I found out just this afternoon that today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Yup, I see your eyebrows reaching into your hairlines! But it’s true! September 19 has been recognised internationally as Talk Like a Pirate Day for several years now and is a day just for fun to let out the pirate in each of us. Ahoy maties!!!
And who wouldn’t have fun speaking like a pirate after the likes of Hollywood’s Captain Jack Sparrow from the movie franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean!
This day was invented on June 6, 1995 by John Baur and Mark Summers. While playing racquetball, they were talking to each other in “Pirate-speak.” After the game they decided to create a day just for speaking like a pirate. The day was made famous seven years later by Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist Dave Barry (History.com, HolidayInsights.com).
The list of eight includes two famous Jamaican-based pirates: Henry Morgan, who became Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica in 1673 (Jamaican History Question on Monday, Sep. 17) and Calico Jack (see this past Jamaican Echoes post about Calico Jack, Characters from Our Past: Calico Jack – the Pirate, Not the Rum Punch!).
So here is Jamaican Echoes’ list of four infamous buccaneers/pirates who made Jamaica their base/home.
Captain Jack Rackham aka “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.
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 [beach] 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.
Mary Read and Anne Bonny (or Anne Bonney)
Mary Read and Anne Bonny (or Anne Bonney) were two members of Calico Jack’s crew, and two of the most feared as well. Both were known for their violent tempers and their readiness to fight to the death. In fact, it is said that Anne Bonny was disgusted with Rackham, her former lover and captain, for getting caught, stating the following to him after he was sentenced: “Had you fought like a man you would not hang like a dog” (Senior 2003, pg. 387).
These women, dressed in male disguise, shared the pirate life with Calico Jack and were both captured with him at the beach in Negril in November 1720. Along with Rackham, both Mary and Anne were sentenced to death but, while Rackham swung from Rackham Cay, Mary and Anne were saved from the death penalty because they were pregnant. According to Olive Senior (2003, pg. 387) “At their trial, both women said, ‘Mi Lord, we plead our bellies’ – the usual phrase for expectant mothers sentenced to execution.”
Mary Read died in childbirth in prison while it is not known what became of Anne Bonny.
Ah yes, Jamaica had a Lieutenant Governor who was once a buccaneer/pirate.
Henry Morgan began his career as a crew member on a privateer vessel, but eventually rose to become captain then leader of the buccaneers in Port Royal. Unlike pirates, who were criminals, buccaneers were fully supported by the English crown to attack their sworn enemies, the French and the Spanish, and were invited to use Port Royal as their base for these sponsored attacks. In return the English Crown received one-tenth of all booty captured. These buccaneers eventually became known as privateers, and were mainly responsible for making Port Royal England’s wealthiest town in the Caribbean, and also giving it the infamous title of the ‘wickedest city” (Senior 2003, pg. 79).
Morgan’s most famous raid for the English Crown on Spanish terrain was the capture of Panama City in 1671. For this capture, Morgan, was knighted and returned to Jamaica as Lieutenant Governor in 1673. Around this time, however, England and Spain made peace, and privateering was outlawed. Those who continued attacking Spanish vessels were referred to as pirates.
Morgan tried to live up to the responsibilities of this new – and respectable title – and went about stamping out pirates, many his former privateers, in the area. He died in 1688, and was buried near the present naval cemetery. However, his grave, like many others, were buried under the sea during the great June 7, 1692 earthquake (Senior 2003, pg. 333).
Until next time…
Black, Clinton V. (1966), Tales of Old Jamaica. Kingston: Carlong Publishers Caribbean Ltd.
History.com (2012) 8 Real-Life Pirates Who Roved the High Seas
HolidayInsights.com (2012) International Talk Like a Pirate Day
Senior, Olive (2003), Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage. St. Andrew: Twin Guinep Publishers, Ltd.
Wikipedia.com (2012), Calico Jack
Wikipedia.com (2012), Jolly Roger