About half way through the North American commission our original purser left the ship. I never knew the reason. He was replaced by Mr. Armitage. Armitage right off made a show of using fair measures. "No more 14 ounce pounds" he says to me. But here is how he got beyond it.
He had a great fondness for gaming, and he was very good at it. Too good to be honest says many a tar that lost to him, but that did not keep them from coming back. I am sure the officers would not have approved, so he was sly about when he done it, and as you know mum is the word below decks. Many the time I seen a tar loose to him at a game the slops he had just bought. Some of them bought the same set of slops three or four times. So that is how he got beyond using fair measures. Pursers is all cut from the same cloth.
- James Cullen, Remembrances of Eight years before the Mast, 1834.
Now Gentleman, I would have it known my gambling forays are mostly limited to on-shore locales, such as decent taverns, gaming clubs, and balls and soirees (that I have been invited), and only with like-minded gentlemen and lady gamesters. Aside form the occasional entertaining odd hand at whist, or dicing (for low stakes), with my fellow warrants and lieutenants, in the Acasta wardroom, I would never use my acumen, at the 'green table' against any 'below decks' ratings, as many of them are already in-debted to me, as purser, and my 'pursers bank' (which I am permitted to operate, and which some of my wardroom 'brothers' have utilized, when in need of cash or credit). I maintain that I play strictly 'upon the square', upon my honour. I gained some skill, at play, when (in my youth), I frequented some notable London 'gaming hells'. I developed the expertise of procuring wholesome victuals and (later on) sturdy clothing, while employed at various London merchant grocers, with a long stint at the prosperous firm of Fortnum and Mason (St James St, Piccadilly), and the counting house of Wm Giles and Company (Temple Bar). I developed the art of 'the barter', but always made sure of quality goods, at the best price, a credo I employ, as ship's purser. I have endeavoured to use my gambling winnings and purser's profit (which is not begrudged me, by regulations) to benefit our crew, by laying in a goodly supply of various 'greens' and dried fruit, to augment the ship's rations, which I bear, at my expense. Dr Roberts, our scholarly ship's surgeon (and 'man of science'), will atest, I believe, that the health, vitality and disposition of the Acasta crew has much improved, by this, which I had already discovered by conferring with other RN pursers. I long realized I do not have any great skill at seamanship or 'fighting tactics', but to properly feed and clothe our Acasta crew, using my experience and abilty, is the best way of 'serving King and Country'.ReplyDelete
I have the honour to be, yr servant, N. Armitage, Purser, H.M.S. Acasta