The Crail Fishing Disaster happened on 21 January 1765 at the mouth of the harbour. 8 fishermen lost their lives. This tragedy has not had the pofile of some better known accidents but the fishermen left 6 widows and 30 children which – in a place the size of Crail – left a local population devastated.
Locals all pulled together to raise funds for the families. The main event was a Fundraising Ball in Crail with tickets costing 2/6d – 12.5p. The resulting ‘kitty’ maintained the widows and children for 3 years afterwards at a time when there was no such thing as ‘Social’ or state pensions.
250 years on, this lack of attention is to be corrected at last. Descendants of one of the men who drowned, William Runciman, plan to hold a public commemoration in 2015. For months they’ve been pouring over old records and speaking to local people and organisations. Gradually some of the gaps in knowledge have been filled.
Now they know the names of the other men, their widows and children. In some cases they’ve managed to trace down another couple of generations too. What they would dearly love is to find living descendants of these other victims to invite them to the commemoration too. With 30 children left behind and about 6 generations further on, there’s likely to be thousands of descendants, now in all corners of the world. But they’re proving to be quite elusive!
There’s a record of those who bought tickets in advance for the Ball. So many people will find evidence of an ancestor who attended the Ball. And of course there were 4 or 5 stalwarts who managed the fundraising and distributed the weekly payments for the following 3 years. There’ll be a good number of present-day folk who relate back to these ‘pillars of society’. Crail locals & anyone else interested in the commemoration on 16th May, with or without an association to it, are welcome.
For the commemoration an engraved public seat sited at the harbour is to be donated from funds collected by the Runciman family. Flowers will be thrown into the sea off the harbour. Then there’ll be a small memorial ceremony at Scottish Fisheries Museum at Anstruther. A calligraphed entry will be written in the Museum’s Memorial Book. The date’s Saturday 16th May 2015.
The names of those who drowned are Brown, Burns, Cunningham, Dewar, Kay, Ramsay, Runciman & Taylor. But of course daughters of these lines introduced other surnames to the direct descendants, so many others are descended too.
The event and those involved in it is described on a WikiTree profile. You can find out if you have an ancestor who was a victim, donor, attended the Ball or maybe a Fundraising manager by looking up