Quayside event at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
One of the blackest days in the history of naval seamen – the ending of the rum tot – will be marked with a ceremony on the quay at HMS Victory, Portsmouth, on Friday 30 July.
The 40th anniversary of what is known as Black Tot Day will be marked with a re-enactment of Up Spirits, the serving of the rum tot to all Royal Navy sailors.
The final Up Spirits took place between 11am and 12 noon on July 31, 1970, when the last measure of Pusser’s rum was served to the crews of Royal Navy ships.
It ended an enshrined 300-year tradition of a daily rum tot for each serving mariner.
Over the years, the daily measure shrank from half a pint a day in its introduction in the 17th century, to one eighth of a pint (equivalent to three modern measures) in the last century.
The rum was watered down in the Scuttlebutt and either drunk on the spot or collected in a rum fanny, or can, for the sailors’ mess.
The Pusser’s rum re-enactment crew, dressed in naval gear of Nelson’s period, will be accompanied by the Exmouth Shanty Men singing famous old sea songs such as ‘All for me Grog’ and ‘Nelson’s Blood’.
The songs recall the creation of grog (a mix of rum, lime juice and sugar) and the death of Nelson whose body was shipped back to England in a rum cask to preserve it after the battle of Trafalgar. Legend says that the barrel was dry when opened – thirsty sailors had bored a hole and drunk Nelson’s blood.
Pusser’s Rum is the authentic naval rum, as issued for over three hundred years at the same strength of 54.5% ABV. In 1980 the Admiralty gave the exclusive right to the Royal Navy’s rum recipe to Charles Tobias, a sailor living on the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.
In recognition, Charles Tobias makes an annual donation to Naval charities. To date, the donations exceed £1 million. The Pusser was the sailor’s name for the Purser, or Supply Officer.
The re-enactment takes place at 12.30pm on 30 July, the first day of three Navy Days in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.