Davy Jones’ Locker

“Ye be sent down to Davy Jones’ Locker!”

We have all heard of Davy Jones’ Locker but I bet most of us don’t know the history or why it is still in our popular culture – look below and you will see it in Anchors Aweigh.

“Stand, Navy, out to sea, Fight our battle cry;
We’ll never change our cousre, So vicious foes
steer shy-y-y-y.
Roll out the TNT, Anchors Aweigh.
Sail on to victory
And sink their bones to Davy Jones, hooray!” – Anchors Aweigh (US Navy Anthem)

As you can see, Davy Jones is a very important figure in sea-lore and in the sea-going societies that originated in Europe.  And though this character originated in Europe, he went viral in the day and tales of Davy Jones and his locker have covered the globe.  Even to the point of being the villain in two of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and even making it into children’s literature:

“Yo ho, yo ho, the pirate life,
The flag o’ skull and bones,
A merry hour, a hempen rope,
And hey for Davy Jones.” – Peter Pan by JM Barrie

One of the first mentions of the character Davy Jones was in Daniel Defoe’s work “Four Years Voyages of Captain George Roberts:”

“Some of Loe’s Company said, They would look out some things, and give me along with me when I was going away; but Ruffel told them, they should not, for he would toss them all into Davy Jones’s Locker if they did.”

and in another reference he wrote:

“seen in various shapes, perching among the rigging on the eve of hurricanes, ship-wrecks, and other disasters to which sea-faring life is exposed, warning the devoted wretch of death and woe”

But where does this legend come from:

  • A publican – person who ran a pub – named Davy Jones would lock drunken sailors in ale locker and dump them on passing ships.  Thus solving the age old question “what do you do with a drunken sailor?”
  • Davy may refer to the devil and Jones may refer to Jonah.  Thus a devil that pulled the souls of dead sailors into the deep much like Jonah was taken in the belly of the great fish.  Jonah was a bad omen to sailors due to the fact that God caused the bad weather that befell the ship due to Jonah being on the ship and running from God.
  • May have been a sailor of legend that was always drunk and often found himself overboard.  This sad-sack may have been used as an allegorical example of what not to do while you are on-board ship.

Either way, the legendary figure of Davy Jones stalked the deep, collecting the souls of dead sailors who would be taken down to Davy Jones’ Locker.  He is rumored to have been the captain of the ship the Flying Dutchman and though there was an actual pirate captain named Davy Jones in the 1600s, this was not the Davy Jones of legend.  This nightmare creature stalked the ships of the pirates of the Golden Age and before.  He is significant in their history and found his way onto the ships of both ancient and modern day navies.

“Next time you are pirating it up:  throw Davy Jones into the mix.  Use it with caution though, Land Lubber.  Ye be not wanting to make him mad.”