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Tom Tackle Halfpenny D&H1048

A sailor brandishing a cutlass / A sailor with a wooden leg and crutches
Edge: Plain
Dalton & Hamer: 1048

The halfpenny was issued without date, most likely in 1797. The engraver was believed to be James, who made the tokens for Spence.
The obverse depicts a figure of a sailor brandishing a saber. The legend says: For king and country, Tom Tackle is rich.
The reverse depicts a figure of a cripple walking to the left, who wears a wooden prosthesis below his left knee, leans on two sticks, one in each hand, and begs, holding his hat in his right hand. The legend says: Tom Tackle served his country poor.

This socio-political token refers us to the popularity of a sailor during the war and vice versa, when the war is over, no one wants to know him, when the bitterness of the trials and injuries that have fallen out make him beg.

The name Tom Tackle in this case is a household name for all sailors, to whom Charles Dibdin also dedicated the ballad of the same name:


A Ballad, by Dibdin
Tom Tackle was noble, was true to his word;
If merit brought titles, Tom might be my lord;
How gaily his bark through Life’s ocean would sail!
Truth fumish’d the rigging, and Honour the gale.
Yet Tom had a failing, if ever man had.
That, good as he was, made him all that was bad;
He was paltry and pitiful, scurvy and mean.
And the sniv’lingest scoundrel tibat ever was seen;
For so said the girls, and the landlords long shore —
Would you know what his fault was? — Tom Tackle was poor !

Twas once on a time when we took a galloon,
And the crew touch’d the agent for cash to some tune,
Tom a trip took to jail, an old messmate to free.
And four thankful prattlers soon sat on his knee.
Then Tom was an angel, down right from heaven sent!
While they’d hands he his goodness should never repent:
Betam’d from next voyage, he bemoan’d his sad case,
To find his dear friend shut the door in his face!
Why d’ye wonder, cried one, you’re served right, to be sure.
Once Tom Tackle was rich — now — Tom Tackle is poor!

I ben’t, you see, versed in high maxims and sich;
But don’t this same honour concern poor and rich?
If it don’t come from good hearts, I can’t see where from.
And, damme, if e’er tar had a good heart, ’twas Tom.
Yet, somehow or ‘nother, Tom never did right;
None knew better the time when to spare or to fight;
He, by finding a leak, once preserv’d crew and ship,
Saved the Commodore’s life — then he made such rare flip!
And yet for all this, no one Tom could endure;
I fancy as how ’twas — because he was poor.

At last an old shipmate, that Tom might hail land,
Who saw that his heart sail’d too fast for his hand,
In the riding of comfort a mooring to find,
Reef’d the sails of Tom’s fortune, that shook in the wind:
He gave him enough through Life’s ocean to steer,
Be the breeze what it might, steady, thus, or no near.
His pittance is daily, and yet Tom imparts
What he can to his friends — and may all honest hearts.
Like Tom Tackle, have what keeps the wolf from the door,
Just enough to be generous — too much to be poor.