Shiver me timbers! What have Pirates got to do with the NWF, apart from taking part in exciting antics on the High Seas?
Well, me hearties – like the NWF parties, some Pirates were legendary – and “Pirates” is the fancy dress theme for the awesome Saturday night beach party. So we thought we’d give you some facts, dispel some myths and give you some ideas so that you can splice the mainbrace and properly act the Pirately part!
- The Pirate Ship – ships were generally stolen and then adapted for pirate life, strengthening decks to support canon and making room for the crew.
- The Jolly Roger – the skull and crossbones pirate flag (or flags with other fearsome imagery) was designed to frighten potential victims into surrendering without a fight. The origin of the name Jolly Roger is lost, one theory suggests that comes from an old tradition of red flags in naval warfare to indicate no mercy and that all captives would be killed immediately. Called a “Jolie Rouge’ (pretty red) by the French, this may have translated into English as a Jolly Roger. Another theory is that Jolly Roger derives from “Old Roger”, a name for the Devil. Not every pirate ship used a Jolly Roger. Many used a black flag, while in the Bahamas, pirates had their flags specially made by a sail-maker’s widow whom they paid in bandy. Blackbeard flew a black flag featuring a skeleton with horns, holding an hourglass in one hand and in the other, a spear pointing towards a heart dripping three drops of blood!
- Grog – a favourite tipple of pirates and also quite popular at the NWF Party… Traditionally, grog was rum diluted with water or weak beer, drunk cold or warm. Sometimes, sugar, lime juice or cinnamon would be added for flavour. The word ‘grog’ is said to come from Admiral Vernon, who first ordered diluted rather than neat rum to be served to sailors. He was nicknamed ‘Old Grog’ because of his grogram cloak.
- Earrings – pirates wore earrings because they thought that it improved their eyesight – a fact supported by some modern acupuncturists! Pirates had many superstitions about wearing earrings; they thought that the metals contained in the earrings contained magical healing powers, particularly for eye problems and that piercing the ears helped to prevent illness. Pirates also believed that wearing a gold earring could save them from drowning. History records the cost of pirate ear piercing – a buck an ear.
- Eye Patches – those earrings did keep pirates’ eyes healthy – eye patches were not always worn to cover an injured or empty eye socket. Many believe that it was to keep one eye acclimatised to the dark to see clearly below decks or to fight effectively below decks when boarding a ship. Keeping one eye closed is still a night time survival method favoured by the military! Communicating aye to aye is not always possible, so some modern pirates use aye phones.
- Pirate Talk – To err is human; to arr is seriously pirate… If you want to talk like a pirate, every year September 19th is International Talk Like A Pirate Day! www.talklikeapirate.com If you’re a pirate Facebook user and want to do it all year round, go to the account settings and change the language to ‘Pirate.’ Although Cornwall has a strong tradition of seafaring, the West Country pirate accent is thought to originate from the native Dorset dialect of actor Robert Newton who played pirates in several early movies. There is a myth that the pirate phrase “Shiver me Timbers” first appeared in ‘Treasure Island’ by Robert Louis Stephenson; it actually originated when a pirate caught his wooden leg in the freezer.
- Blackbeard – or Edward Teach, was one of the most famous and feared pirates. He used the theatre of weaving hemp into his beard and lighting fuses in his hat to further terrify his victims. He had a peg leg due to losing a leg through diabetes and was eventually defeated in a sword fight by naval officer Robert Maynard.
- Captain Kidd – William Kidd, another famous pirate. Although there is doubt about whether he was a proper pirate, he was still hanged in 1701 for getting up to pirate antics and his body displayed for three years in chains, hanging above the River Thames as a deterrent to would-be pirates. Captain Kidd is said to have buried some of his treasure, thinking that revealing its location might spare him execution.
- Female Pirates – Famous female pirates include Mary Read, Anne Bonny, Grace O’Malley and Ching Shih. Women were deemed to bring bad luck on board ship, so many female pirates, such as Anne Bonny, dressed and acted as men.
- Pirate Superstitions – whistling on a ship was bad luck as it was believed that it would bring stormy weather “whistling up a storm.” You know how to whistle, don’t you? Well, on 2-4th September for the NWF, just put your lips together and BLOW!
So get yer pirate clobber together and we’ll see you at the NWF. Pirates didn’t make people walk the plank, but if you don’t come along, you might be keel hauled you barnacle-bottomed land lubber!
Jackie “Sparrow” Lambert
Have you ever heard any good pirate jokes? Neither have ayyyyeeeee…