The life of the historical hero of the town, William Spears (1812–1885), is celebrated by the dramatic bronze statue in Eyemouth Market Place, where he stands pointing the way to Ayton, the scene of his peaceful demonstration. At great personal risk, Spears led a revolt against the tithes on fish levied by the Church of Scotland, even after the great Disruption of 1843 when most fishermen left the established Church to join other congregations.
Sadly, when Spears was 14, his father and brother drowned at sea leaving as the provider for his mother but went on to become one of the most successful fishermen in Scotland, resulting in the nickname, “The Kingfisher”. Spears was a natural leader when the local fishermen began to rebel against the tithe. The fight was a long 20 year battle with Spears spending time in jail before being bailed out from the local people.
The fight was long and resulted in the agreement of broker deal which allowed fishermen to buy out the tithe for £2,000. They were reluctant but Spears was worried that someone would end up being killed. Furthermore, the harbours were missing out on government funds for improvements. However, once the bank loan was paid off plans were drawn up for harbour improvements. Sadly, six weeks later the great fishing disaster of 1881 happened taking the lives of 189 Berwickshire fishermen. It is suspected that had these improvements been made sooner, the disaster would not have happened. Spears watched from land when the disaster took place.