The Buccaneers

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“Fifteen men on the Dead Man’s Chest Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! Drink and the devil had done for the rest Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!” 
Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

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Buccaneers, the very name conjures up visions of daring feats and bold adventures. These were men who attacked the treasure-laden Spanish ships in the Caribbean during the 17 century. Yet, buccaneers had their own rather unusual history.  When Spanish residents moved from the north-eastern coast of Hispaniola in 1605, they left all their livestock behind.  Before long, huge herds of pigs, goats and cattle roamed the countryside attracting hunters. A small group of Arawak Indians taught these hunters how to cure strips of meat over a wooden grate called a boucan. The word became bourcanier in French and eventually buccaneers in English.  Most buccaneers called themselves privateers; indeed, some did sail under the protection of a letter of marque granted by British, French or Dutch authorities.  However, most had little concern over trivial legal matters.

Sir Henry MorganThe Welshman, Henry Morgan, was one of the most successful pirates of the 17th century.  He had the protection of the British government which gave him carte blanche to make raids at his discretion. He amassed enormous personal wealth and lived a life of roguish escapades.  For his efforts, Charles II rewarded him with a knighthood and the title of Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica.  Even so, the tides were turning against Sir Henry Morgan. Reports of his unsavoury brutality were spread abroad, but he adamantly maintained they were vicious rumours. He even sued a publisher for suggesting that he was an uncivilized, ordinary pirate.  His last days were anything but an adventure. The life of a dignitary was boring and not to his liking.

With Henry Morgan’s passing, Captain William Kidd took over his mantle as the world’s most infamous pirate. Born in Scotland, 1645, there is evidence to suggest he was the son of a Presbyterian minister.  Captain Kidd will be always remembered as the pirate with a map and buried treasure.  A pirate’s life was uncertain.  There were twists and turns, betrayals and treachery. Captain Kidd was tried as a common thief and suffered the fate of a pirate’s end.  Even now, many believe that he was unfairly treated.

Piracy is a risky business, with endings that may not be foreseen at the beginning of the adventure.

 “It’s better to swim in the sea below
Than to swing in the air and feed the crow,
Says jolly Ned Teach of Bristol.”

Benjamin Franklin on Blackbeard, the Pirate

25 thoughts on “The Buccaneers

  1. I once heard Buckminster Fuller speak, in a little auditorium in Cleveland. His talk centered on cultures and success by controlling the lines of international trade. Britain with a great Navy controlled the trading lines and turned an island into a world power on that and the power of primogeniture. The oldest sons inherited everything, and the younger sons ( remittance men ) took their stipend and set of to make a name and fortune for themselves.

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    • Lucky, lucky, lucky you!! I would have loved to hear him speak. He is absolutely right, of course. But he was most right about the mothers of the inheritor or the remittance man!

      “Geniuses are just people who had good mothers.”
      ― Richard Buckminster Fuller

      Thank you for adding so much to the dialogue!

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      • I was 18 at the time and my roomate who had graduated from Columbia knew all about him. He grabbed me and it was amazing.

        Did you know that once he “Bucky” between us, was one so depressed that he nearly took his own life.

        It reminds me of a saying my old martial arts instructor used to tell — we always quit just before a breakthrough. if we can push on just a little more, things will improve.

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      • I did not know that about him. What was it that Plato said? – “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
        Let’s keep pushing…

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      • yes, he really was struggling against the stream.

        Like water most of us live lives of the path of least resistance. Some men change history by swimming against the tide.

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    • Do you remember “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes? It was one of those remarkable poems that kept a diverse group of grade eights quiet, intense, and fully engaged. As I was reading about the Pirates, I recalled this poem from years ago. We are strange creatures, professing we want security, yet in our hearts we know that risk is in our blood.

      THE wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
      The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
      The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
      And the highwayman came riding—
      Riding—riding—
      The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

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  2. Incredible stories. It is interesting to see how far we have come in our global attitude towards real life pirates.

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    • There is one story that I wanted to post about, but alas, I must wait for another series. It was about Calico Jack and his mistress Anne Bonney. And the famous Mary Read, who joined their merry crew. Mary Read came from a poverty-stricken background; she had been hounded by the law for minor misdemeanours. In those days, there were very few options for women like her, so those who dared, chose a life of independence and self-determination. Of course, these women were few and far between, but their lives still continue to fascinate us. Which reminds me, my next series is about another remarkable women….

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    • I am so very glad that you enjoyed the theme. It has reminded me that living is the best of all adventures. Your comments and presence are much appreciated.

      “Books are good enough in their own way but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life.”
      ― Robert Louis Stevenson

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    • Love it!!! Thank you so much for sharing. We are having a wonderful adventure, but have been in and out of WIFI so have not been able to post or comment on a regular basis! I have missed our discussions! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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