In December 2011, I kept hearing this name popping up on Fame 95fm, one of Jamaica’s radio stations: Calico Jack.
The name sounded very familiar but I wasn’t quite sure when or where I’d heard it before. So I did some light investigative work (yeah, I’m a real Sherlock Holmes!) on what or who this Calico Jack is Fame 95fm was so excited about. Result? Calico Jack is a new rum punch from Tru-Juice, Calico Jack Rum Punch. Oh! So that explains so many mentions of Calico Jack during the party season in December on Fame 95fm, a very popular, all-about-entertainment radio station. Surprise, surprise!
But I still had that nagging thought that I’d heard the name before and not necessarily within the context of rum-stimulated parties. So, with my historian’s curiousity guiding the way, I grabbed my much-loved and well-used copy of Olive Senior’s Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage (2003) and thumbed through the pages until I found the entry on Calico Jack, another notorious pirate from the annals of Jamaica’s early British colonial history.
Who was Calico Jack?
Captain Jack Rackham aka “Calico Jack” was a notorious English pirate who terrorised the Jamaican waters during the early 18th century. He earned his nickname, Calico Jack, from his preference for clothing made from calico.
He and his bloodthirsty crew were feared by all, especially by merchants, as he took especial fond of attacking local merchant ships and fishing vessels. However, his name goes down in history not because of his pirating activities within the Caribbean Sea, but because of two things:
- the design of his Jolly Roger flag, a skull with crossed swords, which contributed to the popularization of the design into the skull with two crossbones:
- and for having two female crew members: Mary Read and Anne Bonny, the latter his lover.
We will look at these two infamous women pirates in another blog entry as they are well known in Jamaica’s history for their bloodthirsty acts as pirates, especially because of their “fairer sex” status. Meanwhile, you can read more about these women pirates in Clinton V. Black’ s (1966, pp. 62-77) Tales of Old Jamaica.
The End of Calico Jack
So how did Calico Jack meet his eventual end, which was, of course, only a matter of time considering his chosen career path as a pirate? According to Senior (2003, p. 407) Calico Jack was:
… captured while enjoying a rum punch party at Negril in November 1720. He was tried in Spanish Town and executed at Gallows Point off the Palisadoes. His body was then squeezed into an iron frame and hung up on the sandy islet that still bears his name – Rackham Cay.
Rackham Cay was formerly known as Deadman’s Cay.
So there is some association with rum punch after all, and Tru-Juice capitalised on that bit of historical knowledge in creating their new product, Calico Jack Rum Punch. Kudos to you Tru-Juice! I wonder if they had made that bit of historical fact known to their intended market when they launched the product? Hmmm…
How many of you knew about Calico Jack? Well, if you never knew before, now you do, thanks to (drum roll please!) Jamaican Echoes! This is just another example of our history echoing around us today in 21st century Jamaica. Isn’t history interesting?
Until next time…
Black, Clinton V. (1966), Tales of Old Jamaica. Kingston: Carlong Publishers Caribbean Ltd.
Senior, Senior (2003), Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage. St. Andrew: Twin Guinep Publishers, Ltd.
Wikipedia.com (2012), Calico Jack.
Wikipedia.com (2012), Jolly Roger.