|Edward Vernon by Thomas Gainsborough, 1753|
Those of you who visit the salon regularly or have seen me elsewhere on the web chatting about my influences, know that I owe my love of history and tall tales to my old granddad. A born storyteller, he liked the occasional tipple and one of his favourites was a tot of rum or, as he would term it, "grog".
Today we mark the death of Admiral Edward Vernon, a career officer in the British Navy from the age of just sixteen. As his career progressed, Vernon earned the nickname, Old Grog, for his love of coats made of grogram cloth; however, the word has since come to mean something in no way related to clothing!
As an officer in the Navy, Old Grog faced the same challenge as many of his fellows, that of the men under his command getting a little carried away on their daily rum ration. Concerned about the affect of this libation on both their physical health and their moral wellbeing, in 1740 Vernon decreed that the rum ration should henceforth be diluted by water.
The sailors were understandably not at all happy, since water on board a long sea voyage was far from palatable. In answer, Vernon replied that they could purchase limes or sugar with thick to sweeten the drink and, quite without realising it, those who added this extra ingredient were doing wonders for their health.
Almost ten years later, in 1747, James Lind concluded that citrus fruit was a valuable weapon against scurvy and the Royal Navy swiftly leaped into action. Suddenly, instead of being an optional extra, all naval rum rations were supplemented with lime or lemon juice, the newly-created drink being nicknamed, Grog, after the man who inadvertently created it.