Sailor boy, sailor girl – North Devon Journal, 22 July 1841:
A female sailor. – A considerable degree of excitement was caused last week in the town of Brixham, by the discovery of a female sailor, on board one of trawl boats, in which capacity she had been employed for some time with much credit, and in which she would have continued but for the expose which discovered her sex.
It appears she was left an orphan, and was bound an apprentice to a farmer, whom she served as an outdoor male-servant; before her term expired, she determined to leave the plough to plough the deep, and having dressed herself in a deceased brother’s clothes, who had been unfortunately drowned, she entered on board a trawling sloop as an apprentice, to serve three years; she performed her duty manfully, enduring all the privations of such a precarious calling with a degree of hardihood and recklessness necessary to such a life, and her exertions were such as to cause a degree of envy in the other lads.
On Sunday last she accompanied two lasses to a fruit garden in the neighbourhood where she treated them, behaving with all the gallantry imaginable; while there a tailor, who was enjoy hisotium (leisure time – WN), attempted to interfere with our hero‘s girls; the sailor boy resented it, high words ensued and blows followed; Snip showed fight like a man, while the presented sailor was no less active, but alas! fortune does not always favour the brave; the tailor was too much for his opponent, and the sailor lassey was so beaten that she was obliged to give in, and on several persons coming around her to offer her assistance, her sex was discovered, to the great surprise of every one, the tailor not excepted.
She is now dressed in apparel more becoming her sex; she is an interesting and rather good looking girl. The reason she states for adopting her late mode of life was, that she could enjoy more freedom than in domestic servitude. She is sixteen years of age, and her name is Ellen Watts; she adopted the name of Charles Watts, and stated that she was a native of Plymouth.