Top 5 Pirates of the Caribbean

My Top 5 Pirates of the Caribbean based on...

            ...nothing. I just love these particular stories out of all that I have read! Reading them it was almost like reading fiction because it is hard to believe that some of these events really happened. These are pirates that were not born in Barbados or the Caribbean but became famous because of their various exploits in the region.

4) Anne Bonny and Mary Read (Active: 1719 – 1721) – A Tale of “Bromance”

            Although this is a “Top 5” list, I decided to combine these two as one entry as their stories are intertwined. These two are not only the most famous female pirates of all time, they were also known to be the most vicious ones as well. In the case of the Irish Bonny, she was married to James Bonny, a decision which caused her father to disinherit her because her husband was very poor. They moved to the Bahamas and it was here she met Captain “Calico” Jack Rackham and the two started a courtship. She soon decided to join his pirate ship in search of a more exotic and adventurous life. They decided that she should dress like a man so the other members of the crew wouldn’t pay close attention to her.

Mary Read’s initial life was more thrilling than Anne Bonny’s. She fought as a soldier and had previously owned a tavern before sailing to the Caribbean. However, her ship was captured by Calico Jack and Anne Bonny, and instead of killing her they offered to have her be a part of their crew. The catch: they thought she was a man as she was dressed as such!

            Bonny and Read grew very close and as they were both “men” their “bromance” blossomed. However, Calico Jack became very jealous of the bromance, which he thought was a romance as he knew that Anne was really a woman and knew Mary as “Mark Read”. It was only after he confronted “Mark” that “he” revealed she was really a woman in disguise. All very confusing but yet very relieving for Jack!

 In 1720, their ship was attacked by the British Navy just outside of Jamaica. Bonny and Read fought valiantly in the attack. Their fight was made all the more brave because their fellow pirates where drunk and hid away from the action like cowards. They eventually lost the battle but escaped the death sentence at the hands of the Navy as they both claimed to be pregnant. Read died of fever in Jamaica in 1721.

3) Calico Jack (Active: early 18th century) – Mr. Opportunistic

            Born John Rackham, he is most famous and renowned for hiring two of the most vicious and infamous female pirates of all time. He got the nickname “Calico Jack” due to his love for wearing calico coloured coats. Jack was quartermaster of the ship the Treasure in his early days. However, things took a turn after the then captain retreated from an attack, incensing the crew. They felt he was a coward, and Rackham was quite vocal and eager in his protests against the Captain’s action, and subsequently the latter lost command of his ship. Rackham became captain and he was very well liked by the crew as he began looting from several small vessels. On a night out drinking, he met Anne Bonny and it was what you call love at first sight. When he raided a small vessel near the West Indies, he could not have known that his love would be threatened by the one life he spared “Mark Read”. I would bet Jack was regretted saving Mark’s life when he saw how close he was getting to his girl; he soon found out however that the man he was threatened by was really...a woman!

            However, there was no happily ever after for Jack. The crew under his orders, stole a ship that was anchored in the Nassau harbour. Word of this spread and two large ships were sent to find the thieves. Jack tried to escape but to no avail. Most of the pirates ran and hid like wimps, but Jack’s two favourite women fought valiantly in a lost cause. Jack and 11 other members of his crew were sentenced to death. They were executed in Jamaica.

2) Sir Henry Morgan (Active: 1663 – 1674) – The “Ideal” Pirate

No (documented) romances or weird quirks, Morgan was one of England’s most successful privateers. In fact, he was so successful that he was one of the few pirates actually able to retire not only with great wealth intact, but little legal backlash from his previous exploits. This was a significant achievement as most pirates died by the sword they lived by. He was a brilliant tactician, utilizing the ongoing conflicts between England and her enemies to support England and get rich in the process. Many tried this tactic but no one gained the type of success that Morgan did. He was one of the most famous buccaneers in all of history and renowned for great bravery and leadership. Although he was born in Wales, he migrated to Jamaica as a young man in an ambitious attempt to seek fame and fortune. He built his wealth and reputations in his constant battles against the Spanish and Dutch by capturing enemy shops. His boldest achievement was the seizure of the island of Panama in 1671, widely regarded at that time to be the wealthiest settlement in the New World. He eventually became the Deputy Governor of Jamaica. What makes Morgan the ideal pirate is the fact that he didn’t build his reputation on being notorious or violent but rather on the back of a brilliant mind.

1) Blackbeard (Active: 1716 – 1718) – More bark than bite?

            But then again, who needs bite when the bark gets you everything you want? Born Edward Teach, he was a well known pirate in the 18th century, widely regarded as the Golden Age of Piracy. He was often pictured with a big feathered tricorn, with meany weapons in his armoury including swords, knives and pistols. He got the name “Blackbeard” from his long black beard, on which he would tie several ribbons of different colours. Reports from those who saw him fight described his features as similar to the devil. He loved to appear intimidating in battle, usually going in with three pairs of pistols across his chest, daggers and more pistols in his belt a cutlass and....a slow burning hemp cord under his hat which produces a lot of smoke! However, despite the widespread reports about his fearsome demeanour, there are no verified accounts of him killing anyone. Apparently, it seemed fear was his main weapon. The early days of his pirate career were spent as a member of the crew of Benjamin Hornigold. Eventually, he was given his own ship: a 300 ton frigate with 40 guns and named it “Queen Anne’s Revenge”. He was very successful at capturing ships in the Caribbean, and thus his wealth continued to grow significantly. Blackbeard attempted to retire from pirating after receiving a pardon for his exploits. He sold all his bounty, and decided to settle down in the American colonies. However, the lure of piracy was just too great, and he eventually fell back into his old ways. The Governor of Virginia at the time, Alexander Spotswood, eventually enlisted the help of a naval commander (Lieutenant Robert Maynard) to seize Blackbeard: dead or alive.

            With his previous wealth and well armed ship, Blackbeard probably would have prevailed in the battle against the Navy. However, as he had already sold his ship and was low on men, he and his remaining crew were eventually defeated. However, Blackbeard fought valiantly to the end, displaying his never say die attitude. His corpse had more than 20 different wounds on it as a result of the battle. Maynard had Blackbeard’s head cut off as a souvenir of his conquest.

Article of Caribbean Dreams Magazine