Faculty Research & Creative Activity

Sewing a Safety Net: Scarborough's Maritime Community, 1747-1765

Charles Foy

Originally published in the International Journal of Maritime History, XXIV, No. 1 (June 2012).


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 in- cluded 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 Dickin- son and numerous other mariners' widows were provided monthly stipends by the local Trinity House Seaman's Hospital for more than a decade. 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.