Thursday February 5th, 2009
Harbour Guides have decided to expand on the highly popular trivia section of the site with a new strand ‘Legends of the Deep’. We intend to trawl history for examples of the weird, wonderful and down right scary that surrounds the history of nautical adventures and what better place to begin than the scariest of them all ‘Davy Jones.’
The origins of Davy Jones and his infamous locker are extremely vague. Theories abound but none really ring true. This may well be down to the fact that even to this day sailors remain cagey about mentioning Davy Jones as he is regarded as a bringer of misfortune. He is after all regarded as the grim reaper’s agent on the high seas at best, an agent of el Diablo himself at worst.
Regardless of from where or whence old DJ came his locker is the most feared place onboard ocean going vessels, the resting place for drowned mariners.. the bottom of the drink… even hell itself! The earliest written source for the name comes from Tobias Smollett's The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle 1751:
''By the Lord! Jack, you may say what you wool; but I'll be damned if it was not Davy Jones himself. I know him by his saucer eyes, his three rows of teeth, his horns and tail, and the blue smoke that came out of his nostrils. What does the blackguard hell's baby want with me? I'm sure I never committed murder, except in the way of my profession, nor wronged any man whatsoever since I first went to sea.'
This establishes Davy as a demon that preys upon seafarers, an evil spirit or the devil. However the name itself has been the source of many a theory:
Jones is a corruption of the biblical name Jonah and Davy a corruption of ‘Devil’
It has much less sinister possibilities – the patron saint of sailors is St. David
Some have contemplated an association with mere mortals – a 17th century pirate who was a scourge of the Indian Ocean or a pub landlord with a penchant for assisting press gangs during the 16th century.
Where ever the origins lie, to this day there are reports of him being spotted sitting aloft staring down from the rigging of ships and yachts that are heading towards a storm or disaster of some kind. As far of legends of the deep are concerned Davy Jones has the indisputable right to wear the crown.
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