This article is entitled "Sewing a Safety Net:Scarborough's Maritime Community, 1747-1765" and was written by Charles R. Foy [note 1]. It appeared in the International Journal of Maritime History, XXIV, No. 1 (June 2012), 1-28.
On 31 March 1748, during a voyage from Scarborough to London, the fifty six-year-old seaman Thomas Williamson died. The same year, on a three month coasting voyage from Scarborough, Diamond's fourteen-man crew included forty-year-old Enoch Harrison, forty-five-year-old Samuel Clark, forty year-old George Addison and fifty-four-year-old George Welborn. The presence of older sailors on Scarborough ships was common; over thirteen percent of the seamen on vessels sailing from Scarborough between 1747 and 1765 were men forty years of age or older. Alongside these weathered tars, young servants comprised twenty-two percent of Scarborough crews. On numerous Scarborough craft, including Elizabeth and Margaret, Peril and Dragon, young servants made up a majority of the crew. While considerable numbers of both old and young sailors served aboard Scarborough vessels, ashore Ann Dickinson and numerous other mariners' widows were provided monthly stipends by the local Trinity House Seamen's Hospital for more than a decade.[note 2] Scarborough's experience of large numbers of both older mariners and young servants on its ships, and mariners' widows receiving significant charitable assistance,was not a one-year aberration but continued from 1747 to 1765. In short, Scarborough does not conform to the stereotypical image of an eighteenth century maritime community comprised of healthy young adult seamen whose wives were often left to struggle on their own in their absence.
The reasons that Scarborough stands out in these ways are not readily apparent. Neither the port's crew lists nor the seamen's hospital registers provide evidence of the motivations for the observed patterns. Given the paucity of detailed analyses of British merchant ship musters, the critical role of age inthe maritime sector, the connection between sailors' lives at sea and ashore andthe way that one community created a social safety net to protect its mariners and their families, it is useful to examine mid-eighteenth-century Scarborough in search of some preliminary conclusions on these important issues.[note 3] Despitethe fact that it is one of the few British ports for which fairly complete musterrolls exist, scholars have paid little attention to Scarborough's maritime sector.[note 4] As Daniel Vickers has noted, mariners:
To answer these questions, it is important first to discover the nature of Scarborough's maritime community in the mid-eighteenth century. By the 1720s, Scarborough had become a bustling resort in which Yorkshire gentlemen, the Earl of Harington and various government officials took the waters at the town's renowned spa. Although the number of visitors to the spa decreased by mid-century, it still continued to attract considerable numbers.[note 6] While out of-towners may have sought cures at the spa on the southern edge of the town, most of Scarborough's residents were more concerned with the activities in theharbour situated below Scarborough Castle to the north. As the only port on England's east coast between the Humber and the Tyne which vessels of amoderate draught could safely enter in storms, Scarborough was a vibrantn maritime community. It had an active shipbuilding industry and a large populace of seamen.[note 7] Despite having fewer than 6000 residents, mid-eighteenth century Scarborough played a disproportionately large role in Britain's maritime sector. The 871 resident seamen who served on Scarborough's ships in1748 comprised approximately two percent of all British seamen and representedone of the largest groups of mariners working on northeastern colliers. And while coal was typically shipped from Newcastle and Sunderland, it wasresidents of Scarborough and Whitby who owned many of the ships whichtransported that coal; in 1751, Scarborough's 22,430 tons of registered shipping comprised more than five percent of England's total tonnage.[note 8]
Although located on the North Sea with its bountiful fishing areas,few Scarborough residents, in Philip Larkin's memorable phrase,
"smelt the fish-dock."
Fishing was not of great importance in eighteenth-century Yorkshire towns such as Whitby, Bridlington and Scarborough where men focused on more profitable endeavours such as shipbuilding, the collier trade and voyages to the Baltic. Burial records for St. Mary's Anglican Church demonstrate the limited role of fishing in the port. From 1735 to 1749, fewer than six percent of mariner family members buried in its cemetery were from fishing families. By 1788, there were only eleven first-class fishing vessels registered in Scarborough.[note 9]
Newspapers boasted that Scarborough and other northern ports could "on two Days Notice, [send] a hundred Ships, capable of sinking twice seven hundred French flat-bottomed Vessels without firing a Gun." Despite such proclamations, few Scarborough seamen or shipowners participated in privateering during the Seven Years' War. Just seventeen letters of marque were issued for Scarborough ships, less than one percent, considerably below the 23.3 percent of British ships that were granted letters of marque during the conflict. Moreover, those Scarborough vessels which were fitted-out as privateers were less than half the size of Bristol's, and their crews averaged only twenty-eight men, a fraction of the size of the average English privateer.[note 10] During the Seven Years' War, English newspapers, which often triumphantly announced privateering captures, reported not a single prize taken by a Scarborough privateer. As a port with many Quaker ship captains, the reluctance of local residents to engage in privateering was likely due in part to condemnations issued by the local Society of Friends against those "bearing Arms & paying Trophy money." Quakers such as William Lovejoy, who taught others"patterns of war," found themselves disowned by Scarborough's Friends.[note 11]
In rejecting fishing and privateering, two maritime sectors with notoriously high mortality rates, many in Scarborough's maritime community turned instead to the coastal and short-sea trades. The port's ships for the most part transported coal and corn (the region's main agricultural crop) to southernEngland or to the nearby Continental ports, although there were occasionalvoyages to North America. The collier trade was particularly important. Morethan two-thirds of voyages from Scarborough went to other British ports, andthe bulk of these involved coal. The importance of this activity was recognizedby Parliament in 1732 when it imposed coal duties to allow Scarborough to improve its harbour specifically to shelter colliers. Because most people at the time believed that work on colliers required seamen of "a high calibre," thetrade was often considered a "nursery of seamen." Scarborough's coasters and colliers provided regular employment to seafarers, who often made as many as eight voyages a year.[note 12] Voyages from Scarborough, by colliers and small vessels,were short in duration, many lasting less than three months. Very few of Scarborough's ships made long trans-atlantic voyages; in 1748, only six of theport's 229 vessels sailed to the Americas. Even during the Seven Years' War, when a number of the Scarborough's vessels were impressed into the Transport Service, more than seventy percent of the port's sailing craft continued tobe employed in coasting or short voyages to northern European ports.[note 13]
During the Seven Years' War, the Royal Navy's manning needs resulted in one out of every ten British adult men being in the navy. With many sailors wishing to avoid the harsh working conditions on British warships, naval officials resorted to impressment, a tactic which provided between eighteen and thirty percent of all seamen who served in the Royal Navy.[note 14] For those mariners who sought to avoid being impressed, berths on Scarborough shipswould have been very appealing. Among the classes of seamen exempt from impressment were those who worked on the colliers. As a result, press gangswere not as active in Scarborough as in larger southern and western harbours. Thus, even those Scarborough seamen who served on vessels other than collierswere less likely to be impressed than mariners from many other Britishports. Service on a Scarborough vessel would have been particularly attractive to men like sixty-year-old Thomas Vazey of Thorton. Being over the age offifty-five, Vazey would have been exempt from impressment whether heserved on a collier or a vessel carrying corn to the Baltic. Apprentices were also exempt from impressment, although only for three years. These factors attracted both older tars and eager young men from both Scarborough and nearby maritime communities such as Filey, Bridlington and Scalby to the port. While other northeastern ports, such as Sunderland, had violent reactions to impressment, Scarborough was a harbour to which escapees from impressment sailed stolen naval boats.[note 15]
Work on Scarborough vessels also provided seamen with a reliable source of income. Unlike naval sailors who often went unpaid for extended periods - in 1741, Admiralty officials estimated that naval seamen and officerswere owed £1,600,000 - Scarborough's mariners appear to have been paid regularly. Seafarers frequently signed onto the same vessel for second voyages, a sure sign in a port with hundreds of available berths and short voyages that seamen were being paid in a timely fashion. Moreover, Scarborough's seamen deserted at a very low rate, less than 0.2 percent, another indication that they were receiving their pay consistently. The few men who did desert, such as the eighteen-year-old Scot, George Drummond, who "ran" from success in London, were almost never Scarborough residents. In contrast to the labour strife that would roil the northeast collier fleet in subsequent decades, Scarborough's maritime labour force was relatively peaceful in the middle ofthe eighteenth century.[note 16]
The available documentary record indicates that few of Scarborough's seamen suffered the early death which took many English mariners. Harsh working conditions resulted in high mortality rates on eighteenth-century oceanic voyages, whether men-of-war, East Indiamen or whaling vessels. Indeed, in the eighteenth century fully one-quarter of all seamen from Dunkirk, France, and Salem, Massachusetts, died in their twenties. In contrast, Scarborough's muster rolls list fewer than a dozen men dying at sea between 1747 and 1765, the bulk of whom drowned. The burial records of Scarborough's Anglican church, St. Mary's, confirm the low mortality among seamen: only ahandful of the mariners buried in the Church's hillside cemetery died in their twenties. This low mortality was likely due to the small number of whaling trips and the emphasis on short-sea rather than long-distance voyages. Moreover, the port's limited involvement in privateering and its focus on coasting and short-sea voyages meant that the vast majority of the mariners had limited exposure to the more dangerous components of the maritime sector. Rare was the muster which indicated that a seaman had been "wounded" aboard a Scarborough vessel. These factors all combined to make it more likely that Scarborough mariners would die, as did seventy-four-year-old Charles Gibson, asold men ashore rather than as victims of a mishap at sea while young men.[note 17]
Another factor that benefitted Scarborough's seamen was the port's location on the North Sea. The relative proximity to northern European markets from where liquor and other highly taxed goods could be smuggled into England and its remoteness from any British naval base made Scarborough an ideal location to engage in contraband trade. Throughout the Seven Years' War, when Royal Navy ships were largely occupied with military operations, a "very great Smuggling" was observed in the Scarborough area. The circle of Scarborough residents profiting from this activity is hinted at in the local Friends Society's resolution that the purchase of "run goods" for one's "ownconsumption is in a Degree ye same thing & as much condemnable as wherethey are bought for sale." In 1767, an additional sloop was posted at Scarborough to crack down on the rampant smuggling.[note 18] Illicit trade provided significant opportunities for sailors to obtain wealth beyond their usual wages of twenty-five shillings per month. Given that wages also rose significantly duringwars, it can be reasonably assumed that some Scarborough seamen whoengaged in smuggling were able to enjoy a relatively comfortable lifestyle.[note 19]
Older mariners, often with detailed knowledge of the coastline and the practices of Customs officers, were valuable members of crews that sought to bring contraband into England. Although we do not know how many mariners, whether old or young, engaged in smuggling, it is clear that illicit trade putmany additional shillings in the pockets of Scarborough's jack tars and thecoffers of its shipowners. The additional coins earned by Scarborough's older seafarers through smuggling provided another, albeit illicit, means of economicsupport for men who were traditionally dependent upon others.
Scarborough's maritime community was characterized by the local nature of its crews and the paucity of foreigners aboard its ships. Sixty-six percentof Scarborough's crews were from the North Riding, while three-quarters were Yorkshire residents, mostly from coastal towns such as Bridlington, Hull, Whitby, Cloughton, Malton and Filey. The adjoining counties of Durham and Tyne and Wear, with their ports of Newcastle, Sunderland and Shields, provided another ten percent. Despite the fact that many Scarborough voyages went to the south of England, less than five percent of the crew was from London or the south. Seamen from large western ports were almost completely absent; of the more than twenty-five thousand berths on Scarborough ships, Bristol and Liverpool mariners occupied a mere ten. Between 1747 and 1765, only 0.85 percent of the seafarers sailing from the port were foreign residents and less than two percent had been born abroad. In sum, the crews were largely Yorkshiremen with the remainder mostly from northeastern or Scottish coastal towns. When in 1749 Captain John Maling sailed Amity'sFriendship out of Scarborough harbour, few would have noted that his twentymancrew contained nineteen Scarborough residents plus William Jordon fromthe nearby port of Shields. Even during the Seven Years' War, a time marked by much movement of maritime labour in the Anglo-American Atlantic, an increased foreign presence on British ships and the regular employment of localvessels in the Transport Service, seamen from southern Britain or abroadon Scarborough vessels never exceeded seven percent in any year. Scarborough's experience firmly establishes what records from Salem suggest: that some Anglo-American maritime labour markets were "deeply parochial." [note 20]
Many Scarborough captains repeatedly employed the same seamen, creating a tight social order on the ships. The composition of the crew on Durham's two voyages from Scarborough to Holland in 1748 within an eight month period was similar to many Scarborough vessels, as the same seven men comprised the crew for both voyages. That same year, William Smith and eight other mariners were employed for nine months on Golden Apple, makingthree voyages along England's east coast. Neither Durham nor Golden Applewas unusual in repeatedly employing the same mariners. The tight-knit nature of Scarborough's maritime community was something that held true for an extended period; for sixty years after the end of the Seven Years' War, Scarborough mariners fought efforts to employ seamen from outside the port.[note 21] The size of the crews, the nature of the work, the type of employment available ashore and the length of voyages help to explain why many of Scarborough's ships had largely local crews. Scarborough's fleet made generally short voyages, most taking less than three months. The vessels were generally 100 tonsor smaller. Crews on the coasters averaged eight men, but many sailed withonly four or five. Such small groups had several advantages over the largecrews employed on naval, East India and transatlantic vessels.
The sailors' familiarity with their fellow seamen made working on a vessel attractive and created cohesion among the crew which made for effective shipboard operations. Almost completely absent from Scarborough's musters are any reference to dismissal of mariners for disciplinary reasons, something common on largerships. Scarborough's coastal voyages were less physically demanding than oceanic voyages, permitting the hiring of young and elderly family members; indeed, fathers, sons and brothers frequently worked together. Men like Henry and George Kirby shared family connections, and as the master and mate of Mary and Alice had lives that were intertwined both personally and economically.With physically demanding agriculture being the other primary industry in the North Riding, work at sea on short voyages, often with relatives and friends, was a pleasant alternative to toiling as a wage labourer on a farm.[note 22]
Land transactions and wills indicate that although common seamen rarely acquired much wealth, captains often led comfortable lives. The Duesbery,Cockerill, Hebden, Robinson, Thornton, Disbrough, Fox and Taylorfamilies all amassed considerable wealth largely by investing the money theymade at sea in land-based businesses or property. A good number of the mowned their ships, and the more successful sometimes bought a second or evena third. But like all smart investors, they mitigated their risks through diversification.Taking on a £400 mortgage or lending £150 to an out-of-town merchant were common investments for Scarborough's ship captains. And like successful shipmasters elsewhere, Scarborough's captains generally owned their own dwellings and often left significant bequests to their children. When these men left St. Mary's after Sunday service and looked down the hill at the harbour, what they saw was the foundation for their comfortable lives.[note 23]
Given the nature of Scarborough as a maritime community focused on shortcoasting voyages with vessels manned largely by Yorkshiremen who were often related, how did the port protect its mariners and their families from the vicissitudes that often befell those who lived in other communities? Scarborough sewed a safety net comprised of four interrelated parts: a web of kinship and family connections that permitted sailors to move between land and sea aswell as between maritime roles as they aged and their personal situations changed; the employment of maritime servants; "retirement at sea," that is,the hiring of elderly seamen; and the use of the Seamen's Sixpence in a waythat kept mariners' widows and children from becoming impoverished and that also permitted elderly seamen to "return to the sea." None of these components was by itself sufficient to provide adequate protection for Scarborough's maritime families, but combined they provided a social safety net that was, by eighteenth-century standards, robust and effective.[note 24]
Scarborough's mid-eighteenth-century maritime community provides considerable support for Ralph Davis' assertion that mariners went to sea "to do what fathers do."[note 25] Three out of every ten of Scarborough's crews in the period 1747-1765 included family members working together. The short coastal voyages on which most Scarborough seamen served were not as physically taxingor stressful as service on naval ships or privateers, thereby permitting the hiring of considerable numbers of young sons and brothers, as well as older, often elderly fathers. Doing so both cemented family ties and provided a way for new generations to be trained while permitting older sailors to make a gradual transition to retirement. When David, Thomas and William Adamson signed on to Edward as the carpenter, mate and seaman, respectively, they were doing what John, Thomas and Peter Stonehouse, the master, mate and seaman who sailed alongside each other on the voyage of Francis and Mary to France were doing. Many other family groups worked together on Scarborough's vessels, bringing on board the rhythms and patterns of their lives ashore. Even on ships where no family member was an officer, fathers and sons working togethert ended to reinforce patriarchal patterns of obedience and deference.
Family groups on board Scarborough ships could also invert traditional English patriarchal roles and in so doing provide support for elderly seamen. Sailors who by most standards were elderly - that is, tars who werefifty-five years of age or older and thus far beyond their prime seafaring years- commonly served on Scarborough ships. In fact, more than four percent ofall berths in this period were filled by such weathered seamen. These oldermen frequently worked with their sons. When sixty-five-year-old Scarborough resident John Fox climbed aboard Amity's Advice in 1754 to serve as thecook, his twenty-four-year-old son Richard was one of the seamen. No longeran active seafarer, having not been to sea for seven years, John's fatherly authority was likely to have been lessened by his role as the ship's cook and thesole older man aboard Amity's Advice - but the family ties were undoubtedly strengthened. Robert and John Harrison on Free Britain, and Christopher and Richard Warkup on Lion, similarly had to accommodate themselves to seaboard situations where the father's authority was diminished by age, frailty and the son's maritime abilities. Counterbalancing these men's decreasing influence over their sons while at sea were the positive benefits older tars gained from the companionship and support their sons provided them while away from home and hearth.
The strong family ties among Scarborough's maritime families extended both to the land and the sea. In January 1756, when Ann Trott's father escorted her into St. Mary's Church to wed John Wharton, the assembled guests witnessed the coming together of two maritime families. The groom had served as a seaman on several Scarborough vessels in the past decade. Because the male Trotts had served on a number of Scarborough vessels at the sametime, Ann's extended family would have known John as a seafarer before they considered him as Ann's intended husband. No fewer than four members of different branches of the Trott family were seamen who received benefits from the Seamen's Hospital in the 1750s and early 1760s, a fairly clear indication of a family whose livelihoods were deeply connected to the port's maritime interests.The Trotts' maritime ties also extended to the nearby port of Whitby where some of them lived.[note 26] Intermarriage among Scarborough's maritime families such as the Trotts and Whartons was common; thirty-five percent of St. Mary's marriages involved situations where both spouses came from such families. This is hardly surprising given that mariners comprised more than forty-four percent of the grooms, and forty-six percent of the families of individuals married in St. Mary's between 1754 and 1765 had mariners among their members.[note 27]
The cramped streets of Scarborough, described by visitors as "illbuilt,and very badly paved," assisted and abetted the tight kinship connections of the port's maritime community. Not until the 1760s did the town expand significantly beyond the medieval dykes, walls and gateways that had framed it for hundreds of years. It would have been nearly impossible for a seamanwalking down the narrow streets to the wharves to have avoided passing the house of other members of the maritime community since the port's seafaring families literally lived cheek to jowl. The number of mariners' wills which described their dwellings as "adjoining the back" of a fellow seaman's home demonstrates the physical and emotional closeness of the town's maritime community.[note 28]
The short life of Thomas Cockerill illustrates the deep ties that bound Scarborough's maritime community. Cockerill was seventeen when he joined Ann and Mary as a servant. The son of "the most considerable Rope-Maker in the North of England" and an original signer of the Scarborough Pier Bylaws,Thomas was related to a number of ship captains, ensuring that he knew something of seafaring before signing on to Ann and Mary. Thomas was likely to have been acquainted with Captain Francis Goland because both families were active members of St. Mary's Anglican Church. Aboard Ann and Mary, Thomas worked under the direction of seventeen-year-old Francis Goland, Jr., the ship's mate. Given that their fathers likely had business dealings, it is probable the two young men spent time together before Thomas went to sea with the Golands, whether in St. Mary's or in a tavern. Thomas must have performed ably as a servant on the vessel because shortly after arriving back in Scarborough, the young seafarer was taken aboard Unanimity for a voyage to Londonas a seaman. Cockerill's prior contacts with John Woodill, Unanimity's captain, may have bolstered his movement up the maritime hierarchy. Woodillwas the port's Customs Searcher from 1756 to 1765 and in that capacity was acquainted with or knew directly most of the port's shipowners, maritime business leaders and captains. Given his contacts, family background and apparent maritime skills, Cockerill would have been a strong candidate eventually to become a captain. Other Scarborough servants, such as Archer Rowles, moved quickly through the port's maritime hierarchy from servant to seaman to mate to master. In contrast to this typical Scarborough maritime career path, Cockerilll died at the age of nineteen before he had the opportunity to takeadvantage of the tight-knit maritime community in which he grew up.[note 29]
Members of Scarborough's maritime community also provided for the next generation of mariners through careful estate planning. Robert Wost, amaster mariner, was hardly unusual in having a will that stipulated that hiseldest son should inherit his vessel and that considerable monies be bequeathed to his other children. Such wills indicate a community with resources, a desire to provide for the next generation of mariners and plans to protect the resources and the community that enabled mariners to live decent lives.[note 30]
Strong family connections among Scarborough seamen were not limited to the merchant service. If Plymouth remittance registers are an accurate reflection of practices in the Royal Navy, Scarborough men appear to havebeen among the most consistent of naval sailors in remitting funds to familymembers. Unlike the hundreds of seamen from London, Bristol and Liverpool who had their wages remitted to themselves care of their home port's collector, most Scarborough seamen in Plymouth arranged to have their pay sent totheir wives or other family members. When James Stonehouse sent £7 to hiswife in 1759, and George Batchelor, a Scarborough seaman on HMS Litchfield had £28 remitted to his wife Elizabeth in 1761, they were but two of several score of Scarborough seamen at Plymouth who between 1759 and 1763 did not fit the stereotype of sailors as footloose and free. Instead, the evidence suggests that they were firmly tied to home, hearth and wife.[note 31]
Just as important, the short voyages of most Scarborough seafarers,combined with regular payment of the ships' crew, mitigated two of the causes of anxiety for many mariners' wives: having to wait for extended periods of time for their husbands to be paid and spending much of their lives not knowing if their spouse was safe.[note 32] The rhythm of Scarborough's short voyages offered a consistency of income that made family life a good deal less stressful than for many mariners' families elsewhere. These short trips ensured a fatherly presence between voyages that was often lacking in the homes of British sailors. Regular stops at home also offered married couples the benefits ofspending time together and provided the physical intimacy sorely lacking in thelives of many naval, whaling and Atlantic seamen.
That "high mortality rates and the rigours of maritime work made seafaring a young man's occupation" is a view shared by almost all British and American maritime historians. The consensus has been that by the time they reached their thirties or forties, eighteenth-century mariners looked to shift to land based work and that only "abject poverty and misery" kept older men at sea. For example, in Salem, only two percent of the seamen were over the age offorty.[note 33] In contrast, 11.94 percent of Scarborough's crew members in 1749were over this age, and by 1759 such men comprised over sixteen percent of Scarborough's crews. Older tars could be found among captains, officers, seamen and cooks on the port's vessels. Given that these men, even on shortcoasting voyages, could have had difficulty performing seamen's duties, especially in bad weather, why were such a large group of men over the age offorty employed on Scarborough's ships? As noted earlier, exemptions fromimpressment for those who worked on colliers attracted some older men. But the large numbers of older seafarers on Scarborough vessels, and their presence in both peacetime and wartime, indicates that there were additional causes for this behaviour.
In the period between 1747 and 1765, mariners on Scarborough ships averaged twenty-seven years of age, a fairly typical statistic for English crews of the era. What was unusual about Scarborough's crews were the 378 cooksover the age of forty. Although being a ship's cook was not a highly respected position and was often seen as a feminine task, the relative lack of physical demands made it an ideal post for older seamen. The Royal Navy often employed disabled or wounded men as cooks. As one sailor described the cook on his man-of-war, a bullet "shot away one of his limbs, and so cut him out for aSea-Cook." Neither Patrick Jourdain's loss of an arm nor Samuel Short's loss of an eye disqualified them from service as naval cooks. Scarborough ship captains were even more willing than their Royal Navy counterparts to employolder men as cooks. The nature of the coasting trade made this possible. Cookingfor fewer than a dozen men on most Scarborough vessels meant handling pots and pans but generally did not require lifting large bags or containers thatthe mass production of food on long-distance voyages entailed. Nor did Scarborough'solder cooks have responsibility on their small ships for goats orother large animals, such as was sometimes the case on Royal Navy ships. Onshort coasting voyages they had few worries about spoilage, needing to obtain fresh supplies or having to provide the crew with a variety of meats.[note 34]
The hiring of an older seafarer as a cook was not an isolated occurrence on Scarborough vessels. In an era when most small coasters did not employa cook - crews shared the responsibility of preparing meals - almost one quarter of Scarborough ships employed cooks, triple the rate on Plymouth vessels.[note 35] Scarborough masters and owners clearly thought that the job of cook would be reserved largely for the elderly: the average age of Scarborough cooks was 50.5 years, with fewer than fourteen percent of them under the ageof forty. War clearly played a role in this; during the Seven Years' War the numbers of older cooks on Scarborough ships increased from 35.17 percent in 1753 to more than half between 1754 and 1763. While in peacetime there were fewer elderly cooks, the practice of hiring older men marked the entire 1747-1765 period as sailors over the age of forty comprised 52.7 percent of Scarborough'sship cooks. The remarkable nature of this pattern is perhaps best illustrated by the hiring practices of John White. Between 1751 and 1757 White, the captain of Vulture, not only employed elderly cooks but even hired two seventy year olds - John Crompton and Thomas Brathwaite - for extended periods. Clearly, extreme old age was not seen as an absolute bar to workingon a Scarborough vessel.
If, as Samuel Johnson believed, food was a central concern for all seafarers, then work as a cook clearly placed many older mariners at the centre of social life aboard Scarborough vessels. It was during meals that crews were able to relax and socialize. Cooks who provided edible fare were appreciated,while those who failed to do so or took advantage of their position to sell grease to sailors to spread on their biscuits became objects of scorn and ridicule.This element of caring for others by cooking reinforced the natural paternal role that older men often played in English society.[note 36] While being oldermay have made some cooks the subject of taunts, it is more likely that on Scarborough's small coasters the older cook was accepted as an equal, especially if he either sailed with the crew or captain before as a seaman, as many elderly cooks had, or was capable of helping out on deck when the need arose.When the fifty-five-year-old Joseph Temperton cooked on a voyage to Londonon Henry, first in 1747 and then again in 1748, eleven of the twelve-man crewsailed on both voyages. Such familiarity, while it may sometimes have bred contempt, often served to ease the prospect of working together.
The nature of Scarborough's vessels appears not only to have assistedin making work for older mariners more tolerable but also helped sons moveup the maritime hierarchy and ease their fathers' move into retirement. When fifty-eight-year-old David Tristram shipped out in 1748 as a seaman on New Recovery for a voyage to Ipswich, the vessel's captain was his twenty-sevenyear-old son. This was the very same ship on which David had served as master earlier that year. Similarly, in the 1750s William Hurd Sr.'s son, William,took the helm of a Scarborough ship his father had formerly commanded while the former master served as a crew member. The Tristrams and Hurds, as wellas the Robinsons and Hodgsons, were but four of two score Scarborough families in which elderly fathers served on ships on which their sons were officers.Thus, while the movement of an older seaman from captain to seaman, sailor or cook may have been due to physical deterioration, the desire to assist family members ascend the maritime hierarchy also played a role in older men continuing to work aboard Scarborough ships.
The overwhelming majority of Scarborough's older seamen - sixty eight percent - made only one voyage a year, and almost two-thirds were at sea for fewer than four months. When many older sailors joined ships in Scarborough harbour between 1747 and 1765, they were only part-time seamen.The change from regular to sporadic employment enabled these men to extend their careers and allowed them to make the transition to retirement gradually.
Unlike the Royal Navy, which often discharged mariners such as sixty-three-year-old David Mann far from home as "unusable," few older Scarborough seamen were forced ashore. Only one of twenty-two older seamen discharged before the end of a voyage on a Scarborough vessel was let go outside the county in which he resided. Richard Blanchard was representative. When the fifty-six-year-old Blanchard was discharged at Hull during Friendship's voyage to Holland, he was near his Scarborough home. There is no record of why he was discharged, but given his age and the relative proximity of Hull to his home, it is likely that William Harbutt, Friendship's captain and a fellow Scarborough resident, was being protective of a man he knew both as a neighbour and an employee when it had become clear that Blanchard could no longer handle a sailor's duties. Rather than perceiving elderly mariners as fungible workers to be discharged at will, it appears that Scarborough masters saw them as vital members of the maritime community and as neighbours who deserved to be protected from the vagaries of weather, markets and age. The hundreds of older seamen who served on Scarborough's vessels between 1747and 1765 attest to the willingness of shipowners and captains to hire men who in many maritime markets would have been deemed unsuitable for work.[note 37]
The willingness of Scarborough's captains to employ older seamen not only assisted them in extending their careers but also ensured that young servants brought on board to learn the maritime trade would have the benefit of the wisdom of experienced sailors.[note 38] The 1757 coasting voyage of Dolphin illustrates this point. When forty-four-year-old Captain Thomas Buck and his fortyyear-old-mate, Thomas Cape, steered the vessel out into the North Sea, the crew included five teenage servants - John Shelton, Thomas Braitthwell, John Jackson, Robert Slophenson and an unidentified eighteen-year-old lad. These youngsters, who all came from Scarborough or nearby towns, worked alongside the sixty-year-old cook, James Wood, and five seamen in their fifties: Ned Thompson, Samuel Cook and William Dickinson, all fifty-seven years of age,and Valentine Evans and John Trowton, both fifty-eight years old. Since sailors were reputed to have little truck with landlubbers, the young men were undoubtedly the subjects of a good number of barbed comments as they hauled the ship's lines and stumbled about trying to find their sea legs. But during this short voyage they also received guidance from the old salts on basic seamanship, such as the fact that changes in the colour of the sea suggest that a craft was moving into shallower water. The crusty veterans may have preferred to sit by themselves during meal times, but they knew that their own safety and that of Dolphin depended on the servants becoming useful crew members.Whatever hostility they may have felt was probably kept in check as they helped to instruct their young charges.
Not all young boys coming aboard Scarborough's ships lacked knowledge of maritime matters. During the Seven Years' War, few Scarborough parents rushed to enlist their sons in the London Marine Society, which had been established to train naval seamen; indeed, only one Scarborough boy entered the Marine Society between 1756 and 1762. The Society's lack of appeal may have been due to a distaste for the Royal Navy's proto-industrial training or concern that it diverged from the Scarborough tradition of using older seamen to mentor the young.[note 39] But it certainly did not mean that the parents were unconcerned about providing maritime training for the offspring. A number o fyoung Scarborough men received maritime training through the Amiable Society.Established in 1729 to provide clothing and education for Scarborough's poor, the Society ensured that some Scarborough youths would "attain a competen tknowledge of navigation" through instruction at the Society's seminar. In addition to those trained by the Amiable Society, a considerable number of boys received maritime instruction by more informal means. The sons of prominent Scarborough maritime families regularly sailed as servants on the port's ships.[note 40] When Amity cleared Scarborough in 1748, its crew included young members of the Pattison, Welborn, Williamson and Dickson families. Each of these families was involved extensively in Scarborough's maritime sector, owning, building and/or commanding vessels. Their sons undoubtedly received maritime instruction from relatives prior to their initial voyages. During their tenures as maritime servants, they were also watched over, trained in maritime matters and made ready to take their places in the port's maritime hierarchy. Unlike some other young British boys of the era, they did not despair that they had
"no resource but the army or navy."
Historians have offered conflicting views over the reach and efficiency of the Seamen's Sixpence programme. Established in 1696, it was intended to assist disabled mariners, the widows of seamen who lost their lives at sea, and children who were unable to provide for themselves. To support the operation ofthe Greenwich Hospital, all naval seamen or sailors
"in any Ship or Vessel,whatsoever belonging to or to any the Subjects of England, or any other His Majesty's Dominions"
were to pay sixpence each month they worked at sea. Seamen who were engaged in bringing fish to Great Britain or Ireland, and those who worked on vessels or open boats plying British rivers or coasts were exempted.[note 42] Conrad Dixon has asserted that the programme was a "most successful confidence trick" by which the state used merchant seamen's monthly contributions to provide services for naval mariners. In contrast, N.A.M.Rodger contends that "most professional seafarers could establish some naval service without difficulty" and thereby gain access to the Greenwich Hospital. [note 43] Dixon, however, exaggerates the lack of benefits for merchant seafarers. Rodger, on the other hand, overlooks the fact that many English seamen were not "professional seafarers" but rather men who regularly shifted from sea to land. More than sixty percent of the men on Scarborough ships spent less than five months a year at sea, and only twenty-two percent made more than one voyage per annum. [note 44] Such sporadic, short-term connections with the sea do not suggest that Scarborough was filled with professional seamen. Even assuming that some of the landsmen serving on Scarborough vessels did eventually serve in the Royal Navy, the majority of maritime workers would have been unlikely to ever have been eligible to receive benefits from the Greenwich Hospital.
However one wants to characterize the Seamen's Sixpence programme,several things are indisputable. First, as the First Lord of the Admiralty acknowledged in testimony before Parliament, some time in the King's service "was always required" in order to obtain the benefits at Greenwich. Second, even those mariners with extensive service in the Royal Navy, such as John Nicol, who broke his "King's bread" from 1775 to 1783 and from 1794 to 1801, found coming to London to seek entry to Greenwich Hospital to be of "no use," leaving them to "eke out" their "subsistence in the best manner" they could. Third, by mid-century many merchant seamen were dissatisfied with the programme. Whether due to having to travel long distances to pursuea claim or believing, as did New England fishermen in the 1760s, that few of them could reasonably anticipate admission, the programme had few supporters among merchant seamen. [note 45] Most important, seamen who had not served inthe Royal Navy could not receive services at Greenwich. [note 46]
Scarborough had a long-standing tradition of efforts to avoid its disabled and elderly seamen being "by poverty…constrained to beg." [note 47] By the first half of the seventeenth century, Scarborough had created an institutional structure to provide for its elderly and disabled mariners. Commencing in 1638, Trinity House offered assistance to Scarborough seafarers. Although Ralph Davis believes that there was no widespread evasion of paying the sixpence, in the 1730s Scarborough "crews were not paying the [required seamen's sixpence] dues," resulting in "distress amongst the seamen of the Town." This left the Society seriously short of funds. As part of a growing concern over many disabled and elderly mariners being without resources, Parliament in 1747 authorized the Trinity House at Scarborough and organizationsin other ports to collect the duty and to supervise its use for local programmes in
"support of maimed and disabled seamen, and the widows andchildren of such as shall be maimed, disabled or drowned in the Merchant Service."
Although the 1747 legislation authorized Bristol's Society of Merchant Venturers, the Corporation of Trinity House at Hull, and ad hoc committees in other ports to develop their own charitable programmes for mariners using sixpence monies, many towns failed to do so. [note 48] In contrast, shortly after the 1747 reform the Trinity Society constructed a hospital with twenty-seven apartments. Its location in the middle of a bustling port town was a physical reminder of the cost of maritime employment and the central importance of mariners to the town's economy. The port's seamen demonstrated approval of local control over the sixpence assessments by commencing regular payments. In the eighteen years after the 1747 reform less than one-half of one percent of all mariners on Scarborough ships refused to pay the seamen's sixpence. Why Scarborough's tars were willing to pay an assessment transmitted to their local Trinity Society rather than to Greenwich Hospital cannot be known with certainty as neither newspaper accounts nor correspondence have been found that sheds light on this question. But given the strong resistance by many merchant seamen to the assessment, it would appear that local control of the monies by men many sailors knew, had worked with and probably trusted would have been a factor. In any event, as a result of seamen resuming their payments, the Trinity Society's bank account quickly grew to more than £1000.
These monies enabled the Society to build in 1752 the Seamen's Hospital with twenty-five"spacious" apartments. The Hospital's financial condition was also aided when Scarborough shipmasters made contributions to its operations. The subscription list reads like the port's shipping list as many of the port's notable maritime families helped underwrite the Hospital. [note 49]
Admission to the hospital did not require that its beneficiaries work each day, as was required of those in the local workhouse. Instead, elderly seamen - such as seventy-eight-year-old John Coats, who had continued working at sea until the age of seventy - were provided service.