The Rum Fanny
There are a number of stories regarding the origin of the name ‘Rum Fanny’ in Royal Navy slang. The most authentic is substantiated by records of the brutal murder of an eight year old girl, whose name was Fanny Adams.
Fanny, born in April 1859, was murdered by lawyers clerk Fredrick Baker on 24 August, 1867. Her dismembered body was found in a hop field north of her home in Alton, Hampshire. Baker was found guilty and hanged outside Winchester jail on Christmas Eve. He was the last person to be executed at Winchester.
Fanny Adams was buried at Alton cemetery and a stone was erected over her grave. The grave can still be seen today.
During the mid 1860s, the process of canning food had become more efficient, the manufacture of cans had been mechanised and the cooking time reduced drastically. This resulted in a cheaper product and the Admiralty opened a canning factory in the Deptford Victualling Yard. Tinned mutton became part of the diet of the Royal Navy, much to the displeasure of the sailors.
This displeasure led to a rumour that parts of the dismembered body of Fanny Adams had been traced to the Deptford Victualing Yard and tins contained her butchered remains.
‘Fanny Adams’ became the Royal Naval slang for tinned meat and stew. The term “Sweet Fanny Adams” meaning ‘Nothing’ was also born and was a description of the sailor’s opinion of the tinned meats.
However, a use was found for the large empty meat tins. Up until that time, when sailors and Royal Marines lived, ate and slept in their mess decks, wooden buckets were used to collect food from the galley, water for washing crockery etc. and to collect the Rum Ration. The empty meat tins were modified and gradually replaced the wooden buckets. These new buckets were given the slang name “Fanny’s”.
Needless to say, the Rum Fanny was treated with great respect and became the responsibility of the mess rum bosun.