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The reluctance of seamen to sail on a Friday reached such epic proportions, that in the 1800s the British Government decided to take strong measures to prove the fallacy of the superstition.  They laid the keel of a new vessel on Friday, selected her crew on a Friday, launched her on a Friday and named her HMS Friday.  They then placed her in command of one Captain James Friday and sent her to sea for the first time on a Friday.  The scheme worked well, and had only one drawback ... neither ship nor crew was ever heard from again.

That may seem extreme, but Snopes seems to agree.  Google finds lots of HMS Friday references.  Whether true or not, people seem to want it to be true.  At least you are certain I posted this on a Friday.

Update:  If you are interested, there were 172 Friday the 13ths during the 18th century (the 1700s), another 172 in the 19th century (the 1800s), and another 172 this past century.  A web page with a Java script that can provide you a list during any time period is available here.  Also, the story above is difficult to verify since several large lists of Royal Navy ship names through the years do not include an HMS Friday.

Posted on Friday, April 16, 2004 7:47 PM | Back to top


Comments on this post: Nautical Folklore: Superstition of Friday

# Robinson Crusoe is SCREWED.
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Mark Treadwell of Geeks with Blogs tells a story: The reluctance of seaman to sail on a Friday reached such epic proportions, that in the 1800s the British Government decided to take strong measures to prove the fallacy of the...
Left by Manifest Inanity on Apr 17, 2004 2:47 AM

# re: Nautical Folklore: Superstition of Friday
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Just read about this in a Reader's Digest "True Crime, Mysteries and Detection."

But why the superstition?
Left by Victoria on Aug 22, 2004 4:57 PM

# re: Nautical Folklore: Superstition of Friday
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The superstition likely exists because bad Friday events were highlighted in stories to the exclusion of other weekdays. For example, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was a famous 1975 shipwreck that even had a song written about it. The sinking happened on a Monday, but that is not mentioned in the Gordon Lightfoot song. You can be certain it would have been if the ship had sunk on a Friday.
Left by Mark Treadwell on Aug 22, 2004 8:55 PM

# re: Nautical Folklore: Superstition of Friday
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I personally believe that most Friday superstitions are based on "Jewish" (they seem to have originally been widespread in other cultures) moon calenders that count days as starting the evening before, and are so arranged that new moons and full moons rise on Saturday evening which were festivals in most cultures. Thus you only had "half" a day on Friday in which to get anything done or get to the next inn on your journey before you had to quit for the day of rest or whatever other preparations were necessary for the moon festival the following Saturday evening --- and when using such a calender it really doesn't make a whole lot of sense to try to ship out the day before the highest and lowest tides.
Left by spacewing60 on Jan 06, 2005 6:20 PM

# re: Nautical Folklore: Superstition of Friday
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HMS FRIDAY – no such ship, never was and never will be. It is just a myth, a fact confirmed by the Royal Naval Historical Branch in Portsmouth. These guys and girls are, I can assure you, the absolute definitive source on this subject. What they don’t know about the history of the Royal Navy is not worth knowing about. Of course, sailing on a Friday is bad luck because it usually means you'll be spending the weekend at sea!!
Left by Commander David Burns Royal Navy on Apr 07, 2005 6:12 AM

# re: Nautical Folklore: Superstition of Friday
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The story of HMS Friday was a joke told by the inimitable Irish comedian Dave Allen on his BBC show show "Dave Allen at Large" first shown in the early 1970's
Left by on Jan 28, 2006 3:23 PM

# re: Nautical Folklore: Superstition of Friday
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I just watched a repeat of that Dave Allen Show which is why I'm looking into the story.
Left by Fiona on Jan 28, 2006 3:47 PM

# re: Nautical Folklore: Superstition of Friday
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Glad to see that I'm not the only sucker who watched the Dave Allen repeat and just HAD to find out if the story was true
Left by Trevor on Feb 13, 2006 2:55 PM

# re: Nautical Folklore: Superstition of Friday
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Is it true? It seems unlikely that misfortune would befall the ship that was ready to defy that expectation...
Its just too much of a coincidence.
Left by Cookie on Jul 02, 2007 7:57 AM

# re: Nautical Folklore: Superstition of Friday
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The reason for the Friday superstition is supposedly that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. There are a number of other biblical days you're not supposed to sail on as well.
Left by Ebs on Aug 15, 2007 10:32 AM

# re: Nautical Folklore: Superstition of Friday
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I've been looking for a listserve or blog that talks about nautical folklore, or tales from sea faring times. Does anyone have a good resource or link?

Thanks,

Teresa
Left by Teresa on Nov 24, 2007 10:15 PM

# re: Nautical Folklore: Superstition of Friday
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Both Friday and 13 are considered unlucky because of the Crucifixion of Christ, as he was believed to have been Crucified on a Friday, and there were 13 attendees of the Last Supper. This also gave rise to the superstition that if there are 13 people sitting at dinner, the first to rise will be the first to die - as indeed Jesus Christ was.
Left by Hunter on Mar 31, 2009 11:36 AM

# re: Nautical Folklore: Superstition of Friday
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can someone explain the naval term golden rivet which is used to intimate that all sailors are queer asin gay
Left by robert arthur on May 18, 2010 5:40 PM

# re: Nautical Folklore: Superstition of Friday
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I just heard the HMS Friday story on Radio Classics - a 1962 episode of Suspence.
Left by Margaret on Feb 17, 2011 7:28 PM

# re: Nautical Folklore: Superstition of Friday
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Superstition regarding Friday has nothing to do with Christianity...it is a Jewish custom. Friday night is the beginning of the Sabbath when you're not supposed to work and predates Christianity by some 3,000 years.

Jesus was supposedly crucified early on a Friday (there is no historical record of the crucifixion ever having taken place) because he had to be up there before the Sabbath began.

facts, folks...NOT superstitious belief.
Left by Penis O'Riley on Sep 07, 2011 10:01 PM

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