Friday, November 13, 2020

Mayflower Month: The voyage and the people


Finally on September 6th, after two aborted starts, the Mayflower finally set out across the North Atlantic. 

"According to the usuall maner, many were afflicated with seasickness." As the ship had only the crudest of conveniences (a bucket) and no provision for even cursory washing, the air in the narrow, crowded quarters below duck must have been nauseating at best and at worst simply staggering. The North Atlantic is always cold and the passengers found it almost impossible to keep warm and dry. Except for an occasional hot dish, they lived on a monotonous and upsetting diet of hard tack, "salt horse," dried fish, cheese and beer. 

The Mayflower was packed to the gunwales for 102 passengers had been crammed on board with their goods and supplies. It is a pleasing and fanciful notion that these first Pilgrims were a homogeneous and united group, but indeed they were not. Only three of the company were from Scrooby and a third of those onboard came from Leyden, 41 to be exact. The others were "strangers" largely from London and southeastern England and were good members of the Church of England. This religious perspective/viewpoint led to "considerable irritation" among the group. 

The one thing all the passengers had on common was that they were all of the lower classes, "from the cottages and not the castles of England." There was not a drop of blue blood to be found anywhere among them in the Mayflower; they were common people............ a fact which seems to have escaped some of their descendants with their proofs of "blood" and pathetic interest in coats of arms." 

(Quoting from Saints and Strangers, by George F. Willison, 1945.)

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