There is a story circulating in England that may be true,
may be not.
Question: Why do you have a Thanksgiving Turkey?
British opinion: As the (British) Pilgrim Fathers staggered
off the Mayflower after months of seasickness, scurvy,
hard-tack and rotten apples, they fell to their knees in
reverent thanks for a (questionably) safe deliverance.
Rumour has it that as this exhausted group of people was
preparing itself for the third Sermon from the Beach and
pockets were now empty from several previous passings of the
Plate for a collection, one Septimus Blackthorne, was 'lead
into temptation' on the ship and opened a gun port on the
Mayflower for a quick drag on a fag. Carelessly and without
thinking, he tossed his match - then a piece of smouldering
clothes-line - behind him across the deck where it most
inconveniently landed on the touch-hole of #4 cannon on the
Have never listened to his mother's exhortations in his
childhood to "not point guns at anyone, even if it isn't
loaded" young Septimus had been fiddling around with a few
balls and a keg of powder a few days earlier. It is alleged
that a shout from the Crow's Nest diverted him from his
games and though he'd meant to unload the cannon - he
hadn't. It was one of those little jobs he'd promised
he'd get around to doing when he'd got a spare
moment. You know the sort of thing?
Anyway, back on the beach ...
We are most reliably informed (by no less a publication than
The Attleborough Gazette from which this story has been
copied) that as the assembled company rose from their knees
and dusted the sand from their trousers and dresses, a covey
of airborne wild turkeys came round the neighbouring
headland. Unfortunately, Septimus' piece of smouldering
clothes-line did its worst just as young Sep was taking his
first lungful of smoke, unaware that his previous attempt at
filling the gun with powder was flawed. Being an illiterate
varlet from Bradstock on Ouse that had been wiped out by
Bubonic Plague a week before he was due to start at school a
few years earlier, he couldn't read the instructions and had
poured a whole keg of gunpowder down the barrel - and rammed
The recoil from the explosion was such that the arrestor
ropes around the gun were ripped from their mountings in the
bollocks (bulwarks and as rollocks in rowlocks) and the
Mayflower briefly assumed an angle about seventy degrees off
vertical, displaying a glistening array of barnacles and
weed in pretty patterns below its waterline. This briefly
revised axial re-positioning of the ship sent the cannon
ball scudding for the distant heavens but unfortunately the
inbound turkeys, by now on full flap and with their legs
down, got in the way of its upward progress.
As five carcases thudded to earth in the
middle of the now standing Pilgrim Fathers, a voice among
was heard to intone "Bretheren, Manna from Heaven - let us
pray and give further thanks." Notwithstanding some muttered
protests of "On yer bike, Vic" and "Fred the God-botherer's
at it again", the assembled company sank once more to their
creaking and arthritic knees.
It is said that the sound of some exhausted hymns along the
lines of "Fight the Good Fight, "Let me not be Confounded"
and "We sing praises for the souls of the damned" drifted
across the water to the ears of the Mayflower's Captain. The
Captain was penning some lines for future quotations, one of
which was "I see no ships" and which immortal words were
later used by Viscount
Lord Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen.
As the dust and displaced sand from the now ostrich-ised
turkeys gave visibility of The Pilgrim Fathers, still deep
in prayer, another boat was sent out with the Ship's Cook at
its helm. He was none too pleased at this interruption to
retrieve the now dead and very battered turkeys from the
beach, as he had been very busy starching some plain linen
collars and ironing some 'Tiddly suits' in the ship's
Now, the point is, we in England, had some forebears who
missed the arrival at 8.30am (in 15?? or whenever it was)
from London Paddington station to Plymouth Harbour. This is
because Isambard Kingdom Brunel had not been born at this
time, so he hadn't been able to build the rail bridge at
Saltash - which is just outside Plymouth. We'd really like
to know if the foregoing is the true story? Perhaps the
descandants of The Pilgrim Fathers might enlighten us?