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The Journal of Hugh Campbell, Part VII: July 4th Party, Sailor-style

Barbecue on the Perseverance for the 4th of July!  Times really haven’t changed much, have they?  This week, Hugh talks about the bittersweet celebration and the food situation in general on-board.


July 4th
W. Lon. 17 N. Lat. 55 Degrees 30

Capt. Gale is a warm republican and commemorated this day, the anniversary of American Independence, with all the ceremony and pomp our situation admitted of. A half grown hog (the Americans called “a skoat”) was killed for the occasion and boiled up with salt pork, beef and potatoes cut in small slices. This was sent into the steerage and if we may judge from the quantity devoured, the Irish republicans on board celebrated the birthday of independence with as much fervour as any Democrat in the U. States. The day was spent in the greatest hilarity and this evening (like many others) closed with a turn at the “Sitting Brogue*” and “Jump the Bulock” and several pastimes practiced at Irish wakes. These amusements tended very much to reconcile us to our solitary floating prison.

Salt pork was a common staple on Transatlantic trips. It's similar to bacon, but it is not smoked, and it is very salty.

Though a cabin passage has many conveniences, yet I cannot recommend it to a person that is either fond of a vegetable diet or has been brought up in the country. The food is very good in itself but is not suited to a lubberly palate as the sailors say. It consists principally of salt beef (by them called junk), salt pork, a few potatoes, hard biscuit, and once in a while, a fowl. For my part I could live no longer on it. My constitution had been affected by the fatigue before I came on board and the seasickness, etc. had together with the salt provisions reduced me to a skeleton. With some difficulty I persuaded the Capt. and my good friend Wm. Reed to make arrangements to take me into steerage.

I accordingly joined Wm. Reed’s mess and he took my place in the cabin. My companions or messmates now were Alex. Rowlston from near Fintona, Dan’l. Armstrong from Irvinestown, County Fermanagh, nephew to Grager Irvine of N.T. Stewart** and John Woods a decent married man from Ardstrau coming out to his brother, a respectable wholesale merchant in Philadelphia. With these associates I lived pretty comfortable the remainder of the voyage. The change of food made a rapid alteration in my health. In a few days I was as well and happy as my situation admitted of. In fact I think a passenger who lays in some live fowl, barley, flour and some other necessaries and lives with economy, can feel more at ease in the steerage than in the cabin with all its varieties.

I had now an opportunity of seeing the mode of cookery practiced by our male companions. At first it consisted of such a disgusting variety of ingredients that one would suppose they had copied some Receipt like Dean Swift’s*** “Man Wallop”. But by degrees the system improved greatly amongst them. Everything was profusely wasted at the commencement of the voyage and of course became of treble value before we got to land. I have heard 10 s.  or 1/8 lb. of tobacco, 8 s. for 1 qt. Whiskey and 5 per peck for oatmeal. This ought to be a  salutary warning to others.


* “Sitting Brogue” is a game in which players sit on the floor and pass a brogue (a shoe) under their knees and, after the shoe has made it around the circle, the last player tosses it to the “shoemaker” standing in the middle of the ring.  If the shoemaker catches the shoe, the shoe tosser takes the shoemaker’s place in the ring.

** N.T. Stewart is an abbreviation of Newtownstewart, a town in County Tyrone near Hugh Campbell’s family home.

*** Dean Swift is Jonathan Swift, the Irish essayist who penned Gulliver’s Travels.

Next Week: Blackmail

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