Sailors and drinking go together like peas and carrots or fish and chips. This week’s word fits that pattern, but it’s a bit of a sad, in memoriam sort of tale. This week’s post is less about the drink and more about its namesake.
Small beer, brandy, sugar, and lemon; a drink of sailors in memory of Sir Cloudesley Shovell, who used frequently to regale himself with it. Later to be known as a flip.
So who is exactly is this Sir Cloudesley?
Norwich-born Cloudesley Shovell (1650-1707) rose from the ranks of cabin boy to Admiral of the Fleet before his untimely death at the young age of fifty-six. At seventeen, he was made midshipman on the Duke of York’s (the future James II) Royal Prince. He first saw action during the battles of the Third Anglo-Dutch War as a junior officer; as a captain, he fought at the Battle of Bantry Bay one week before the declaration of the Nine Years’ War in 1689. During the War of Spanish Succession, stories spread throughout the fleet of his swimming between ships, under fire, with dispatches clutched between his teeth to coordinate the fleet in the capture of Gibraltar and the Battle of Málaga.
That’s how you become knighted and an admiral by age forty, by golly.
Working with the Earl of Peterborough, he commanded the forces that took Barcelona in 1705, and was named commander of the Navy thereafter. His final battle was one that failed to capture Toulon, the base of the main French fleet, in the summer of 1707, but caused the French so much damage they scuttled their own ships to prevent the combined English and Austrian forces from taking them.
So lost the battle but won the war, in this case.
Sir Cloudesley and the fleet sailed for home after the campaign at Toulon. Nearing Plymouth on 22 October 1707, the fleet were hit with westerly winds and a northern current that ultimately dashed several of them on the reefs and rocks of the Scilly Isles. Sir Cloudesley’s ship, HMS Association, struck Outer Gilstone Rock and was reported to have sunk in three to four minutes, with the loss of all 800 hands. Three other ships also sank: HMS Eagle, HMS Romney, and HMS Firebrand. With the deaths of nearly 2000 sailors, the Scilly Naval Disaster of 1707 is recorded as one of the worst maritime disasters in British history.
Sir Cloudesley’s body was temporarily buried on the beach at Porthellick Cove but was later exhumed by order of Queen Anne. The body was embalmed in Plymouth then carried in state to London, inspiring much mourning along the journey. Sir Cloudesley was interred in Westminster Abbey on 22 December 1707.
The epitaph above Sir Cloudesley reads:
Sr CLOUDESLY SHOVELL Knt Rear Admirall of Great Britain and Admirall and Commander in Chief of the Fleet: the just rewards of his long and faithfull services. He was deservedly beloved of his Country and esteem’d, tho’ dreaded, by the enemy who had often experienced his conduct and courage. Being shipwreckt on the rocks of Scylly in his voyage from Thoulon the 22d of October 1707, at night, in the 57th year of his age his fate was lamented by all but especially the sea faring part of the Nation to whom he was a generous patron and a worthy example. His body was flung on the shoar and buried with others in the sands; but being soon taken up was plac’d under this monument which his Royall Mistress has caus’d to be erected to commemorate his steady loyalty and extraordinary vertues.
There is an apocryphal story associated with the death of Sir Cloudesley that states he actually made it to shore alive at Porthellick Cove on St. Mary’s Island, only to be killed by a local woman (the Isles were a but untamed at this time) when she saw the emerald ring he wore. Supposedly, some twenty (or thirty, by some accounts) years later and on her deathbed, she made this confession to her priest, who then sent the ring to either one of Sir Cloudesley’s friends, the Earl of Berkeley, or the original gifter of the ring, Captain James Lord Dursley. No trace of the ring has been found in either of these gentlemen’s histories, however.
- Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
- For informational purposes, you will see Sir Cloudesley’s name spelled in myriad ways. I chose the spelling from his marriage lines and will. But it’s different on his epitaph, some of his citations, the occasional newspaper write-up. You name it.
- The recipe for Sir Cloudesley can be found in Beverton’s Nautical Curiosities. Glance up at the Salty Dog recipe for a
chuckleshiver on how to moisten the rim of the glass.
- Sir Cloudesley Shovell was no doubt a man we’d have liked to sip some of his namesake drink with. Read more about him at History Today and Wikipedia.
- There are surprisingly numerous letters about The Shipwreck of Sir Cloudesley Shovell on the Scilly Islands in 1707.
- I had no idea there is a Find a Grave website. But there is and of course I think it’s cool. They had Sir Cloudesley’s temporary grave from Porthellick Cove.
- Words from the grave inscription courtesy Westminster Abbey.
- Last but certainly not least, not just a drink but a rock band, too. The Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell are “the last of a dying breed of Grease Rock Bastard musicians who somehow, despite and in spite of the last 3 decades trying their best to kill off balls out, non-bulls— rock’n’roll music, somehow, against all the f—–g odds, still exist.”