Desert Island Doc: Blood for supper

Posted on by Fay Curtis.

Detail from the logbook for the merchant ship AidOur staff and invited guests introduce their favourite documents from the Bristol Archives collections. For this edition, Sarah Taylor, Archives Assistant has chosen a log book of the trade ship Aid on a voyage to the Mediterranean, 1867.

Under the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854, the masters (captains) of British merchant ships were required to keep an official log book. During each voyage, the master narrated crew offences and complaints, treatments for illnesses and injuries, deaths, the auctioning of the deceased belongings, and other incidents. Log books can often be found alongside the crew lists that we have for Bristol registered ships covering 1863-1913.

Many of the log books that survive provide fascinating descriptions of sea faring lives. Were maritime workers obedient to their master? Not according to evidence from log books. For example, during this voyage of the “Aid” in August 1867, many of the men either refused to work on the ship whilst it was in port or in the Bristol Channel, or would only work between 6am and 6pm. One of the crew declared that if, as a consequence, anybody struck him, there would be “blood for supper”. Eventually the master felt he had no choice but to turn back to port.

The reference number for this document is 30182, vessel number 22100.

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