I wrote it down before I looked it up and had it right to the end of “Rat o’ the Main”: not bad after sixty years! Written by a Rear-Admiral so you would expect him to know his pirates.
Nova Scotia has long been famous for its pirate history, especially the treasures buried at Oak Island off the South Shore. I’m looking at The Oak Island Mystery by R.V. Harris, 1958, inscribed that Christmas To: Pop, From: Fred. Page 96: “the drillers estimated that at a depth of 150 feet there was a subterranean chamber, enclosed by a casing of about twenty inches of a primitive type of cement.” What a place to hide ill-gotten booty.
Recently Oak Island Unearthed! by John O’Brien, also featured on the History Channel, has attracted a lot of attention.
Pirates, of course, are very dangerous because they prey on law-abiding ships, steal their treasure and often murder people. Making their captives walk the plank was a favourite way to rid themselves of extra mouths to feed.
Once again this summer a pirate ship can be seen at Tidnish. Drive down Brundage Lane, look out to sea and see for yourself.
I was visiting Malcolm Macartney and Margie Purdy recently when the tide was out and the pirate ship was grounded in front of their cottage. I loved watching a young family race across the sandbars to climb on board. One young boy bounced on the plank!
One of the pictures in To Sweep the Spanish Main shows our hero, Blaise Merion, blindfolded and standing on the plank with fierce pirates poking him from behind with their evil-looking cutlasses. He lived to fight another day: I’ll have to read it again to find out how he escaped.
If that young boy at Tidnish were walking the plank when the tide was in and the pirate ship in deep water, he would have encountered another danger (for which Malcolm is also responsible). This summer there have been frequent reports of a shark cutting the water near the ship!
When I showed my brothers, Fred and Garth, To Sweep the Spanish Main, Garth started intoning “Red Castaban, Rat o’ the Main.” Fred remembered our dad, Hal Christie, reading the book to him and Innis over 70 years ago, then pegging it at a mouse and pinning it against the wall. No wonder the book is falling apart.
Listening to this conversation was Claude Vickery whose ancestors lived in Cornwall, England, another pirate haven. His wife, Florence Smith, noted his swarthy complexion and flashing eyes, intimating that pirates may still lurk in one’s own living room.
To buy my publications, go to the Artisans’ Gallery, Amherst Centre Mall; Maritime Mosaic, Dayle’s, Victoria Street, Amherst; Flying Colours, Maccan; and Main and Station, Parrsboro.
Coles carries My dear Alice.
For my six self-published books and booklets, go to the Cumberland County Museum and Archives and to the YMCA Amherst.
Clare Christie is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Panel. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.