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The Pig and Whistle

As many Merchant Navy sailors will know, especially those of us who have served in British Flag ships, the crew bar is usually referred to as “The Pig” – short for “Pig and Whistle.”
I wonder how many of us know why that is so? The name “Pig and Whistle” is said to have various derivations, but the one most widely reported is the combination of two old English words, Piggin and Wassail. A Piggin was a wooden or earthenware bowl or drinking vessel. Wassail was the name of a spiced ale that was drunk on Twelfth Night. It is mentioned in Shakespeare’s 1606 play, “Macbeth.” “Wassail!” was also a Saxon toast to a person’s health. It is thought that alehouses that were associated with regularly serving spiced ale from Piggins, became known overtime as “Piggin Wassail” and eventually “Pig and Whistle.” So much for the name. There are now, of course, many “Pig and Whistles” in Britain and elsewhere, so how did that name come to be applied to the crew bars in British ships? The answer, apparently, li…

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