Today I have another story of a local legend for you, this one is about a lad called Jack Crawford who is more of a fact than myth, still he is a folk
tale of these lands and I'd like to share the story of him with you.
Jack Crawford born 22 March 1775 was a Sunderland lad through and through, he learned from a young age to be a keelman like his father and he knew the
waters of the wearside like the back of his hand. The job of a keelman was to help with a small team sailing coal down river and out to the ships that
the coal would be loaded onto, usually bound for London or some other industrial town or city.
Anyways although it was a treacherous and sometimes dangerous business being a keelman this was not what Jack was destined to be, poor little Jack
will be forced to sea.
For Jack was a ripe young age and he already had sea legs, so Jack was press-ganged into the navy and with good reason some might say. For the Dutch
had been threatening these isles for a while and Britain had a dire need to fill ships with sailers a number as high as 200,000 sailers were needed to
maintain the realm and the tactics of getting these sailors was not exactly clean...
So Jack was forced into sailing for his country and luck had him serving in the flagship of the north sea fleet and that ship was named The Venerable
lead under the guidance of Admiral Duncan. A true gem of a ship and like real gems she was a rarity in the North sea fleet, as many ATS'ers will know
England was a superpower at sea those days but what is little known is the ships chartered to defend the North sea were mainly weak, old and highly
outdated. In other words the North sea was highly vulnerable from continental attack.
So vulnerable in fact that forts such as this one were built or improved to defend against what was seen as an inevitable attack from the french or
anyone doing it on their behalf.
This one just so happens to sit on the Thames and never fired a cannon.
Militarily this was a complex battle that would come and politically even more so. Regardless... this thread is about Jack Crawford not the history
and the question of how and why and so I will not go into detail of the battle or how it happened. Instead I shall stick to what made Jack famous.
For you see Jack was a small skinny lad, as he always was and he probably had a job on the Venerable such as hoisting top sails and setting the
rigging, not firing or reloading cannons or the musket rifle.
That being said little Jack Crawford done something in the heat of the battle of Camperdown that is legendary in the heart of any person who is
patriotic of his nation... He nailed his colours to the mast.
In those days the flags a ship hoisted gave signal to the others on what to do, this naturally had a dire importance on a flagship of a fleet, even
more so did the Admiral's personal flag and the lowering of that flag signalled defeat.
In the battle Venerable's mast holding it's flags were shot down numorous times and the English fleet because of this was confused and figured it
was a sign of surrender, Jack though thought otherwise...
As the cannons roared and the knipple shot ripped Jack picked that flag up grabbed some loose nails and set about climbing that musket ball riddled
mast to put that flag in it's rightful place.
He put that flag in it's place but it seemed in vein because no longer had it been replaced it was shot down again, undeterred Jack pick that flag up
again climbed that mast again and sought to nail it to it's place using a broken pistol stock, on his way up a Dutch rifleman struck Jack in the chin
with a hellish shot with a musket rifle... Still this wouldn't stop him and again Jack nailed his colours to the mast.
Through the efforts of Jack Crawford England won that day, not from his hand alone but his efforts and the symbolism of those efforts. It is sometimes
the simplest of people that pull the heartstings of a nation the most.
And pull the heartstrings Jack did, infact he was made a national hero and was given a pension from King George II himself. A pension of 30 pounds a
month that he just so happen to spend with his fellow mackems at the local
It's said he'd get his pension on a Monday morning and it would be
gone by the evening buying drinks for his townsfolk.
Jack lived the life of a hero but was always humbled by it, he never felt he deserved his pension or his silver medal given by the town
He became the second victim of the cholera epidemic of 1831 and was buried in an unmarked "pauper's" grave.
On open seas or dry land nail your colours to the mast.