Quaker (II), The

DESCRIPTION: The Quaker is a ship with five hundred and fifty seamen. "By those blooming French dogs, we'll never be controlled." We fought them "till they could no longer stay." The war is over. A health to true girls and Lord Nelson "the best of all our crew"
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1936 (recording, Freddie James, RQMS Williams, G.W. Greening and Harry Hawkins?)
KEYWORDS: battle navy sea ship patriotic
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South))
Roud #3093
Freddie James, RQMS Williams, G.W. Greening and Harry Hawkins?, "The Quaker" (on Voice16)
NOTES [380 words]: A ship with 550 sailors would have to be a Ship of the Line. I can't find a line battleship named Quaker in any British records, pre- or post-Trafalgar. The closest I can see to a similarly-named ship is the 64-gun Caton. But that's hardly the most famous ship in the navy. We should probably just treat the ship name as an error.
But it is probably not an error for the Caton. The song tells us several things: The ship fought the French, and it mentions Nelson. That means it has to be a ship from the Napoleonic Wars, and it probably fought at the Nile, Copenhagen, or Trafalgar, with the last being the most likely.
And that, I think, solves it. *If* this song is historical -- and I do not claim that it is -- then the ship is almost certainly HMS Conqueror, which fought at Trafalgar under Captain Israel Pellew. According to Wikipedia, it had 573 sailors aboard at Trafalgar, which is a good match for the song's 550. And her role in the battle was significant and did result in a sort of surrender by the French. According to John Keegan, The Price of Admiralty: The Evolution of Naval Warfare, Penguin, 1988, pp. 75-76, "Conqueror's broadside seems to have been the decisive stroke [against the Bucentaure, badly mauled in the battle], the one that caused Villeneuve to have the imperial eagle thrown overboard."
Accordng to David Howarth, Trafalgar: The Nelson Touch, Galahad Books, 1969, p. 182, Conqueror was the ship that shot away the Bucentaure's main- and mizzen-masts, leaving her unable to maneuver and effectively unable to fight. On p. 184, Howarth reports that Conqueror's marine captain James Atcherley had charge of the boat that accepted Bucentaure's surrender and took the French commander Villeneuve off his flagship to surrender.On pp. 184-185, Howarth adds that Conqueror had a major role in disabling the Santisima Trinity, the largest ship to take part in the battle. Thus, although Conqueror did not achieve the fame of ships like Victory and Royal Sovereign, it played a very major role at Trafalgar, well worthy of mention in song.
And "Conqueror" is a name that would not sing well; it would probably have been pronounced "Conq'ror," from which it takes only the slightest error of hearing to get "Quaker." - RBW
Last updated in version 3.5
File: RcQuak2

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