Guildford 1820

Dancing on convict ships

The surgeon recommends that convict ships should carry pipes and tabors so that convicts may dance to prevent them brooding on their misfortunes.1

The Guildford transported 190 convict men to the colony from England in 1820.  Surgeon-superintendent, Hugh Walker reported that no convicts died on the voyage and noted on their remarkable health which he attributed to cleanliness, ventilation and daily mustering on deck.  In his medical journal he recommended that convict ships should carry pipes and tabors so that convicts could dance to prevent them brooding on their misfortunes.

Detail of Hogarth's group portrait, Captain Lord George Graham, 1715-47, in his Cabin, showing a black servant. https://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/14194.html

Pipe and tabor played by a servant in a captain’s cabin (1742-1744).3

The pipe and tabor were in common use at this time and used for dancing everywhere – from the ballroom through to ships at sea. The pipe had three holes and could be played by one hand while the other hand held a stick which was used to beat the drum (tabor). The tabor was suspended by a cord from the wrist, elbow or shoulder.

“Sailors of all classes danced to the pipe and tabor. England was at war with France (1803–14) and large numbers of men were soldiers and in the navy. Whether or not women were present dances were held on board ship, often to the pipe and tabor”.2

The scene below shows a happier time  where a man and women dance outside a tavern to the music of pipe and tabor. (March 1822)

The pipe and tabor were commonly used for dancing. Note the player on the right. Lawful Liberty © The Trustees of the British Museum

References

1 Surgeon Hugh Walker’s Medical Journal

2 Pipe and Tabor Compendium

3 Detail of Hogarth’s group portrait, Captain Lord George Graham, 1715-47, in his Cabin, showing a black servant playing pipe and tabor.

Links

Willetts, Jennifer. (2019). Convict Ship Guildford 1820

Convict Records – List of convicts on Guildford

History of Guildford

Surgeon, Hugh Walker

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