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Children Of The Sea

    by Mike Gibb


Black Friday, 14th October 1881, was the day that the sleepy Berwickshire fishing town of Eyemouth suffered Britain’s worst ever fishing disaster. The fishing fleet of frail boats was no match for hurricane force winds, and in little more than the twinkling of an eye, 189 men from Eyemouth and its adjoining villages were swallowed up by the mighty waves.

This new play recreates the tragic day as experienced by one fictional family, representative of the people of Eyemouth, all of whom, to a man, were touched by the tragedy.

The story centres around the Mitchell family, Wullie and Cath, who are married with two children, Peter and Jenny, both in their 20’s. Peter, like his father, is a fisherman, but Wullie was crippled in a boating accident years ago and is unable to work. He now dispenses good and sagely advice with a dry, sparkling wit to friends and family. Jenny is keen to marry Davie, a farmhand, a match that Wullie and Cath are happy to support, as Jenny, unlike fisherman’s wives, would not be continually worrying about whether her husband would return to safe harbour at the end of each trip to sea.

Drama Play Script: 'Children Of The Sea' by Mike GibbPeter, like the other fishermen in Eyemouth, is desperate for the weather to change so the fleet can sail and bring back a catch, as they haven’t earned any money for weeks now. At the back of their minds though is the fact that the harbour wall needs alteration to allow them to sail and return in less than favourable conditions, something that has been a bone of contention for years now.

Davie feels he needs to impress Jenny’s family and decides to see if he can be a fisherman by persuading Peter to let him sail on the Mitchell’s boat next time it goes to sea. Soon after Davie has asked for and got Wullie’s blessing to his marriage to Jenny, the weather changes sufficiently, and the entire Eyemouth fishing fleet sails out of the harbour. Whilst they are away, the weather worsens considerably and, with the harbour entrance making return to port exceptionally dangerous, the vast majority of the fleet founders on the breakwater, and are lost, just outside the port.

The townsfolk do all they can from on shore to assist, but to little avail. On the quayside, Cath, Wullie and Jenny fear the worst that Davie and Peter are lost, but Davie suddenly appears and sheepishly reveals that he couldn’t face it, and stayed on shore. Jenny is naturally relieved, but Cath and Wullie are stunned by the loss of Peter and their livelihood.

‘Children Of The Sea’ captures not only the desperate sadness of that day but also the humour that permeates such small Scottish communities and allows life to go on despite the spectre of fear that is never far from their doors. 

“…A spectacular success… Children of the Sea is deceptively simple yet it brings out the full and
horrific impact of a devastating storm on the family… it completely drew in the audience…”

Mike Russell, The Herald (24/9/2005)

Characters (6m, 4f)

Principals (5m, 3f)

  Wullie Mitchell – 50’s, father, crippled at sea
  Cath Mitchell– 50’s, mother
  Peter Mitchell– mid 20’s, son, fisherman
  Jenny Mitchell– late 20’s, daughter
  George Mitchell – 50’s, Wullie’s brother, crippled, a widower
  Davie Graham – 20’s, Jenny’s boyfriend, farmworker
  *Andy Robertson – 20’s, fisherman
  *Rev Lee – 30’s, Methodist Minister
  **Helen Burnett – 50’s, Cath’s friend
  **Jean Anderson – 20’s Jenny’s friend, a widow

  If necessary * and ** can each be played by one actor.

Support (1m, 1f)
  John Burnett – 20’s, Helen’s son
  Stan Wilson – 30’s, fisherman
   Alice / Albert / Fisherman / Townsfolk (as required)

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