Thursday 30 October 2014

A Tot of Grog

Edward Vernon (aka, Old Grog; London, England, 12th November 1684 – Nacton, Suffolk, England, 30th October 1757) 

Edward Vernon by Thomas Gainsborough, 1753
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.


Unknown said...

Please could I pick your brains about your blog? I would like to start one to help me with my writing skills as I am currently researching my first novel and need to develop my writing style, so I thought a daily blog would help. I am planning to write about the Elizabethans and the reign of Elizabeth I but just need a few tips on how to start.
How did you first get started? How do you decide which topics to write about and where do you gather the information?

Any help and advice you can give will be very much appreciated.

Catherine Curzon said...

I'd be really happy to help in any way I can; drop me a line at and we shall have a chat!

Sue Bursztynski said...

We learn something new every day! Who would have thought that's where the word "Grog" came from? Or, for that matter, how they discovered the health benefits of citrus fruit? :-)

Catherine Curzon said...

And to discover it by accident too!

Drayton Bird said...

Catherine: I have written for a living for 59 years now - mostly copywriting, but some books - and teaching people for nigh on as long..

Two things I have concluded are:

1. Good writing starts with good reading. If you read rubbish you will write rubbish. If you don't read constantly, you won't write very well.

2. The best writers are insatiably curious - and do their homework. Catherine, who writes this blog, obviously never stops researching her subject.

3. If you want to write, write. You will not do well by sitting around thinking about writing something. Get on with it.

Somebody asked me the other day at a seminar in Canada, "Why do you write?" I replied, after scratching my head as no-one had ever asked me that before, "Because I can't help it."

Here is some excellent advice (one part from an old friend of mine, the late David Ogilvy:

Catherine Curzon said...

Thank you for sharing you thoughts I must agree on all points (including the fact that I spend a lot of time researching! ;-) ). Point 3 struck particularly keenly with me because there are times when I think we have all been guilty of that, *thinking* about writing without setting a single word down on the page!