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Bellany was born and brought up at Port Seton, a fishing village east of Edinburgh. His father and grandfather were both fishermen at Port Seton and Eyemouth. Accounts of the Eyemouth disaster in which a great storm wiped out almost the entire male population of the village had an early, profound influence on Bellany. In common with much of Bellany's work this painting contains a strong autobiographical element. It depicts two fishermen gutting fish in a boat named 'Star of Bethlehem'. As a schoolboy Bellany often worked at gutting fish and 'Star of Bethlehem' was an actual boat based in Eyemouth. Despite these biographical references, the image itself remains enigmatic, inviting yet resisting explanation.

September 2004