‘Old Grog’

Admiral Edward “Old Grog” Vernon. Portrait by Thomas Gainsborough [Wikipedia]

Admiral Edward “Old Grog” Vernon. Portrait by Thomas Gainsborough [Wikipedia]

The sea is in my blood from generations of sailors on my father’s side, including Admiral Edward Vernon, as in the Battle of Portobello (or Porto Bello), Panama, in 1739. The Admiral’s nickname, ‘Old Grog’, was coined because of the coat of ‘grogram’ that he wore, and ‘grog’ then came to mean the watered-down rum he instigated; this was not to stop his sailors getting drunk but to keep the water as fresh as it could be.  He also introduced lemon or lime juice to stave off scurvy. Vernon’s crew were known to be much healthier than others though the link between vitamin C and good health was not proved until later. The practice was later adopted throughout the Royal Navy.

I had no idea until I did some research for a post on First Night Design that my forebear had been painted by Thomas Gainsborough. It was a delightful discovery.

© Sarah Vernon

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