Sculptures were unveiled yesterday to commemorate what is regarded as Britain's worst fishing disaster.

The bronze memorials were dedicated on the 126th anniversary of the Eyemouth fishing disaster.

It was on October 14, 1881, that almost 200 men - two-thirds of them from the Scottish Borders town - died in the Black Friday storm.

Sculptor Jill Watson, from Cove, near Cocksburnpath, a graduate of the Edinburgh College of Art, was asked to produce four sculptures, one for each of the communities involved - Eyemouth, Burnmouth, St Abbs and Cove. There are further plans to have memorials at Newhaven and Fisherrow.

Yesterday the sculptures in Eyemouth, Burnmouth and St Abbs were unveiled.

The installation placed in Eyemouth Old Cemetery was dedicated by Richard Lochhead, the Environment Secretary, in a poignant ceremony.

The Eyemouth memorial is, however, incomplete, and amounts to one-fifth of what is planned for the site. The 125 Memorial Association, a group of locals who have been fundraising, need another £60,000 to complete the Eyemouth memorial and a memorial at Cove.

The Eyemouth memorial commemorates the women and children left behind in each fishing community and is placed where families would have watched from the shore for the missing boats.

The cemetery in the town, which was home to 129 of the victims, is the site for the biggest of the memorials.

The sculptures have been placed in prominent places in each of the four fishing communities with the base of each representing the harbour.

The sculptor chose to make the bases very narrow to represent a sense of danger.

The difference between each sculpture is that they will have the exact number of those who were left behind from each particular community, with the children representing hope for the future.

Among those attending the Eyemouth ceremony was Ena Aitcheson, who lost two grandfathers in the tragedy.

Mr Lochhead paid tribute to the communities in a dedication speech.

He said: "The sheer scale of the disaster still shocks - 189 lives lost in a short space of time, many within site of the harbour and within the view of their loved ones. The horror and helplessness which those on the shore must have felt is too terrible to imagine.

"You might have thought that those who were left would have decided enough was enough. But the sense of community is very strong in fishing villages and those who had lost their men decided they would not lose their town as well. The decision to stay and keep Eyemouth alive was brave and selfless.

"As it is, I believe it took the best part of 80 years to restore the population to the level it was in 1881."

The tempest left 93 women widows and 267 children without their fathers. Of 45 boats that went to sea, only 19 returned.

When given the task, Ms Watson said: "It's more than an honour to be asked to do the memorial sculpture - it's a big responsibility. I have to do it justice not just for myself but for the people in the communities involved.

"The subject is very haunting and always something I think of when I go out to sea or watch the fishermen."