This memorial to fishermen is located at Shore Street on the south corner of Dunbar harbour, East Lothian, Scotland. Dedicated to the fishermen of Dunbar, it houses a weather forecasting mercury barometer.
The Fishery Storm Barometer, introduced to Scotland by Vice-Admiral Robert Fitzroy with the intention of saving lives lost at sea because of unpredicted storms, was issued to many ports along the coastline. Mr. William Brodie of Seafield Brickwork saw an example of the thermometer in Eyemouth and launched a successful subscription to install one in Dunbar.
The 15ft high monument of ashlar stone houses the thermometer supplied by Alexander Adie & Son Edinburgh. The year of the monument’s erection, 1856, is displayed in Roman Numerals at the top of the structure. The structure was listed a category B historic building on 5 February 1971.
A plaque beneath the thermometer case is inscribed with the legend;
“O, weel, may the Boatie row,
That wins the Bairnie’s bread!”)
Extract from “The Boatie Rows” by John Ewen (1741-1821
Note: this extract is incorrect, as the second line should read That wins my Bairnie’s bread.
Within the wooden display case are details of:
1. a history of the structure
2. the sculpture
3. how to use the barometer
4. a letter relating displeasure at the lack of maintenance
5. the restoration of the monument
1. The Fisherman’s Monument
This remarkable monument stands by Cromwell Harbour and holds a mercury barometer for the local fishermen’s use. It was set up by subscription in 1856 at the instance of William Drodie of Seafield at West Barns who had been impressed by the value of a public barometer at Eyemouth. Above the wooden case housing the barometer on a moulded panel there is a plaster group in a relief executed by Alexander Handyside Ritchie of Musselburgh. The group comprises, in the centre, a fisherman in his boat, with his wife evidently begging him not to sail and pointing to the barometer below. In the stern of the boat an old woman, pointing out the cloudy state of the sky to a small boy and at the bow two larger boys preparing to cast off. Above the panel, and framed by a heavy swag of seaweed, shell-fish and shells, a bulging sail hangs from a spur and bears the inscription, “Presented To The Fishermen Of Dunbar To Those Whose Perilous Industry The Burgh Owes So Much Of Its Prosperity.”
Adapted from Miller, J “The History of Dunbar” (1859)
Note: Regarding William Drodie – his name was actually William Brodie, an engineer with Seafield Brick and Tile Works.)
2. The Original Sculpture
The sculptor, Alexander Handyside Ritchie was born in Musselburgh in 1804. He trained in Edinburgh and later studied in Rome under the sponsorship of the Duke of Hamilton and Lord Minto. After his death in 1870 fellow sculptors erected a memorial stone to his memory at Inveresk cemetery where he is buried.
Alexander Handyside Ritchie
A devoted sculptor
A brave and true man
Born 1804 Died 1870
Erected to his memory by
Tow brother sculptors W.B. and J.R.
3. Instructions on how to use the barometer are known as Fitzroy’s Rules.
On the left:
Long foretold Long last
Short notice Soon past
1st A steady rising Barometer which when continued shews very fine weather.
2nd In Winter the rise of the Barometer presages frost
3rd In wet weather if the Mercury rise high and remain so, expect fine weather, but if the Mercury rise suddenly very high, fine weather will not last long.
4th A rapid rise of the Barometer indicates unsettled weather, a slow movement the contrary.
N.B. The Barometer rises highest of all for North and East winds.
The scale on one side of the Diagram beneath shews the height of the Mercury at different elevations, thus at the top of Ben Nevis the Mercury stands at about 25 inches at the top of Mont Blanc about 17 inches, and at the summit of the Himalayas 5½ miles in altitude at only 11 inches.
On the right:
Fast rise after low
Foretells Stronger blow
1st If a fall takes place with a rising Thermometer Wind and Rain may be expected from the South Eastward, Southward or Westward.
2nd A fall with a low Thermometer foretells Snow or Rain.
3rd A sudden fall off the Barometer with Westerly Wind is generally followed is a violent storm from N.W. or N.E.
4th A rapid fall indicates Wind or Wind with Rain.
5th In very hot weather the fall off the Mercury denotes Thunder or a sudden fall indicates high wind.
Indications of approaching changes are shewn less by the height of the Barometer than by its falling or rising.
The Mercury falls lowest for wind and rain together, next to that for wind, except it be and East or North-east wind.
4. The following letter was printed in the East Lothian Courier on the 25th April 1865 only nine years after the monument was erected:
Sir, The approaching demonstration in connection with the Life-Boat forcibly recalls to mind a very important unimplemented obligation by the magistrates and Town Council meant and equally laudible effort to benefit the seafaring population. I refer to the barometer, encased in that most beautiful building, ornamented with marble sculpture which was presented to the fishermen some nine years ago. In handing over such a legacy to the keeping of the Magistrates and Council, it was stipulated by the donor that, in addition to taking charge of the instrument and building, and having the barometer set regularly by the harbour master, they were to be at the very trifling expense of erecting a lamp so as to allow the seamen to have recourse to the instrument at any hour of the night. How far such obligations (which might have been considered a labour of love) have been implemented, one only has to look at the disgraceful dirty state of the building, damaged by ruthless hands, its beautiful festoon of shells going to ruin for want of an occasional coating of oil to preserve it from the action of the atmosphere – the plate glass broken in more than one place, and a piece of patchwork, in the form of a deal board, as a substitute, reminding one of a house to let. As for a lamp, it does not even appear to have been once thought of. As lucifer matches are now so cheap, it may have been decided to continue to use them instead of a lamp, thus saving a few shillings annually to the town. For an additional protection to the building it was once suggested that the old cannons from the battery should be transformed into a sort of fence, but even that was grudged by an economical Magistracy, and the cannons sent to the founders furnace. The dirty and dilapidated condition of the barometer has become quite a by-word of late, and now that the public mind is being excited to philanthropic efforts to save valuable lives, which may be by stress of storm cast upon our iron-bound coast, I trust the state of the barometer will be immediately considered; else with the memory of many ever-to-be-regretted deeds of former officials this additional neglect may grow with infamy the very name of Dunbar. I am &c.
Dunbar, April 25, 1865
5. The Restoration of the Monument
The monument was restored by the Dunbar Initiative in 1997. Both replacement carvings, the swag of shellfish, seaweed and shells and the relief below were sculpted by Michelle de Bruin of Sinclairshill. The stone mason work was undertaken by John A. Smith of Athelstaneford. The replica instrumentation was supplied by James Ritchie and Son (Clockmakers) of Edinburgh.