Today’s tune: David Gray, Sail Away
With the summer solstice soon upon us, and while enjoying the warm temperatures and more carefree days, I think of adventure. As a genre novelist, I lean toward tales of Vikings, barbarian warriors, and pirates. I love a good tale, fight and drink (I’m no sissy girl).
Further back in time, many a man and woman sailed the seas. An adventurous soul that sparks my interest is a woman named Anne Bonny, an extraordinary pirate. Anne was born in Ireland in 1700. She came to South Carolina with her family as a girl. She grew up on a small plantation near modern day Charleston, and legend claims that Anne once saw Blackbeard who captivated her. Later, Anne met James Bonny, a handsome sailor and pirate. Craving adventure and against her father’s wishes, she married James and together they left for Nassau, a busy port and pirate haven.
Sadly for Anne, James decided “the pirate’s life” was no longer for him. A bored Anne soon began frequenting pirate taverns (Aye, a lusty wench), and on one of her “girls night out” met Jack Rackham, better known as Calico Jack (No relation to the cinematic Jack Sparrow—well, perhaps in the mind of the screenwriter). She asked James for a divorce, which he refused to give her, so she and CJ ran away, but not before she and Jack stole a ship (A 1700’s Bonny & Clyde ship jacking!!)
Dressed as a man, Anne fought by her man (kind of cool and quirky) and sailed the seas. Very successful pirates, they soon amassed a huge fortune. All was well, until Anne started feeling “sick to her stomach” every morning. Anne realized she was pregnant and took a leave of absence along with Jack in Cuba, another safe haven for pirates. Unfortunately, the baby, born prematurely, died soon after.
Anne and Jack returned to sea. After capturing a ship, Anne spied a handsome prisoner/sailor who she declared her love to one night. The sailor laughed, removed his cap and showed she was a woman called Mary Read. A jealous Jack, seeing them together, threatened to cut Mary’s throat, but when Mary revealed her true identity to him, he vowed to both women to keep their female identity secret. The trio sailed happily together and when Mary fell for a sailor named Tom, the women decided it was time to “come out” to the crew. The other pirates were perfect gentlemen and accepted them without protest. Anne and Mary went back to their skirts and long hair, but when another ship approached they dressed as men again.
In 1720, the King of England ordered the governor of Jamaica to capture Calico Jack. The British sea captain, Jack Barnett, caught Jack and his crew drunk and unable to fight, except for Anne and Mary who killed a few men as Jack’s crew jumped overboard or scurried below. It is said Anne screamed, “Dogs! If instead of these weaklings I only had some women with me.” (You go girl. I never thought pirates would hide behind a woman’s skirts!)
Brought to trial, the crew was sentenced to hang along with Captain Jack, but Anne and Mary used the traditional plea, “We plead our bellies.” Pregnant women could not be executed. Of course, being true pirate girls, they lied. Mary Read died in prison of a violent fever and Anne disappeared from the official record. It is believed that her father bought her way home where she assumed another name. She was twenty years old.
This be my seafarin’ tale for a hot summer’s day, and for all yee pirate girls (you know who yee be) have great fun—within the limits of the law—and never choose a Jack who’ll hide behind yer skirts!
Buon Compleanno to my pirate girl, Rachele.