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The seaman brings spices
And sugar so fine,
Which serve the brave gallants
To drink with their wine:
With Lemons and Oranges
All of the best,
To relish their Pallates
When they make a feast;
Sweet Figs, Prunes and Raysins,
By them brought home be,
And none but a Seaman
Shall marry with me!

This lovely verse is from a ballad called The Seaman’s Compass which is included in C. Fox Smith’s A Sea Chest: An Anthology of Ships & Sailormen. Of course this is just one of many ballads, lyrics and folksongs extolling both the virtues and drawbacks of marrying sailors. What is particularly charming about this particular verse is that we have a direct parallel from our Indefatigable research. The following advertisement appeared in the the Caledonian Mercury on Thursday 2nd December 1802.
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The Captain McVicar referred to in the advert is Indefatigable midshipman Alex McVicar. Born in Leith in 1768, McVicar is notable in that he had a successful naval and merchant shipping career and switched between both services at several points in his life. McVicar already had experience of both services when he joined the Indefatigable as an experienced 27 year old seaman in 1796. Pellew clearly acknowledged his experience and McVicar was immediately rated midshipman. Over the course of the next four years Pellew made good use of his skilled recruit and McVicar served in a number of acting ranks throughout the squadron. However McVicar was absent from the Indefatigable during the Droits de L’Homme engagement as he had been captured in a prize vessel retaken by the French. McVicar’s incarceration was short lived, he was excahnged in a cartel shortly after being captured and passed his examination for lieutenant in 1797.

In 1802 with the advent of the Peace of Amiens, McVicar obtained leave from the Admiralty to captain the merchant schooner Hazard on voyages from the Leith to Danzig and Malaga. The literal fruits of the Malaga voyage appear in the advert above.

At a time when most of McVicar’s shipmates found themselves beached on half pay, McVicar’s earnings from his merchant voyages provided him with welcome additional income and it is surely no coincidence that in April 1803 McVicar married his fiancée, Margaret Reid, the daughter of a Leith merchant. It’s tempting to wonder if The Seaman’s Compass was sung at their wedding.

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