1658, Mary Pitman hopes to receive her husband’s pay for his service as boatswain on the ship Tredagh

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1650s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, Mary Pitman, wife of George Pitman, boatswain of the Tradagh frigate. SP 18/187 f. 145 (1658).

The petition of Mary Pitman 

To the right honourable the commissioners for the Admiralty and Navy.

The humble peticion of Mary Pitman the wife of George Pitman boteswain of the Tradagh friggott.

Sheweth that her husband consedering the want your petitioner may be in by reason of her large family (who are much straitned) and his long absence at sea, did send her a tickett for the pay due to him as boatswain of the Tredagh from the eighth day of January 1655 to the 15th of November 1657. The Commissioners of the Navy will not signe the said ticket because it is written and not printed

The premises considered, and for that your petitioner and her 3 children, are extreamly necessitated, and her husband, is still boatswain in the Tradagh.

Your petitioner humbly prayes your honours to order that the Commissioners of the Navy may passe the said tickett to be paid and satisfyed to your petitioner.

And she shall pray etc.

Report by Miranda Simond

In her petition Mary Pitman asked the Commissioners to honour a ticket received from her husband, a boatswain away at sea, for the arrears of his pay. She had been unable to redeem it because it was written not printed.

Naval administration

This petition was filed just before the Restoration when significant changes were made to naval administration. The Navy Board, which became a subsidiary Board of Admiralty in 1628, was the commission responsible for day-to-day civil administration of the Royal Navy between 1546 and 1832, and for all civilian and naval pay. However, during the Commonwealth, the business of both the Navy Board and the Board of Admiralty was carried out by a committee of Parliament.[1]

The boatswain

The boatswain (usually referred to as bosun) was appointed by the Admiralty and responsible to the Navy Board. Boatswains had responsibility for rigging, cables, anchors, sails and boats. They were not eligible to command ships but could stand watches. The sailmaker and boatswain’s mates were under the command of the boatswain and this rank was one of the five standing officers appointed to a ship.[2]

The Tredagh

The Tredagh was a 50-gun third-rate frigate built under the 1652 programme for the navy of the Commonwealth of England by Sir Phineas Pett at Ratcliffe, and launched in 1654. ‘Tredagh’ is an alternative name for the Irish town of Drogheda, scene of the Siege of Drogheda, a Roundhead victory, during the English Civil War.

After the Restoration in 1660, the Tredagh was renamed HMS Resolution. On 25 February 1665, Resolution fought in the Battle of Lowestoft as the flagship of Rear Admiral Robert Sansum. On 25 July 1666, she fought in the St. James’s Day Battle under the command of Captain Willoughby Hannam but she ran aground and was burnt by a Dutch fireship.[3]

Pepys mentions the Tredagh on 25 September 1660:

‘At the Globe we had a very good dinner, and after that to the pay again, which being finished we returned by water again, and I from our office with Col. Slingsby by coach to Westminster (I setting him down at his lodgings by the way) to inquire for my Lord’s coming thither (the King and the Princess coming up the river this afternoon as we were at our pay), and I found him gone to Mr. Crew’s, where I found him well, only had got some corns upon his foot which was not well yet. My Lord told me how the ship that brought the Princess and him (the Tredagh) did knock six times upon the Kentish Knock, which put them in great fear for the ship; but got off well. He told me also how the King had knighted Vice-Admiral Lawson and Sir Richard Stayner’.[4]

The captain from 1659 to 1660 was Sir Thomas Teddeman (1620-1668).[5]

Navy ticket

In theory, a ship to be paid off was met by a commissioner of the Navy and four or five clerks who paid the men the sums due against their names in the ship’s books. This assumed a supply of ready money for the pay table but in practice this became increasingly rare and the seaman was paid by ticket. This was in effect a promise to pay him his wage at some future date, usually in London. It was a poor substitute for cash. Naturally the sailor sought to convert the ticket into money but as government credit deteriorated, he found the gap between the nominal value of his ticket and what he was offered by the ticket buyer increasing. By 1695, a discount of three shillings in the pound was common and seven to eight shillings was known.[6]

Pepys mentions the issuing of tickets on 5 December 1665:

Up and to the office, where very busy about several businesses all the morning. […] In the afternoon by water, calling Mr. Stevens (who is with great trouble paying of seamen of their tickets at Deptford) […].[7]

Unfortunately, it is not clear whether Mary Pitman was successful in her petition.


[1] ‘Navy Board’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navy_Board#Commissioners_of_the_Navy.

[2] ‘Ranks & Duties’, Historical Naval Fiction, https://www.historicnavalfiction.com/general-hnf-info/naval-facts/ranks-duties.

[3] ‘English ship Tredagh (1654)’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_ship_Tredagh_(1654).

[4] ‘Diary entries from September 1660’, The Diary of Samuel Pepys: Daily entries from the 17thcentury London diary, https://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1660/09/.

[5] ‘British Fourth Rate ship of the line Tredagh (1654)’, Three Decks – Warships in the Age of Sail, https://threedecks.org/index.php?display_type=show_ship&id=6170#BWAS-1603.

[6] J. A. Johnston, Parliament and the Navy: 1688-1714 (1968), p. 453, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Sheffield, http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/3659/1/490954.pdf

[7] ‘Diary entries from December 1665’, The Diary of Samuel Pepys: Daily entries from the 17thcentury London diary, https://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1665/12/.

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the Interregnum, 1649-1660’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.