Watch Your Noggin! The REAL Story

Watch Yer Noggin! Does not refer to ones head, as it has been more recently defined in modern times, it was originally actually a quaint saying from Voyager Days when Hardy Men traveled the wilderness in large cargo Birch Bark Canoes.

One of the handiest items they used in their travels was a nifty little cup that was the "Leatherman" of the 1500's.

It was ordinarily crafted from wood and had a short leather leash which terminated at a wooden toggle or spoon, which could be tucked in the belt or sash for stowage.

It's uses were many, it was great for bailing out the canoe when it took on water. It was used as a dipping cup to get fresh water to drink in transit across a body of fresh water with barely a paddle stroke missed. When Voyagers came to camp and wanted to spruce up, it served as a cup to mix ones shaving soap in. I was also a handy dish at meal time, for soups and such.

Most importantly, one received one's daily ration of grog carefully measured out to the precise amount of "One Noggin's Worth". The Imperial unit of volume was equal to one-quarter of a pint or Gill, (provoking the saying, "He's got a Gill Full"). 

A Noggin
This could be loosely interpreted by the man in charge depending on the character and good paddle stroke timing of his crew.

A successful day of paddling could result in a more generous measurement than intended and if per chance he was prone to slosh it unheeded one could profit from his haste and disregard for the size of the vessel he was tippling.

Regardless of the size of their Noggin cup, it theoretically could be over filled every night if the Booshway was not careful nor accurate in his dispensing of the precious substance and the Voyagers were a hopeful lot prone to expounding on the possible and profitable chance of miscalculation.

Perhaps the fresh made Noggin was measured by the Booshway when first proffered, but, if made large and thick enough, one could then shave out the insides to make a larger liquid holding area once it had proven to be of the correct size.

Legends abound about the epic size of noggin that men would fashion in order to receive just a wee bit more than what was properly allowed. The French had Paddling Songs which described noggins of such enormous proportions that it was claimed that several baths could be taken in one particularly large vessel on Saturday Nights.

Persons were said to have drowned when accidentally  having stumbling into a still partially filled noggin in the darkness of night. Some legends have it that two brothers retired from the service of the King and retired to live in their noggin simply turned over and a doorway carved in its side.

The Term, "Watch Yer Noggin!" was a warning that you were about to lose your share of the life giving grog and if you did, everyone would be angry for the waste as there was only so much to go around on any given journey.

Such are the details of history that are slipping away from us as we hurtle into the future where silent paddling on glassy lakes no longer occurs. Legends aside, it is more than likely most Noggins were fashioned at the proper measured size for ease of use and no interference with paddling or portaging as it hung from the waist by it's leather leash.

History has it that the Voyagers learned about the Noggin from the American Natives who taught them how to make canoes and paddle them.

They were the masters of canoe building and life on the waterways, which were their highways of those days past.

Canoe use was very important to early voyagers because most inland rivers and streams on this continent were not fordable by ordinary European watercraft .

The Voyagers had to learn how to build, paddle and portage canoes and heavy packs of furs from the Natives, as well as adopt their way of life in order to survive.

One of the first things they must have learned is all bark canoes leak, but there was a handy little cup that would save the day and come in handy for other uses also.

Anywhooooo...Doyle decided to make his noggin from a Conch Shell, we have documentation that Conch and Whelk shells were used extensively by Natives for cups and dinner wear, it is a natural progression to assume that at some point, someone made a noggin from shell.

This particular Noggin features a shell spoon for nightly feasting and a small decorative shell medallion just for personal flair. We hope you like it!

You can learn more or purchase this item here.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your article! You learn something new everyday. The Noggin was a really useful tool! Thank you for sharing!