The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #62576   Message #1011391
Posted By: Les from Hull
02-Sep-03 - 02:25 PM
Thread Name: Gold.Vanity. Can you REALLY sink a ship?
Subject: RE: Gold.Vanity. Can you REALLY sink a ship?
Well let's get rid of the coppering first - ships of Henry VIII's time weren't coppered - this only came in around the 1780's (as far as I can remember).

Perhaps the best authority on drilling holes in the bottoms of ships would have been good old Sergeant Ezra Lee (who attacked HMS Eagle in Bushnell's Turtle (early not very good man-powered submersible) during the American Revolution). The story that goes around was that he could not penetrate Eagle's coppering, which was wrong as Eagle wasn't coppered. Perhaps it was the effort of trying to keep the auger against the hull while he drilled, action and reaction being equal and opposite ('damn you Issac Newton, I could've sunk a Royal Navy ship if t'wernt for you!').

So what a big lad like Ezra couldn't manage, would be more difficult for a little cabin boy (most of the versions emphasise his 'littleness'). And Ezra was only fitting a cup hook to the ship's bottom so he could hang a barrel of gunpowder off it - little cabin boy is trying to turn it into a passable imitation of a ships cheese.

In any ship where some were playing cards etc, some should have been on watch. The carpenter sounds the well at regular intervals, and any increase in the inflow should be noted. Perhaps the first job of any ambitious little boys should be to bop the carpenter and his crew on the head.

There's a great cartoon by Bill Tidy (UK 'catters will know him, especially for his 'Cloggies' strip in Private Eye many years ago). The ship's captain in a broadside to broadside action is calling out 'a firkin of rum for the man who brings down her mizzenmast' and there's a man diving off the mizzen chains on his own ship with a saw between his teeth!

Rick - best recorded version I know of this song was the Sweet Kumadee by formerly Hull-based Scottish singer Ian Manual (or Jock as we knew him - sadly he died some years ago) It's on Topic's Scottish Voices CD (TSCD703) with lots of other good stuff from great Scottish singers.