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Wednesday 9 December 2020

All About Betrayal - and MY story about Pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read...

"Betrayals fester and poison the soul."
George R.R. Martin

“Each story is gripping.”
Discovering Diamonds Reviews

Twelve tales by twelve accomplished writers who explore the historical, yet timeless, challenges from post-Roman Britain to the present day... and the bitterness of Betrayal...
FREE on Amazon

Today: Helen Hollick and what might have been the real story behind Anne Bonny and Mary Read?

Readers who are familiar with my series of the Sea Witch Voyages, will know that I am 'into' pirates. The fictional fun ones that is ... the quirky adventures of the Jack Sparrow-type in the Pirates Of The Caribbean movie franchise, rather than the often grizzly factual horrors of the early eighteenth century pirates who terrorised the High Seas.

I intend (at some point in the, hopefully not too distant future) to write a full adventure of my protagonist, Captain Jesamiah Acorne and his involvement with the two most famous female pirates, Anne  Bonny and Mary Read and their associate, Calico Jack Rackham. 

There were, very probably, quite a few female pirates - either disguised as men, or openly showing themselves as women, but we know about Anne and Mary because these were the only two who were captured, tried and sentenced to hang along with Calico Jack and the rest of the crew.

Jack and the men were hanged at Port Royal, Jamaica, in November 1720 but the two women had a reprieve as both were pregnant. Unfortunately, Mary died in gaol, but no one knows what happened to Anne. There is no record of her death, either by natural cause or hanging, no record of her escape or release. It is very likely that someone paid for her to be (secretly) pardoned. This may well have been her father who was a rich merchant, but the pleasure of these 'don't know' facts of history, for the fiction writer, is that we can use known situations for our own imagination. As far as I am concerned, it was my Jesamiah who rescued Anne...

Jesamiah has already 'met' with Jack Rackham in the third Voyage of the series, Bring It Close, where Jes gets entangled with bringing about the demise of Edward Teach - Blackbeard. I thought it would be interesting for my contribution to the Betrayal anthology, to expand that mild friendship between Jesamiah and Jack - and Anne herself. 

Locked in an unhappy and disastrous marriage, Anne was at Nassau in the Bahamas for quite a while before she met Jack Rackham. At a time when my fictional Jesamiah Acorne was also there. Naturally the two were, in modern parlance, 'an item'. (And for readers who do know my books - this was before Jesamiah met Tiola Oldstagh, the white witch who eventually became his wife - so no betrayals there!) 

One of the other facts of Anne and Mary's time together as pirates that has always intrigued me is: did the two women get on together?

One source only informs that they were friends - Captain Charles Johnson's 1724 book A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates. No one knows who Captain Johnson was. Speculation has always attested the book to Daniel Defoe, but I contest this as Defoe had no reason to hide his identity, was a prolific political writer, and knew very little of the sea, or pirates - especially the detailed facts. 

A better contender was a man who knew both of these subjects very well, was desperate for money and had very good reason to remain anonymous (because he couldn't divulge how or why he knew so much, and at the time of writing, there were still a few pirates alive who would take very unkindly to some of the detailed content.) This writer, I am utterly convinced, was the Governor of the Bahamas - Captain Woodes Rogers.

Whoever the author, Anne and Mary were portrayed as friends, but I don't think they were. They were from very different backgrounds and had a very different outlook on life. Mary had served, disguised as a man, for many years as a soldier and then a sailor. Anne was a bored, rich man's daughter who revelled in being the 'wife' of a pirate captain. 

The two women did, however, have one thing in common: they lived, fought and were eventually captured as pirates. But was their capture bad luck, incompetency on Jack Rackham's part ... or was betrayal behind their arrest...?

Amazon Author Page (Universal Link)  

available in other e-book formats here: 

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Pubs and Their Signs Guest Post by Richard Tearle

On his website blog, recently, Richard posted a short story about pub signs. (Link will also be below at the end of this article.) With many modern pubs having nonsensical names such as 'Slug and Lettuce' (whatever idiot thought that one up?) have we lost sight of the importance - and the history - behind the names, and signs, of our British pubs?

Helen Hollick pointing out 
The King's Arms pub sign
(King George III)
 in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia USA...
on 4th July 2015
Independence Day!
(Maybe she shouldn't have shouted
'God Save The King!' quite so loudly!)

The signs were important because many people of the past could not read, so visual information was needed, and the signs could convey much more than merely the name of a pub... over to Richard:

The art of the pub sign is something that I am quite passionate about, but the trade is slowly dying. Pubs are closing daily – and that is without taking Covid-19 into account – and signs are changing; many just showing the name on a blank background. Like barges and funfairs, the style of the artwork of many pub signs is unique and characteristic as well as being extremely skilful. It will be a shame if the skill disappears, perhaps if more people knew about the meanings behind a pub sign, more people would show an interest and care?

Kings and Queens: Whilst medieval kings are not particularly favoured, probably the earliest king represented is King Ethelbert at Reculver, Herne Bay, Kent. He was King of Kent from an early age and reigned until the year 616 AD. Birth Year unknown, but believed to be 550 AD. There is a King Henry VIII at Hever Castle in Kent and The Queen and Castle, unsurprisingly, at Kenilworth showing Elizabeth I with the castle behind her.

Charles II seems to be very popular and I have an example taken in Ross on Wye. Georges abound, including one in Lichfield, the George IV, and a few Williams. Few 20th Century monarchs have been so honoured - perhaps patriotism died with Victoria (of which there are many pub signs!)? Does anyone know of a 'Queen Elizabeth II', or a 'George VI'? Surely, there must be a 'Prince Of Wales' somewhere, (or a 'Princess Diana'?)

The King Charles II
Ross On Wye
King George IV
Lichfield, Staffs

For Pubs named The Kings/Queens Arm or Head, a sign is essential for us to identify the monarch, whereas in the case of the Arms, they may give us a clue as to who they represent simply by the heraldic structure of the sign – are the arms of Scotland present, for example, or the Fleur de Lis of France? 

Princes and Princesses are not forgotten – especially the daughters of Queen Victoria – and the hierarchy is represented  all the way down the scale through Dukes and Lords, Marquises and Viscounts.

(Helen: where I used to live in Walthamstow, there is the Lord Palmerston, named for the Victorian statesman and Prime Minister)

The Lord Palmerston

HERALDRY: Studying pub signs invariably leads to a study of Heraldry: apart from the above mentioned 'Arms' of leading dignitaries,many pubs are named after occupations and Worshipful Companies, such as the Forester's Arms in Swadlincote and the well-known sign of London's Elephant and Castle - although the origin of its name remains disputed. One explanation is an English corruption of La Infanta de Castilla, a reference to a Spanish princess with an English connection, such as Eleanor of Castile or Katherine of Aragon (who before her marriage was la ynfante doña Catalina de Castille y Aragon, "infanta of Castile and Aragon". Previously the site was occupied by a blacksmith and cutler – the crest of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers features an elephant with a castle (a howdah) on its back, which in turn was used because of the use of elephant ivory in handles; this association with the Worshipful Company of Cutlers is considered a far more likely explanation for the name.

The crest of the
Worshipful Company of Cutlers.

Heraldry is a fascinating science with its own rules, symbols and conventions. All knights of the realm, and many other titled people, are entitled to bear arms and these are designed by the Royal College of Arms.

Also part of this are the 'badges' that kings and others adopted: The White Hart was the badge of Richard II, the Red Lion the badge of John of Gaunt – most probably the pub was so named because it stood on land owned by him. One interesting story: the White Boar was the badge of Richard III but following his death and subsequent 'disgrace' nervous pub owners changed the sign to The Blue Boar in favour of the Earl of Oxford, a supporter of Henry VII.

WAR: Wars are remembered in the names of battles, The Maida, The Alma and, perhaps strangely, The Case is Altered, which is a derivation of Casa Alta. Perhaps most prominent in this category are the ships and seamen of the Napoleonic Wars. Examples are The Enterprise, The Good Intent, The Earl St Vincent and, of course, Lord Nelson and the Victory.

FARMING: Just about every small village has a pub recalling its farming heritage – The Bull, The Plough, The Share and Coulter.

TRANSPORT: This is quite well represented, though mostly by pubs situated close to a railway station – The Railway Arms, the Railway Bell, The Station etc. Some famous trains are also featured – The Royal Scot and the Silver Bullet at Finsbury Park which depicts the streamlined train, The Silver Jubilee. At  Swadlincote is the Sir Nigel Gresley, designer of the revolutionary streamlined class A4 (which includes the record breaking Mallard). In Margate, The Shakespeare features not the playwright but a picture of the Britannia Class locomotive of the same name that would often haul the Golden Arrow from Victoria to Dover

SPORT: Very little here though many  sporting venues may have a pub nearby which  represents the club and/or stadium. (White Hart Lane- - Tottenham Hotspur FC as example.) Horse racing is very popular, though, and there are some famous racehorses depicted - the Red Rum, the Altisidora, Brown Jack. Boxers, too, have been honoured, such as Tom Cribb.

SOME ODDITIES AND 'INTERESTING' BITS! Some names may seem to be a strange combination of objects. Often, a landlord would move from one pub to another and remember his old one by incorporating its name with the new one. This is the story behind The Queen's Head and Artichoke, in London. The Uxbridge Arms in Burton-upon-Trent not only honours the Earl of Uxbridge, but also the fact that, on land that he owned, he built streets of houses for workers in the brewery industry which still stand today. He was also the guy who famously lost his leg at Waterloo whilst sitting astride his horse next to Wellington!

The Panniers
depicting the historical indoor market
at Barnstaple, Devon

The Shrew Beshrewed (now demolished) near Canterbury depicted a woman on a ducking stool and the Duke Without A Head showed a picture of a 'toff's' shoulders, a blank space and then a top hat above it! The story is that the Dukes Head stood on a crossroads but a road widening scheme meant it would need to be demolished. The instructions on the plans were marked 'Remove the Duke's Head' and when it was rebuilt it adopted the new name!

The Swan at Fradley Junction, where the Coventry Canal joins the Trent and Mersey Canal, not only shows a fine swan, but also the pub itself in the background!

A humorous one is The Drunken Duck, near Ambleside in the Lake District. Apparently. The story goes that several barrels of beer were spilt over the road and the pub's ducks had a fine time splashing about. A while later the landlady found them all and assumed they were dead - she started plucking one, only to find it was 'dead' drunk!

The Tame Otter at Tamworth shows a lovely little creature – but is it actually tame, or does it inhabit the River Tame? Then there is the often used Rose and Crown, and pubs named after places or destinations...

over to Helen...

Thanks Richard! The lovely old coaching inn pub in my Devon Village of Chittlehamholt is the Exeter Inn (recently under new, highly welcoming management and now boasts a newly re-thatched roof!) The original parts of the building are late 16th Century... but it is thirty or so miles from Exeter - so why 'The Exeter Inn'?

Exeter Inn

The answer is simple: the road it is situated on used to be the 'main' (probably only!) road from Barnstaple (about 12 miles away) to Exeter, and was, therefore, a stopping point for a 'comfort break' and to rest or change the horses. A pity, though, it doesn't boast an original old pub sign. 

What is your local pub - what sign does it show? 

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