Captain Morgan’s Rum Do – The Captain tells all …
Scabs, death, rats, puss and gore…. squelch right up gents and gentlewenches….
Captain Morgan’s Rum Do do, so to speak. They do at festivals and clubs of the folky sort!
CMRD came into being as the result of Roy buying a book – yes, he can read as well. That book was The Mammoth Book of Pirates which gave Roy an idea for a song – several years and 60 songs later Roy now has a catalogue of said stuff relating to the 16th to 18th centuries and dealing with subject matter as diverse as piracy in the Golden Age and life of London, its characters and life along the River Thames.
Two albums have been spawned – ‘Pirates of the East Coast of the Americas and the Caribbean Sea’ and ‘Thames, Sails and Scallywags Tales’, both currently available through this website, as downloads on ‘t’web and critically acclaimed by Roy himself!
Would he lie to you, dear reader?
Roy sings and plays guitar, percussionist Gemma hits things like a dong and the a capella trio Triangle (Sophie, Mim and Sue) hold the whole thing together to stop it getting too messy.
CMRD perform this material in clubs of the folky kind and festivals all over the UK.
Sung with English rather than American accents these songs evoke an atmosphere of the time and subject matter. They aim to tell mostly true tales in a fun and enlightening way.
Scabs, pus, hangings, great fires, the plague… ah, happy times!
These songs are all available as downloads and any number can be supplied on a 1GB Pirate Captain USB memory stick – prices on request.
Henry Avery – Avery’s Hoard
Originally a slave trader Henry Avery or Every (1659-1699) also dubbed the King of the Pirates took one of the largest pirate hauls; a ship of the Mogul empire with a cargo worth £52 million in today’s money, taken in the Indian Ocean. Torture, murder and rape followed before the pirate crew divided up the spoils, Avery’s portion being in diamonds. Finding he could not sell or trade these diamonds he entrusted their disposal to merchants in Bristol, England, who cheated him of their worth and Avery, once the richest of all pirates died a pauper.
A Ship Is Of Wood (Poem)
An unfortunate incident featuring Sid our reluctant hero having been press-ganged into service and making a hash of helping out on board ship.
A Strapping Young Lad That Bonny
Anne Bonny went to sea dressed as a man and by all accounts fooled the crew into believing that’s exactly what she was. She took on the duties of a man with no complaint from crew or Captain but I imagine here one of her fellow crew mates having doubts and noticing odd occurrences.
Alexander Selkirk – A Diamond In the Blue
The story of Robinson Crusoe has its origin in the true tale of Alexander Selkirk (1676-1721). Selkirk asked to be marooned when he deemed the ship he was on to be unseaworthy. He was put ashore and spent the next four years and four months alone. Captain Stradling had left him a musket, hatchet, knife, cooking pot, a bible, bedding and some clothes and sailed away. He was eventually rescued by the privateer Dampier only to die at sea of tropical illness a dozen years later.
Anne Bonny (1702-1782) progressed through life dressed as a boy and as a man. She became Calico Jack Rackham’s lover and bore his child before rejoining his crew as a Pirate. She, Mary Read and one other sailor tried to defend their ship against the British whilst Jack and his crew carried on drinking below decks. Captured at Negril Bay she was sentenced to hang but as she was pregnant at the time of her trial she ‘pled her belly’ and was set free, possibly with the aid of a bribe from her father a plantation owner – she is said to have lived until 80 years of age. She visited Rackham in prison the night before his hanging exclaiming “Had you fought like a man you need not have been hanged like a dog”.
Arthur Halse’s Britches
A London based tealeaf Arthur Halse receives a short mention in history and the story of him appearing in court wearing the very britches he was accused of stealing is true.
Articles of Black Bart (The)
Pirate crews often wrote a set of ‘articles’ setting out rules to be observed by all of the crew. The articles of Black Bart as written in 1721 have survived and form the basis of this song.
Bartholomew Roberts – Black Bart
Perhaps the most successful of all pirates Bartholomew Roberts (1682-1722) captured 400 ships, ransacked towns along the coast of America and finally met his end in a sea battle with HMS Swallow off the coast of Africa.
Black Sam Bellamy (1689-1717) had a love for a local girl but he was not of her social status so her father would not let the couple wed. He resolved to go to sea to make his fortune in order to return and take her hand in marriage. Bellamy operated as a Pirate for only one year but in that time he captured some 53 ships making the Whydah his flagship. He became the wealthiest Pirate in recorded history before his death at age 28. On the return voyage to claim his bride the Whydah was caught in a storm off Cape Cod and was wrecked with only two crew members surviving. This I believe is a fitting lament for Black Sam and Maria Hallet.
On the East coast of the Isle of Wight stands a lighthouse called the Bembridge Light. This light was used as a sea marker for smuggling, a trade the population of the Isle of Wight thought of as their right, not being part of the mainland and wanting self rule. The places mentioned in the song where contraband was stored are actual sites including a tomb in the churchyard.
Benito de Soto
A bloodthirsty Galician or Portuguese pirate (1805-1830) Benito de Soto murdered crews who fell into his hands and sank their ships after plundering them of what he needed. He was hung in Cadiz, Spain, and his head stuck on a pike as a warning to others.
Black Beard – Whispers In the Darkness
Perhaps the most famous of pirates of the Golden Age of Piracy Blackbeard earned a fearsome reputation in the 15 months he was active as a pirate. He is said to have had 14 wives and to have given each of them to his crew on their wedding night. In battle he wore 3 brace of pistols and two swords. He died in a battle with HMS Pearl suffering 20 cut and five shot wounds. His head was cut off and hung from the bowsprit of HMS Pearl.
Black Beard – Who Is the One
A whimsical assessment of Blackbeard’s potential as the one you would not want coming along to your party.
Black Caesar Away
Black Caesar was an African Pirate of many years’ standing who operated in the Caribbean. He was said to known for his huge size, immense strength and keen intelligence. Becoming a crewman on Blackbeard’s ship Queen Anne’s Revenge he was present at Blackbeard’s final battle with HMS Pearl and was instructed by Blackbeard to fire the ships magazine if things went badly in the battle. In the event he was prevented from doing so by captives held on board and that failure led to the discovery of damning correspondence between Blackbeard and Government officials. Black Caesar was taken and hanged in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1718.
Calico and Anne – Just the Two of Us
It is known that the night prior to his capture in 1720 Calico Jack spent the night carousing with his crew and lover Anne Bonny at anchor in Negril Bay. This song imagines a conversation between the lovers in the moonlight little knowing what fate awaited them.
Calico Jack Rackham
Calico (John) Jack Rackham (1682-1720) was not a pirate of the first division but is mostly remembered for having two women crew members, Anne Bonny and Mary Read. The nickname ‘Calico’ was derived from the clothing we wore. ‘Jack’ was nickname for John.
Captain William Kidd (1654-1701) was originally a pirate hunter. Upon his capture in 1701 he and was tried, found guilty of piracy and of killing his gunner with a metal hooped bucket and was subsequently hung at Execution Dock in Wapping. His body was then dipped in tar, secured in a metal cage and displayed on a gibbet at Tilbury Point for many years. Some now believe Kidd was set up by the financial backers that had set him up to be a privateer and documents proving his innocence were withheld from the trial. The little matter of murder would have seen him hang anyway.
Captains Cooper & Scarfield
Some believe this tale to be true and others believe it to be fiction. I have included it here as I’m blowed if I know which is right.
A fictional character but one who represents a certain class of ‘female companions’ found in any port then and now.
In 1717 King George the first of England offered pirates a full pardon if they would give up their pirate trade. Charles Vane (1680-1721) refused to accept pardon and fled Nassau harbour firing a broadside at the incoming governor, Woodes Rogers. His last ship was wrecked on an uninhabited island but when rescued he was recognised and taken for trial in Spanish Town, Jamaica. There he was tried for piracy and was hung at Gallows Point, Port Royal. His corpse was then hung in chains and displayed at Gun Cay.
Creeping – Lock ’em All Below
Piracy in London Town is recorded but there are no famous names for history to remember. Miscreants simply waited for the tide to go out and waded out to their intended prey, overpowered any sailors left on board and locked them in the hold while they carried on their nefarious doings. When finished they simply waded back to shore with their spoils through the mud and ooze and went home.
East End of London Town (The)
The original London Bridge was not designed to allow merchant shipping through its supporting arches so they anchored downriver or at one of the busy wharves if they could find space. Owing to the volume of trade ships had to wait for a berth and were therefore vulnerable to attack by thieves and assorted ruffians when anchored. London Docks were built to address these issues and were immediately heralded a great success.
Perhaps the most vicious Pirate of his age Edward, or Ned, Low (1690-1724) took at least one hundred ships in his short career as a Pirate.
Execution – The Marshall’s Dance
A hanging in London Town was a social event and hundreds or thousands of people would line a route the convicted person would take and watch the hanging if they could find a space. Hanging at the time involved the condemned climbing a ladder at the scaffold and ‘stepping off’ or being ‘turned off’. Family members often bribed the hangman so they could pull down on the unfortunate’s legs and hasten the process. Legs unencumbered by such weights performed the ‘Marshal’s Dance’, so named as piracy hangings were undertaken under the authority of the High Court Marshal of the Admiralty.
Exquemelin – With Morgan At Panama
Alexandre Olivier Exquemelin (1645-1707) was a Buccaneer who was present at Sir Henry Morgan’s attack on Panama City and other adventures. He later wrote the definitive book concerning Buccaneers entitled the ‘History of the Bouccaneers of America’.
Great Fire of 1666 (The)
The Great Fire of London was a catastrophic event that was largely contained by the old Roman walls of the city and the fickle weather. It is interesting to note the names of the various Roman gates that existed at that time, the cause of the fire, the hunt for a scapegoat and the rather feeble trial of the likely guilty party – not Robert Hubert who gave a false confession but a certain Mr Fariner, baker, of Pudding Lane. Life was cheap; the official death toll from the Great Fire numbers 6 souls.
Henry Morgan – Morgan’s Way
Sir Henry Morgan (1635-1688) was a determined chap. A privateer, pirate, admiral, cheat, politician, governor of Jamaica, conqueror of Porto Bello, Puerto Principe and Panama his exploits were recorded by Exquemelin in later years. He was arrested for attacking foreign powers without authority and transported to London where he was soon knighted, many influential people including the King having benefitted from his exploits. He died of ‘drinking and sitting up late’.
Impress Man (The)
Impressing or press-ganging refers to the act of forcing men into Royal Navy service involuntarily. Seafaring men between the ages of 18 and 55 years were eligible and even those returning from foreign imprisonment were taken leading to the practice of ships discharging their returning sailors in a variety of ports rather than London. It is known that one other source of candidates for the Press was the prostitute and brothel owner Damarose or Damaris Page who agreed to press dock workers when they were drunk and insensible.
Israel Hands first appears in history as one of Blackbeard’s ships commanders. He was shot in the knee by Blackbeard in his cabin with Blackbeard exclaiming “if he did not now and then kill one of them, they would forget who he was.” Although captured following Blackbeard’s death Israel Hands turned Sates evidence against the governor of North Carolina with whom Blackbeard had ‘business’ dealings, was returned to London and died a beggar on the streets.
Jean Lafitte (1780-1823) was a French Pirate and Privateer in the Gulf of Mexico. With his brother and fellow smuggler Pierre Lafitte he established a settlement called Campeche. A Letter of Marque issued by the United States authorised him to capture ships and booty from opposing nations when the US declared war on Britain in 1812. The British offered him money and land if would turn coat and fight his own country but he refused becoming a target for all sides until the US agreed to pardon men who would fight the British. He and his crews then fought in the Battle of New Orleans on side of the US. Sometime spy for Mexico and later for Spain he was also embroiled in the Mexican War of Independence whilst continuing his smuggling operations. Never one to settle down he is believed to have died in battle with Spanish forces.
John Gow – The Execution Tree
The Orkney Pirate John Gow (1698-1725) became a Pirate captain by taking part in a mutiny on the ship in which he served. His short pirate career was ended when he was captured in his homeland of Orkney and transported to London where he was tried and hanged at Execution Dock. His body and those of his crew were tarred and suspended on the Thames riverside. There is an account of his end in the Newgate Chronicles.
John King (1708-1717) is the youngest known Pirate of the Golden Age. He joined Black Sam Bellamy’s crew when the ship he was on was taken by the Pirate and sailed on the account until Bellamy’s ship the Whydah was wrecked in a storm off Cape Cod. Excavations of the wreck have revealed one bone of 11 inches (fibula), one silk stocking and a shoe that together could only have belonged to a boy of King’s age so he confirmed to have gone down with the ship.
Jonathan Wilde (1683-1725), the self styled ‘Thief Taker General’ was an underworld figure that ran a criminal empire in London in the absence of an effective police force. He ransomed goods his cronies had stolen, bribed prison guards to release his men and blackmailed any who crossed him. His own men finally gave evidence against him and he was hung on the Triple Tree gallows at Tyburn in front of a huge crowd that had bought tickets for the occasion.
Kiss Me Quick (Poem)
Caribbean Rose is a fictional figure and the subject of another song in this series. Here she returns home to Leigh on Sea in Essex after many adventures, sets up business and inadvertently names a pub in her honour.
Living In a Goodwife Way
What of the women left behind when men went to sea? This song shed some light on their plight (or pleasure) from the wives’ viewpoint.
London Fields (Poem)
As London grew the marsh lands of the south bank, always but sparsely inhabited, became developed and the original residents moved out to new places further away losing a way of life that had lasted for perhaps centuries. This is a wistful appreciation of their plight London Fields is an appreciation of their plight.
Low Tide – Pirates In the Mud
Another song explaining how gangs would gather in London taverns to plot their next pirating adventure wading through the mud to steal a ship or attain their plunder.
The Marshalsea was a prison located on the south bank of the river Thames (Southwark) and was where most pirates were incarcerated awaiting trial. From here a condemned pirate would be placed in a cart and driven from the Marshalsea over London Bridge and past the Tower of London to the scaffold at Execution Dock. The gallows was placed below high water mark and therefore in the jurisdiction of the Admiralty. This song visualises the Pirates last day and voices his regret at his actions. It may be of interest to note that Charles Dickens’ father was sent to Marshalsea Prison for a debt to a baker and that Dickens wrote of the prison in the novel Little Dorrit.
Mary Read (1685-1721) was a fierce character by all accounts being well versed in the use of firearms and edged weapons and having ample skills with all of them. Mary was dressed by her mother as her dead brother from youth in order to obtain a financial allowance from an Aunt before going to sea. She later joined the British military and fought against the French in Flanders falling in love with a fellow soldier whom she eventually married. Together they ran an Inn for soldiers although the husband died soon after and Mary sailed for the West Indies to start a new life. Having returned to wearing men’s clothes she turned pirate, received a pardon but later took part in a mutiny and became a pirate a second time. She eventually joined Jack Rackham’s crew again still dressed as a man but falling for Anne Bonny and thinking her a man she declared her sex and forced Anne into doing the same. Jack Rackham, Anne’s lover, thought Anne (the woman) and Mary (the man) were having an affair so the two owned up and Jack was calmed. She fought her last battle with Anne Bonny when cornered in Negril Bay by the British – Calico Jack and his crew were below decks drinking and took no part in their defence. Mary was pregnant when sentenced to death so ‘pled her belly’ to escape execution however the next year she caught a prison fever and died.
Mutiny – In With the Razor
Mutiny against tyrannical captains was not uncommon. The rebels sometimes set the officers and any unwilling crew members adrift in a small boat but almost always the ship was taken by force. Usually the mutineers would seek to secure weapons before killing the captain, his officers and anyone else who got in the way. A cut throat should be seen as one half of the phrase ‘with a smile above his chin and another one below’.
Open for Business Again
The Admiral’s Tree refers to Tyburn where hangings took place for hundreds of years. The fruit are the hung. Maggots are maggots. Although Pirates were usually hung at Execution Dock in Wapping some were hung at Tyburn on the Triple Tree. In any case it would not be long before others through desperation or design took over the trade and they were ‘Open for Business Again’.
Marooning could be requested by a crew member not wishing to continue the Pirate trade or as a punishment for some misdemeanour. The sailor would be marooned on an uninhabited island to fend for himself and yes, they did traditionally leave a pistol with one shot. I have chosen to describe a sailor’s decision to leave off ‘the account’ and his feelings at his situation.
Polly, The Parrot of the Caribbean
Unfortunately not a true tale (as far as I know) but it should be.
Port Royal, Kingston, Jamaica was destroyed in an earthquake in 1692. Prior to its destruction it was used by Pirates, Privateers, The Royal Navy and anyone else at the same time. A den of iniquity, thievery, brothels and bars it was every sailors home port while the money lasted and having been at sea for months if not years and possibly with plunder to dispose of there was certainly cash to spare in the town. A safe(ish) haven for all and never mind the fleas….
Another tale that should be true but isn’t. I’m sure a real working girl Rosie would recognise the gist as would various husbands.
An imagined punishment for an imagined indiscretion but one that could well have happened. Don’t mess with the Captain.
Sid of the North West Passage
Sid is an imaginary figure of a loveable idiot that bragged his way into trouble and suffered for it. Perhaps we’ll hear more of Sid in due course as I’m rather fond of him.
So Many Secrets
In an age where life was cheap and rewards could be great London Docks would have been a place of secrets and whispers where plans were made and deals were done – where anything was possible….
Strumpets Are Us
Ah… Strumpets. One of the perks of being at sea for lengthy periods was making port and in any port there were various diversions that would induce a sailor to part with his hard earned booty. Enter the strumpet whose endeavours were designed to relieve a man of his money in return for short enjoyment and long treatment. ‘And the rum makes them seem so pretty to us and you don’t see the pox and the scabs and the pus…’ says it all really….
The Black Flag
Why the skull and crossbones? A time honoured representation of death of course. But why an hourglass? Why the Devil? Why a speared heart?
There is a low pressure area near the equator in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans where there is little or no wind and which has been given the name The Doldrums. Sailing ships caught in this area could be trapped for days or weeks with supplies such as food and drinking water at a premium or exhausted altogether. Large ships could be towed by rowing boats in order to escape this natural phenomenon however it was hot and tiring work.
History has brought us many Pirate names and The Gathering is a way of remembering individuals and keeping their memory alive. I don’t believe we would really want to invite Blackbeard and cronies to dinner but as they are long dead what’s the harm eh? Live Pirates though are a different matter and are best left alone….
The Great Plague/Bring Out Your Dead
The Great Plague of 1666 was caused by a virus transmitted through the bite of an infected rat flea. A quarter of London’s population perished in 18 months. Bodies were left outside homes or were found where they had fallen in the street. The plague naturally began to subside after a period and the Great Fire of London was said to have contributed to its eradication. The person whose job it was to collect the dead bodies on a cart was a Searcher.
The Whydah – A Sea of Tears
The only authenticated Pirate shipwreck although the wreck of Blackbeards Queen Anne’s Revenge may be another contender; this was the ship of Black Sam Bellamy which sank in a storm in 1717 with the loss of all but two crew members. The plunder of five tons of gold, silver and jewellery sank with it. The Whydah Galley was originally a slave ship until being captured by Bellamy and refitted for the Pirating account. Rediscovered in 1984 salvage operations are still ongoing.
There’s A Dark Side
My answer to Hollywood’s romantic portrayal of Pirates: all flapping flags and cleavages.
This Old Bridge is Falling Down
London Bridge was the only Thames crossing upstream of Richmond was crowded by building leaning against each other so high the sun did not reach the ground and traffic was in constant gridlock. Add to this the noise and smell and… well, you get the picture. It also restricted the movement of shipping so that cargo vessels could not pass through its uneven arches.
Time – the End of the Buccaneers
The reasons Piracy came to an abrupt end were threefold and explained in this song. Seemingly what Pirates wanted most was to be remembered.
A Pirate haven off the coat of Hispaniola where the Buccaneers originated. In Spanish the name means Turtle or Tortoise as that best describes its appearance. Constantly fought over by French and Spanish forces it provided a safe trading base and recreation centre for land starved Pirates and Buccaneers.
What the Poor People Are For
My take on how the poor have been exploited throughout history and this song relates conditions in a time frame consistent with other songs from this series.
When All of the Rum Runs Out
Every Pirates nightmare!
Williams of Gow’s Revenge
John Gow was second mate on a cargo vessel named the Caroline. In 1724 he and crew members including James Williams mutinied cutting the throats of the Captain, Supercargo, Chief Mate and Surgeon, the Captain being thrown overboard still alive. Gow was voted Captain and Williams the Mate. During a cruise to Madeira Williams accused Gow of cowardice and tried to shoot him but the pistol misfired. Williams in turn was shot by other crew members and overpowered before he could fire the ships magazine. Gow had Williams put in irons and sent aboard the next ship they captured to be returned to England for trial and execution.
Wreckers were a band of people who either took advantage of cargos washed up on shore from wrecked ships or lured the ships onto rocks themselves with false lights often in stormy weather. A ship could not be deemed ‘lost’ if any of the crew were surviving so the temptation was to ensure that none survived – in that way the scavenging was within the law. If they had a conscience they kept it well hidden that’s for sure.
Yo Ho Me Lads
What would tempt someone into becoming a Pirate? Better conditions, democracy, equality, opportunity would all play a part but the terms and conditions of employment would still have to be explained by the Pirate HR department. This song explains the Industrial Injury scheme actually employed by Pirate ships in the 17th and 18th centuries. Sold?