Saturday, July 26, 2008


Heritage museums & gardens
67 Grove St.
Sandwich, Mass. 02563

For as long as mankind has been sailing the Seven Seas, there have been Pirates. Down through history Kings, Queens and the common people of coastal and seafaring nations were bedeviled by and had to learn how to deal with these salt water criminals.

As a young man Julius Caesar was captured by Cilician pirates and held for ransom. While being held captive he promised that once he was freed he would hunt down and punish his captors. He kept his promise.

Queen Elizabeth I of England had her own pirates, to include Captain's Drake and Hawkins, whose raids on Spain's New World Empire met her tacit approval and gained her profit. During the Great Age of Sail warring nations often sent out privateers - sailing vessels that were privately-owned but were authorized to raid merchant ships flying enemy flags. Neutral shipping was exempt from these attacks. Participants in this legal form of piracy often fell into the temptation of attacking vessels of all nations and becoming full-time pirates. Captain Kidd was thought to be guilty of this and was taken prisoner in Boston in 1699. Sent to England for trial, he was found guilty of Piracy by a London Admiralty Court and was hung on May 23, 1701.

The classic type of Pirate that we are most familiar with from our books and in films, such as Long John Silver of "Treasure Island" fame and "Captain Blood", are fictionalized versions of the real Pirates that roamed the Atlantic and the Caribbean during the 17th and 18th centuries. They are portrayed as swashbuckling, anti-heroes leading romantic lives of adventure, accumulating treasure and free from the constraints of society. There is a grain of truth to this. Pirates were often men attracted by the prospect of gathering riches and perhaps, the freedom of sailing from port to port, having no allegiance to any government or other men. Along with this came a life full of violence, often prematurely shortened, making it in very many cases a Faustian bargain.

The Heritage museums and gardens in Sandwich, Mass. is currently offering an exhibit entitled "A Short Life and Merry - Pirates of New England". The exhibit includes Hollywood memorabilia, historical displays and period artifacts all relating to the subject of Pirates. Open Daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Exhibit ends October 31, 2008. The museums are closed to the public from January to March.

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