The Plymouth Artificers' Alphabetical Listing, transcribed from the National Archives, is a most useful tool for researchers of Devon and Cornwall . It contains a considerable amount of very interesting information on the men and boys employed there, much of it personal. Many of those listed came over the River Tamar from Cornwall and were housed in
There are some odd job descriptions listed! CAULKERS made ships watertight and consequently this was a well-paid job. It was done with OAKUM which came from old hemp ropes. Oakum picking is a re-cycling exercise which consists of breaking down the strands of the old rope into fibres which were then loosely re-spun into a continuous length by rolling fibres across the knee. It was the most tedious of work and very hard of the hands, causing blistering and bleeding. It was a task given to workhouse inhabitants ( including children as young as 5) and prison inmates right up to, and including, the middle of the 20th century. The sale of the continuous lengths of fibre to the Navy produced income for these institutions. At the dockyard it was forced into the seams then sealed by pouring in hot pine pitch with a ladle.
|The OCHUM BOYS named in the list were in fact OAKUM BOYS. The whalers and seal trappers who were the first visitors to the Antarctic gave the name of "Oakum Boys" to young King Penguins whose brown furry coats they said, made them look exactly like the young lads back home in the dockyards!