I can’t now remember exactly what I was looking up, but I came across an 1881 census entry for a ship of the Royal Navy.
There was a list of the crew and the different ranks and positions they had on board and then there was a group of names which caught my eye.
- Sea Breeze
- Bottled Beer
These men, none with other names, none with given ages,were all described as ‘seedie’ under occupation. I guessed that these men had all been recruited from the different ports the ship called at, possibly all from what was then the British Empire. I delved a little further and found the country of origin for them:
- Barak – India, Bombay
- Sodawater – Zanzibar
- Philip – Seychelles
- Lemonade – Africa
- Sea Breeze – Africa
- Bottled Beer Abyssinia
- Izan – Mozambique
All of these men on this ship were naturalised British subjects. The word ‘seedie’ is a corruption of ‘sidi’ or ‘seyyid’ an Arabic word meaning ‘lord’. Thee has been a long history of black sailors serving in the British navy in various different positions, and in fact in many of the paintings from nelson’s time show them on the ships of the British fleet.
To find out more, have a look at this excellent post: