The Boatswain’s Pipe

Traditions and Origins of the Boatswain’s Pipe

The Boatswain’s Pipe harkens back to the one of the oldest traditions in naval history.  The Pipe’s origins may have been in the Fifth Century, BC in the Grecian Navy.  In 1513, Sir Edward Howard, Lord High Admiral of the British Navy, was given a gold whistle by the Queen called the “Whistle of Command.” (Summarized from the Handbook for Crew Leaders, 1942).

In time, the “Whistle of Command” was expanded to be used by the commanders of ships.  Ultimately,  mates and boatswains would use the pipe to pass orders to the crew.  Around 1671 the term “Whistle of Command” was abandoned and has since been referred to as a “call” and “Boatswain’s Pipe.” (Summarized from the Handbook for Crew Leaders, 1942 and The Bluejackets Manual, 1940).

According to Patrick O’Brian, Boatswain’s Pipes in Nelson’s Navy were made out of silver; boatswains would pipe the crew to various duties, with different calls for maneuvers and orders. (Men-of-War: Life in Nelsons Navy, Patrick O’Brian.)

The Boatswain Pipe is used today as it was in centuries past to pipe aboard visitors and pass orders to the crew.

How to Wear the Boatswain’s Pipe

From the 1942 Handbook for Crew Leaders

The Boatswain’s Pipe Lanyard loop is passed over the neckerchief.  Slide between knot and collar “V”.  Fall passed behind knot.  (Handbook for Crew Leaders, 1942).

Marlinspike Ideas for Lanyards

The Boatswain’s Pipe Lanyard is a character signature of the petty officer who wears it.  Be creative, consider the many decorative knots you may use in a lanyard.
Matthew Walker Knot
The only knot named after a sailor. The legend holds that a sailor on trial was able to commute his death sentence by tying a knot the judge, a former sailor, could not untie. 
Crown Sennit

A Crown Sennit is a created by repeating a Crown Knot multiple times.

From the 1942 Handbook for Crew Leaders

Wall Knot

A knot made by unlaying the strands of a line, and making a bight with the first strand, then passing the second over the end of the first, and the third over the end of the second and through the bight of the first; a wall knot. Wall knots may be single or double, crowned or double-crowned.

Manrope Knot

A Manrope Knot is a Crown Knot and a Wall Knot.

Other Ideas:
Turks Head
Square Sennit
Decorative Eye Splice
Ring Splice
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