On This Day: 5 November 1703

On this day in 1703, a list of men on board the Rising Sun together with their monthly River Pay was drawn up, probably in the hand of Peter Tom, the supercargo.

This document in Thomas Bowrey’s Papers provides an insight to the crew of an independent East Indies merchant ship at the time. The officers, in addition to the captain, comprised: the supercargo, chief mate, second mate, third mate, surgeon, boatswain, gunner and carpenter. Other specialists were the cook, steward, carpenter’s mate and gunner’s mate. There were twelve mariners plus four servants, two working for the supercargo and one each for the captain and chief mate. There should have been two more to make up the full compliment, the chief mate’s boy and another mariner but both had run away. One additional seaman had been taken on at Gravesend and, therefore, not yet been paid.

River Pay, half the pay at sea, was paid until the ship passed Gravesend and was usually half what they would receive at sea. The highest paid was the captain at £10 per month River Pay. Next came the chief mate who received £6 followed by the supercargo and carpenter receiving £5 each. The surgeon was only paid £3/7/6, less than the boatswain, gunner, steward and, even, the carpenter’s mate. It was far more important to keep the ship afloat than patch up the crew.

Guns were required for signaling to other ships and ports as well as defending the ship from attack. Should this happen, such a ship would be at a distinct disadvantage against a heavily-armed and manned pirate ship or man-of-war privateer having so few seamen to manoeuvre the ship and man the guns. The Rising Sun‘s crew could not be as well trained in working the guns as their attackers because there would be little spare time for gun practice alongside their normal duties.

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