Flash Frigate, The (La Pique)
DESCRIPTION: "I sing of a frigate, (a frigate of fame/La Pique was her name/do not mention her name), And in the West Indies she bore a great name," but she is a horrible place to serve; the crew is worked hard and punished severely. Listeners are urged to avoid her
EARLIEST DATE: 1891 (Ashton-Sailor)
KEYWORDS: sailor hardtimes ship punishment
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Shay-SeaSongs, pp. 178-180, "The Flash Frigate" (1 text, 1 tune)
Ashton-Sailor, #78 insert, "The Fancy Frigate" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: C. H. Firth, _Publications of the Navy Records Society_ , 1907 (available on Google Books), p. 316,"The Fancy Frigate"
ST ShaSS178 (Partial)
cf. "The Dreadnought" [Laws D13] (tune)
cf. "The Blanche" (possible subject)
NOTES: Many versions of this song, including Shay's and Ashton's, do not give the ship's name -- some, indeed, explicitly say the name is secret. But Shay says, without hesitation, that the song describes H. M. S. La Pique, described as a "blood ship" for its hard discipline.
The ship had a long career in the West Indies. According to Terrence Grocott's Shipwrecks of the Revolutionary & Napoleonic Wars, in 1798 she was captained by David Milne and helped capture La Seine but ran aground in the process. Milne would later undergo a court-martial for losing La Seine (which ship he had been given after the loss of his own), but was acquitted.
Milne's discipline may nonetheless have had some effect; he was in the vicinity of Portsmouth at the time of the Spithead mutiny, and in fact became a hostage of the delegates, but La Pique is not listed as one of the mutinous ships in Appendix III of James Dugan's The Great Mutiny (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1965), though on p. 190 Dugan quotes a letter saying there was a mutiny aboard.
For a seemingly fictional account of another "blood ship," plus information about the horrid case of the Hermione, see the notes to "Captain James (The Captain's Apprentice)."
A new British Pique, a 40-gun frigate captured by Charles Ross, was in service by 1805.
The final complaint, that working the ship leaves sailors invalids, is quite true; sailors' work was hard at the best of times, and often left men crippled; on a ship which ignored the human needs of the men, such injuries were naturally more common. - RBW
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