Russell Lights - Vol 10 Issue 13 - June 2007

This pewter tankard is believed to have been found in the ashes of the Duke of Marlborough hotel. It’s not sure if it was the first Duke that was burnt and looted in 1845, or the second burnt in the 1870s. The tankard has a glass bottom, cracked in the fire.

The glass bottomed tankard seems to have come into being in the later half of the 18th century when it was advisable to keep a watchful eye on one’s drinking companions who might be pickpocketers, footpads or the approaching press gang. A recruiting sergeant might creep up unseen, and drop a shilling in the tankard. When the tankard was emptied the unfortunate drinker was deemed to have taken the Kings shilling. That is, he had enlisted.

In old Kororareka new crew for visiting whaling ships were always needed to replace those that had died from sickness, injuries or drowning, or men who had deserted ship. Hence the glass bottomed tankard still had a place to avoid forced recruitment to serve on one of the less popular types of visiting shipping.

And what did the whalers drink? Our early newspaper The NZ Advertiser and Bay of Islands Gazette carries advertisements from local merchants listing imports predominantly of rum, gin and port.