RSS Feed

The Widow’s Man

18centuryship-16-wiki-19011Back before the days of pension funds, insurance and the like, a man who went to sea left behind a family relying on his income and his return to survive.  If he were killed or died, the widow was left with no source of income, vulnerable, and likely to end in poverty; I can imagine that their children may have often ended in workhouses, or on the streets begging or stealing for food if the father had been a common sailor with no pecuniary connection to ensure the survival of his bereft family.  To counter this problem, the royal navy kept a man on their payroll, called the “widow’s man”, whose income would be sent to the widow directly.  There could be several in any given ship’s complement, proportional to the ship’s size.  As you can imagine, this gave a greater incentive for men to join the Royal Navy as opposed to another maritime employer such as the Merchant Navy, but this accounting tactic led to several problems, not the least of which was to know how many hands on deck were actually alive when, for instance, a ship sank – or in other words, how many were alive before they died…

The history of pensions in the UK is an interesting topic; if you’d like to learn more, click here, with a section on the Royal Navy here.

About Trinity

A melancholic pragmatist with a wide streak of mischief and an active imagination that turns into novels.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: