedlar or packman, as Mr. Henderson tells us in his "Popular Rhymes." A young woman had a child to him, but he would by no means confess to being the father, till a few fishers of Coldingham, having enticed him into a boat, rowed out to a rock which was surrounded by the sea, where they all landed; but soon after they all leapt into the boat, and rowed away as if they intended to leave him. The tide was fast nearing the rock, and threatened soon to overwhelm him; and he cried out vehemently to the men in the boat, who hovered about for the purpose, "Life's sweet; the bairn's mine!" The upshot was that he had to pay for the child, and had to endure penance on the Repenting Stool, in Coldingham Church, for three successive Sabbaths. The first day that he mounted the stool, arrayed in sacking gown, he hung his head very demurely; on the second day he glanced a little around him; but on the third and last day he gained confidence to look boldly in the face of the people, and when he was coming out of the church he clapt his hand upon his thigh at the kirk door, and exclaimed, "Catch me here the morn!"

In Memoriam of Two Pioneer Old World Fishermen

The following poem was written in 1907 by W.S. Scott to commemorate the passing of two old St. Abbs fishermen. William Wilson who died on 22nd November 1906, aged 72 and Robert Dickison who died on 12th December 1906 aged 84. It was sent to us by Rachael Walker who found this poem amongst her mother’s papers. William Wilson was her great, great grandfather.

The poem is very interesting as it mentions how the boats were once drawn up on the beach, before the harbour was built. It also mentions the building of the first harbour and the coming of the trawl a method of fishing that the men feared would destroy the fish stocks.

In Memoriam of Two Pioneer Old World Fishermen

Fast falls the ancient coble crew,
Along the North Sea shore,
Thus William Wilson seventy-two
And Robert Dickison, eighty-four.

Two sterling links of days gone by,
When boats were weak and wee,
An’ drawn to land when wind was high,
An’ troubled was the sea.

When fishers trod frae Coudingun,
Ga’d new St. Abbs the shore,
An’ auld St. Abbs hoary head –
St Abbs of ancient lore.

These heroes braved the wind and wave
In frail and fickle bark.
Oft skipping o’er a watery gave,
As Noah in his ark.

Brave as the warrior goes to fight,
To conquer or to die;
In fishing dawns uncertain light,
Oft ‘neath a troubled sky.

Oft rocking on the troubled deep,
When death was splashing round,
In many a wave in playful sweep,
As with a merry bound,
Might soon engulf this little skiff,
And they would see no more,
Their dear ones wailing in their grief
So desolate on shore.

For long thes. Fickleties were bound.
On shoulders broad and free
Till they a little haven found,
Half sheltered from the sea.
They might a little harbour make,
By piling up a wall.
Of slabs of stone, the waves to break,
And check their angry fall.
They looked wi’ joy on ilka stane,
That piled the little pier,
That formed the little sheltered home,
To shield their floating gear,
For bigger boats now came in form
Too big to run the beach
Could lie in safety from the storm
Out of the breakers reach
And this. They boomed the fairway in
And chained them firm and fast
To rock without and rock within,
To tide the fiercest blast

Thence manned these gallant boats for sea
And ploughed the billows far,
Beyond the sight of rock or lea –
Their guide the Polar star
And there they sprang the treasure mine,
The treasures of the deep –
That with the glow of silver’s shine.
Lulled their grim cares to sleep.

Long lines athwart these they swung,
Caught, haddies, ling and cod;
And often on the voyage they sang
The praises to their God.
Their shots, where landed. Quickly sold,
For value good and fair;
Their shuttles oft then clinked w’i’ gold
Their fathers saw but rare.

They lived to see their progeny,
Wi’ boats both big and strong,
And harbour room to shelter them,
Though storms raged fierce and long
And frae Lands End to John O’Groats.
And roun’ the Irish sea
And Storonaw among the Scots.
They bounded firm and free.

Though whiles among the raging sea
A boat and crew went down,
The subjects of our memento
Aye kept the Billows Crown.
And in the shelter of their pier
Could, Thank the Lord of life
For their return in safety hear
To bairns and loving wife.

Yet they beheld with dread and awe,
The trawls destructive sweep –
A scourge that scrapes the sea of A’
The fish that swim the deep.
But time and tide with constant guide,
Winds up the fisher’s page
The monarchs and his regal bride
Philosopheres and Sage.

As fish that swim the boundless sea.
God gives to men for food.
Their souls for heaven by His desire
Are cleansed by Jesus’ blood
These pioneers of mighty deep
Will plod these seas. No more.
Chirst’s love will them forever keep.
Safe on the Golden Shore.

W.S. Scott
Birmingham, January 12th 1907

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