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I am not a mariner. This term was used to describe a character in the 1940 movie "The Long Voyage Home" based on a play by Eugene O'Neill. I would like to understand what job or occupation the term is describing.
 

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An engine room rating with the rank of petty officer who looked after a small boiler called a donkey boiler.
On motor ships a donkey boiler would provide steam for auxiliary steam equipment. eg deck winches.
 

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When on a coal-fired ship and an oil-fired ship the donkeyman was the senior rating in the engine room. He was the overseer of the firemen and trimmers and assisted the engineer on watch. Did the oiling of the main engine and auxiliaries. In port,
he was on watch when the engineers were on daywork and tended the engine room and boilers
 

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A donkey is an animal that does work. A donkeyman is one that tends the donkey. Old ships, as in sailing ships might have a small steam engine on board, for hoisting yards, lifting cargo from the hold etc. The small boiler for this purpose would be tended by the one that took the name 'Donkeyman'. As steam ships became the norm they usually had a small auxiliary boiler. Not for powering the main engine, but for the donkey boiler. All of the terms as you have given above were just 'nicknames' for the people working on board. The original term 'donkeyman' was for the one that tended a small boiler that was required for winches etc.
 

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Some Gals I knew called me a Donkey Man.
Haw haw. Reminds me of a letter I read in "Hustler" once. A bloke wrote in saying he couldn't understand the obsession with 12 inch penises, in the Welsh village where he lived, all the men had 12 inch penises. Their answer was: "Don't tell us, tell the Welsh National Tourist Board."

John T
 

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A donkey is an animal that does work. A donkeyman is one that tends the donkey. Old ships, as in sailing ships might have a small steam engine on board, for hoisting yards, lifting cargo from the hold etc. The small boiler for this purpose would be tended by the one that took the name 'Donkeyman'. As steam ships became the norm they usually had a small auxiliary boiler. Not for powering the main engine, but for the donkey boiler. All of the terms as you have given above were just 'nicknames' for the people working on board. The original term 'donkeyman' was for the one that tended a small boiler that was required for winches etc.
Back to OP for a moment,
Further to Stephen's reply. The actual etymology of the word:
Back in the late 18th century James Watt devised a unit of measurement for the power output of the steam engine. He related it to what was known and common at the time - The Horse Power, or the number of horses which would be needed to produce the same effect.
In the 19th century when large steam engines were being installed it was realised that there times when all that power was not actually needed and so a small boiler and engine would be installed alongside. The large engine provided Horse Power but, using terminology which would be understood at the time the smaller engine only provided 'Donkey Power'.
Thus the Donkey boiler, feeding the donkey engine, tended by the donkeyman. It just meant that it is a smaller engine, or smaller then a 'horse'.
 

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The mortician was preparing for the burial of Mr Schwartz.. While cleaning the body he saw that Mr Schwartz was similar to 'Duquesa'. The mortician decided to cut if off and save it a jar of alcohol. He took it home that night and showed it to his wife She saw it and let out a scream, "Schwartz is dead!"

Sorry. Definitely on topic!
 

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An engine room rating with the rank of petty officer who looked after a small boiler called a donkey boiler.
On motor ships a donkey boiler would provide steam for auxiliary steam equipment. eg deck winches.
The boiler provided steam for the donkey engine. Later donkey engines were naptha or gasoline powered, often one lung engines with a good sized fly wheel and a winch drum. The donkeyman operated the donkey engine and handled the line on the drum. The donkey engine took the place of extra hands when lines like halyards needed to be hauled.
 

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The boiler provided steam for the donkey engine. Later donkey engines were naptha or gasoline powered, often one lung engines with a good sized fly wheel and a winch drum. The donkeyman operated the donkey engine and handled the line on the drum. The donkey engine took the place of extra hands when lines like halyards needed to be hauled.
Memory not good, but as I remember, I spent 4 years on 3 diesel powered ships, single and twin-screw. Don't recall a donkey-engine on either one but definitely a donkey-boiler and a donkeyman. All auxiliaries, pumps etc etc were electric, I think the donkey-boiler was used to provide steam for heating like hot water in the cabins and showers, and dhobi the boiler-suits.
 
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