Morning Star


MARCH 1910

For the last few days of March 1910, the herring had been shoaling close inshore along the East Neuk coast, and the local fleet had been pursuing this fishery. The larger boats were unable to fish so close to the land, with the result that it was mostly smaller yawls, which were not usually used for herring fishing, which were utilized. It was here one quarter of a mile off Cellardyke, that the MORNING STAR foundered whilst engaged in heavy fishing.

An inquiry was held in Cupar Sheriff Court on Tuesday 26th April, into the disaster by Sheriff Armour and a jury. THOMAS McBAIN who was the only survivor of the crew of five gave his testimony first.

“Sometime shortly after 4pm in the afternoon, the MORNING STAR sailed from Pittenweem and sailed eastwards, in a fresh but not too strong wind, to within a quarter of a mile off Crail Point. Due to the heavy swell, the skipper DAVID MUIR decided not to shoot their nets, and they sailed west again until they reached an area a quarter mile off Cellardyke. They shot fourteen anchor nets and stood by them until about 11pm.

As soon as they started to haul the nets in, they realized they were heavy with herring. As they were hauling in the last half of the hindmost net (last one), the yawl being heavily laden with fish, took a heave in the swell, from which she could not recover and began to sink.

The skipper rushed and took an armful of nets and hove them overboard to no effect, and the rest of the crew ran to the stem of the boat and shouted for help. As it was dark other boats in the vicinity would not be able to see very far.

The skipper of the JEANNIE, who was nearby, shouted that his anchors were fouled in his nets and he could not assist, but he shouted to another boat the MAGGIES to bear down upon the MORNING STAR as she was sinking.

Four members of the crew were virtually flung overboard, still with their heavy boots and oilskins on. THOMAS McBAIN managed to cling to the gunnel of the boat for about half a minute, and then suddenly in the dark, saw a faint glimmer of the white paint of the MAGGIES coming to their assistance. He managed to fling himself clear and tried to swim to the MAGGIES and was picked up by the crew”.

GEORGE WILSON (BUTTERS) of West Shore, Pittenweem, skipper of the JEANNIE, testified: “that when he heard the cry of help his nets were fouled and he was unable to render assistance. He shouted to the MAGGIES which was to the eastward of them, “For God’s sake help; the MORNING STAR is sinking”, but just as the MAGGIES neared the scene of the disaster the light of the wrecked boat went out”.

ANDREW WATSON, Water Wynd, skipper of the MAGGIES testified: “Just as we were nearing the MORNING STAR we saw her go down and the five crew belonging her were struggling in the water. We managed to save McBAIN, and tried to rescue the others, but they had gone down. We waited around for some time but none of the missing men reappeared”.

JOHN FLETT skipper of the yawl ISABELLA DUTCH, spoke of recovering the bodies of DAVID MUIR (BROWN) skipper, and THOMAS HUGHES on April 1st, and also NEIL HUGHES on April 2nd. The body of the lad WILLIAM MUIR had not been recovered.

The Sheriff asked: “I suppose they were all wearing their sea boots and oilskins, and would have no chance of swimming?”

The Witness replied: “None whatever”.

The Sheriff in directing the jury to return a verdict in accordance with the evidence said, “The case was a very sad one”.

The jury returned a formal verdict, to the effect that the cause of the accident was the weight of the nets, in which there was a very heavy catch of herring, and this caused the yawl to list too much to the lee side.

Report from the Dundee Courier on Friday 1st April  1910

A telephonic message having been conveyed by Mr. J. N. Young to Mr. H. T. Watson, J.P., Anstruther, who is a member of the Fishery Board, for the assistance of one of the Board’s cruisers, the cruiser NORNA was intercepted at Fife Ness and ordered to proceed to Anstruther. On her arrival, and the Captain having interviewed Mr. Watson, she proceeded to the scene of the disaster, where she was successful in recovering the nets, chains, anchor, and ropes, but with part of the deck giving way it was decided to abandon operations till daybreak.

Mr J. N. Young, East Shore received a telegram of condolence from Major Anstruther Gray to convey to the bereaved families.

Report from the Dundee Courier on 2nd April 

Heart rending scenes were witnessed along the Fife shore yesterday afternoon when the local yawl, ISABELLA DUTCH skipper JOHN FLETT, arrived in the West Harbour of Pittenweem, with the bodies of DAVID MUIR (49) and THOMAS HUGHES (17) of the lost MORNING STAR. Their bodies had been recovered at the scene with grappling irons. The remains of the deceased were conveyed to their homes on ambulance stretchers, accompanied by Constable McLaren and a large body of fishermen.

Report from the Dundee Courier on 4th April 

Through the medium of a diver whose services had been requisitioned from Methil, the body of another member of the crew of the MORNING STAR was recovered on Saturday afternoon. The body of NEIL HUGHES (ANDERSON) (26) was brought ashore by the yawl ISABELLA DUTCH, which had been engaged with the diver at the disaster spot. The deceased’s remains were conveyed to his residence at Abbey Road. The diver had been engaged after a meeting of the local fishermen, held in the Templars Hall on Friday evening. The search will continue for the remaining missing crew member, WILLIAM MUIR.


Report from the Dundee Courier on 5th April 


Not since 1887 and the loss of the boat SISTERS KY221, has such a scene been witnessed as was on Sunday seen at the funerals of three of the crew of the MORNING STAR, lost off Cellardyke on Wednesday night last. Many a tear was shed by the great crowds of women and children assembled in the vicinity of Mid Shore, the residence of THOMAS HUGHES (17), as they lined up to witness the funeral cortege, as it slowly wended its way up the Abbey Road, to take up the body of NEIL HUGHES (26), and thence to Pittenweem Churchyard.

The mourners numbered several hundreds, including a large representation of companion fisher lads of THOMAS HUGHES. A short and impressive service was conducted by the Rev J G Goodall. Immediately afterwards the funeral of skipper DAVID MUIR took place to Kilrenny Churchyard, with a large number of mourners following to the outskirts of the town.

Report from the Dundee Courier on 11th April 

At a special meeting of Pittenweem Town Council which was held in the Town Hall on Friday evening, at which Provost Ross presided —“to consider if the Council should take any action in view of the recent disaster caused by the loss of the yawl MORNING STAR”.

The Council agreed to record in the minutes their extreme regret at the sad disaster, and sympathy for the bereaved families, and to take the initiative in opening a list of subscriptions, and also to make an appeal to the public by newspaper advertisement. Provost Ross; Baillies; Stevens and Smart, and Councillors; Masson and Duncan were appointed local collectors.


Report from the Dundee Evening Telegraph on 22nd April 

The sum of £273 and 7 shillings has been subscribed at Pittenweem to date for the MORNING STAR disaster fund.

Report from the Dundee Courier on 2nd May

Pittenweem yawl disaster fund.
A special meeting of the Council was held on Friday evening for the purpose of considering the administration of the fund raised on behalf of the widows and bereaved by the loss of the yawl
Morning Star off Cellardyke on 30th March. Provost Ross presided. The Clerk stated that the total fund to date amounted to £333 and 8 shillings and 4d, which included an unsolicited donation of £21 2 shillings, collected in Largo Parish Church.
After discussion it was agreed to hand over to Mr Thomas Hughes(McKenzie), the sum of £40 for the loss sustained drowning of his son Tom aged 17: a weekly aliment of 5s to the widow of Neil Hughes, and 4s for her family of two; 5s weekly to the widow of David Muir and 6s for her family of three, being 2s for each child per week, till they attain the age of 14In the case of Thomas McBain the sole survivor of the disaster, Council agreed to grant £10.

Report from the Dundee Courier on 14th  May 

The total sum raised by subscriptions on behalf of the MORNING STAR DISASTER FUND to date is £394 and 15 shillings and 2d.




DAVID MUIR (49) skipper left a widow and 2 children and 6 grown up family.

NEIL HUGHES (26) left a widow and 2 children.


WILLIAM MUIR (17) son of DAVID MUIR was never recovered from the scene of the disaster. He had been in ill health for some time and sadly, this was his first trip back to sea.

THOMAS McBAIN believed to be (29) was the only survivor of the sinking of the MORNING STAR.

It is thought Thomas McBain never went to sea again. He became a farm worker on the Coal and Insch farms. He also rang the bells in Pittenweem Church.

In 1916 he helped save a Balcaskie Estate apprentice gardener, Robert Aitken, who had got into difficulty while swimming in Pittenweem pool.