News from Nelson: Ships Ahoy!

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Nelson's headDear Friends and Fellow-Sailors!

My regular correspondent has asked if I can write about any ships in Dublin City Library & Archive.  As I am the greatest naval general who ever lived (Modest Man Me!) I am only too happy to oblige.

Tucked in among the thousands of books and millions of documents, there are not just one, but two splendid ships.  The first was made in 1230 as part of the Dublin City Seal and is only 95mm in diameter.  It is an image of a medieval ship, known as a cog, at sea and under full sail.  (A cog was built of oak and had one square sail – it was a very popular type of sailing vessel in the 12th and 13th centuries).

Dublin City Seal

The ship must be carrying a precious cargo of some kind, as there is a fo’castle fore and aft, each one with a look-out posted – and seated just behind the mast, there is a soldier in chain mail. He is facing a bearded man with a crown – if not a king then possibly the Mayor of Dublin. Remarkably, there is only one sailor, and he is trimming the sail with a rope.   Finally, there is a jolly man, seated in front of the sailor and holding a goblet in a toast to us, the onlookers. (This fine gentleman bears a remarkable resemblance to the late Brendan Behan).  And now we know what the precious cargo it – it’s wine, more than likely from Bordeaux – from where Dublin imported most of its wine.   And underneath the cog, if you look carefully at the waves, you will see lobsters in the sea.  This lovely ship reminds us that Dublin was a trading city, then as now.

Medieval shipThe second ship is much later, it’s dated 1456, and it was drawn to illustrate a particular incident. It was a ship with a cargo of iron, possibly from Spain, and the Mayor and Bailiffs had difficulty in imposing customs on the cargo – but they did succeed in the end. The ship has a crow’s nest for the look-out and in build it is similar to Christopher Columbus’ ship Sancta Maria which sailed to America only thirty-six years later.

Those are my two documented ships and I’m sure you’ll agree that they are both very special.  In conclusion, I’m sure you’ll join with me in congratulating Mattress Mick on his recent appearance on television. Like me, Mattress is a Dublin icon and he is also a near neighbour, as he too lives on Pearse Street – just across the road from us here at Dublin City Library & Archive.


About Nelson's Head

The Head from Nelson’s Pillar is on display in the Reading Room of Dublin City Library & Archive.  As Admiral Nelson is a valued member of staff, we have invited him to write his own monthly blog.

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