Black Tot Day

Captain Morgan

Arrrrr ’tis a black day is July 31st.  Today marks the 50th anniversary of Black Tot Day.  On this day in 1970 the Royal Navy, the Senior British Service, handed out the last of the daily rum ration.

In the glory days when “Britannia Ruled The Waves” every sailor was given a half pint rum ration.  To avoid unruliness and drunkenness certain customs were instituted.  The rum was served twice a day, morning and evening.  Half the ration was mixed with water in a 4:1 ratio to make a pint of grog.  The sailor was expected to down the grog in the presence of the officer to ensure there was no hoarding.  Sailors who hoarded their ration might drink several pints at once and become drunk and that often ended up with a kiss of the gunners daughter.

Kissing the gunners daughter was naval slang for being tied over a cannon and whipped.

Dishonest officers might skimp on the ration, save some of the rum and either drink it, or sell it on the black market.  Officers did not get a rum ration.  So the measuring of the tot had it’s own rituals, fashioned around the requirement for transparency.

British Naval regulations specified that all sailors must take a daily dash of lime or lemon juice as a prophylactic against scurvy.  The sailors usually took their lime juice with their grog, and this may have been the first ever alcoholic cocktail, dating from the mid-eighteenth century.  The other hot contender is Gin & Tonic which was invented by the British East India Company as a way to get British Soldiers to take their daily anti-malaria tonic.

No here’s a piece of pirate nonsense.  It’s based on a part of a sea shanty from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Derelict; by Young E. Allison

Fifteen men on the Dead Man’s Chest
drink and the devil had done for the rest.
The mate was fixed by the bos’n’s pike,
the bos’n brained with a marlin spike,
and Cookey’s throat was marked belike
it had been gripped
by fingers ten;
And there they lay,
all good dead men
like break-o’-day in a boozing-ken—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

Fifteen men of the whole ship’s list
dead and be damned and the rest gone whist!
The skipper lay with his nob in gore
shere the scullion’s axe his cheek had shore
and the scullion he was stabbed times four.
And there they lay,
and the soggy skies
dripped all day long
in upstaring eyes
in murk sunset and at foul sunrise
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

Fifteen men of ’em stiff and stark
ten of the crew had the Murder mark
’twas a cutlass swipe or an ounce of lead,
or a yawing hole in a battered head
and the scuppers glut with a rotting red
and there they lay
aye, damn my eyes
all lookouts clapped
on paradise
all souls bound just contrariwise
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.

Fifteen men of ’em good and true
every man jack could ha’ sailed with Old Pew
there was chest on chest full of Spanish gold,
with a ton of plate in the middle hold,
and the cabins riot of stuff untold,
and they lay there,
that had took the plum,
with sightless glare
and their lips struck dumb,
while we shared all by the rule of thumb
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

More was seen through the stern light screen
chartings no doubt where a woman had been!
A flimsy shift on a bunker cot,
with a thin dirk slot through the bosom spot
and the lace stiff dry in a purplish blot.
Oh was she wench…
or some shuddering maid…?
That dared the knife
and took the blade!
By God! she was stuff for a plucky jade
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

Fifteen men on the Dead Man’s Chest
drink and the devil had done for the rest.
We wrapped ’em all in a mains’l tight
with twice ten turns of a hawser’s bight
and we heaved ’em over and out of sight
with a Yo-Heave-Ho!
And a fare-you-well!
And a sullen plunge
in the sullen swell,
ten fathoms deep on the road to hell!
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s