The Pirates Of St. Piran - Meet The Crew
Captain Swillin’ Billy Flynn
Billy was born in 1702, the son of wealthy farmers in Mevagissey, Cornwall.
At the age of 14, he joined the Royal Navy and sailed under Admiral Sir George Byng on HMS Barfleur. Rising to the rank of 1st Lieutenant, he gained a reputation as a fearsome swordsman and a fine marksman. He distinguished himself at the battle of Cape Passaro near Sicily on August 11th 1718 by leading a boarding party which captured the San Luis, a 64-gun Spanish ship of the line.
Incidentally, many assume the nickname Swillin' Billy came from his ability to consume prodigious quantities of grog and remain upright. However, it actually dates back to childhood days on his parents’ farm, where his job was to tend the large herd of pigs and prepare the pigswill. He thought he had escaped the somewhat onerous name when he joined the Navy… until, in a tavern, he bumped into an old acquaintance from Mevagissey who greeted him as Swillin’ Billy. From that moment on, his crewmates never let him forget it.
However, what looked set to be an illustrious naval career was cut short when he was caught in a very compromising position with the admiral’s daughter. He soon found himself ensconced in the naval wing of Bodmin Gaol awaiting court martial on a trumped-up charge.
While there he made the acquaintance of Mad Paddy O'Toole, a fearsome Irish pirate who occupied the next cell. Between them they hatched a cunning plan and managed to make their escape. In the process they amazingly defeated six armed guards by using only a slops bucket and O'Toole's wooden leg as weapons. They made it across Bodmin Moor and further south, joining some of O'Toole's acquaintances at Sennen Cove. That is where Swillin’ Billy's piratical career began.
Some months later, he met a highway woman named Kitty Hawke who was also down on her luck, and the two of them set out to seek their fortune together. They joined the Pirates of St Piran crew. After a couple of years, the then Captain died in a bizarre shark wrestling incident, and Billy was voted in as the new Captain. The rest is history and The Pirates of St. Piran are still plundering on the high seas to this very day.
Kitty was born in the small village of Spreyton, about 20 miles from Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Devon, the daughter of Tom Pearce and niece of the notorious old Tom Cobley. The year was 1710.
Life was pretty normal until 1728, the year in which she married Harry Hawke. Harry plied his trade as a highwayman on Dartmoor for many years with varying degrees of success. There was stiff competition from other Dartmoor highwaymen including Bill Brewer, Jan Stewert, Peter Gurney, Peter Davey and not to mention Daniel Whiddon.
All was fine until the day Harry Hawke was out riding an old grey mare he had borrowed from Kitty's father. The horse stumbled on a tree root and Harry fell off, landing on his head. He then proceeded to expire unceremoniously, in a ditch beside the road.
Kitty, finding herself with nothing but a tumbledown cottage and an old grey mare to her name, had little option other than to take up her dead husband's profe ssion and became a highwaywoman.
She would work only at night dressed in black with bone-white powder on her face. So disguised, she would appear, looking like death on a huge grey horse as she launched herself into the road before unsuspecting victims, blocking their path and shouting: “Hand over yer money and yer jewels, or would ye rather play at dice?” This made them so sorely afraid, that they parted with their trinkets and baubles gladly in their eagerness to avoid dicing with death.
This routine worked surprising well until one day the now very old grey mare lay down and died. Fortunately for Kitty, one Swillin' Billy Flynn happened upon her as she sat cross-legged on top of a dead horse at the roadside polishing her flintlock and contemplating what to do next.
He offered to share his horse with her to the next village but before they got there, Cupid's arrow struck them both and thus started their quest for adventure and a life of piraacy.
Alas, poor Kitty made a very bad pirate – first of all she was horrified at how much water there actually was in the sea. Then there was the fact that she was supposed to spend half her life floating in the middle of it. She was a country lass after all and had never seen the sea before. And being known as "Kitty" for her feline ways, she usually avoided water at all costs.
However she did find herself a very useful job she could do for the pirate crew and one which enabled her to keep her feet on dry land. As she was one of the few who could read, write and do arithmetic, Kitty set up a shop called The Lavender Pillow in Mevagissey, which provided a respectable-looking outlet for all manner of goods (although no one actually thought of her as being respectable). On occasion, the pirates would return from their voyages with the odd bolt of silk or several yards of velvet; a barrel of rum or a bag of spices. A trinket here, a bauble there – Kitty was able to find a home for it all. This was a very lucrative trade for both her and the pirates, and one which continued for many happy years.
Magpie Meg is a gipsy, a teller of fortunes and it’s whispered, that she is also a thief. That’s about all we know about her.
Nobody knows where she’s from, nor when she got here, but she’s one of the longest-standing members of the Pirates of St Piran. Talking of long stands, Meg has a special gift or two, but be sure to check your pockets after meeting her. It is said that she once stole a man’s peg leg without him noticing until he turned to walk away. She is also one of the scariest pirates you will ever meet
There's not a lot known about Jonathon Eagles before he turned up one morning at the harbour with a mind to join a pirate crew. 'Tis said he be the son of a lord but his taste for adventure got him mixed up with some evil fellows, leading him to be cast out by his family.
Whatever, he be a fine surgeon. There's many a lad owes his life to Eagles' skills with a saw, a knife, a needle and thread.
Steel Eye Nic Palmer
Born around 1720 in the slums of Plymouth, Steel Eye survived by learning the trade of the finger smith (pickpocket) and stealing. In his teenage years, he moved on to being a footpad* on Dartmoor. One night, he had taken his leave of the moorland to go drinking in a dockside tavern. Having finished his grog, he suddenly noticed a king’s shilling sitting in the bottom of his tankard… and a press gang stood behind him.
He remembered nothing of what happened after, until he woke up swaying in a ship’s hammock with a lump on his head. Nic Palmer begrudgingly served seven years aboard that ship in His Majesty's Navy.
The ship was anchored in Mevagissey one night and as usual, Nic and the crew went carousing in a harbour side tavern. After several hours of relaxation, he found himself in an argument with the ship’s bo’sun** who claimed Nic couldn't hold his grog, the bo’sun was keeping an eye on him. Well Nic was so offended at this; he leaped across the table, pulled out his steel dagger and cut out one of the bo’sun's eyes, shouting: "Well now you really keep an eye on me. Yarr!"
After a short, vicious swordfight with a few of the other crew, Nic dashed out of the tavern and ran through the dark lanes of Mevagissey, later sneaking back to the shore where he hid in the bowels of a moored ship.
Unknown to him, that ship was called The Phoenix, crewed by the Pirates of St Piran. Fortunately for Nic the swarthy bunch of pirates took him in and gave him food and grog. Nic, having finished the grog (which seemed unusually strong) once again woke up swinging in a ship’s hammock with a sore head, but this time he was at sea with a pirate crew. Some say Nic Palmer still carries the bo’sun’s eye in a small bottle about his person, best not to ask him though, as he might add to his eyeball collection.
He also drinks from a glass-bottomed tankard as you just never know what might be lying in the dregs.
* One who robs on foot, sometimes using a pole to knock gentlemen off their horses. Other times they skulk, when skulking is called for, and one leaps out to grab the horse while his partner in crime pulls the unfortunate soul from the saddle and robs him.
** A supervisor, responsible for planning, scheduling, and assigning work.
Finnegan had no interest in metalwork but, in a bid to please his father, he thought of a quick way to make more money. After a bit of practice he started to wrap the silver expertly around a base of copper or tin. Surely nobody could tell the difference, so he charged the prices for solid silver.
This little scam worked well until a regular customer, who had bought what he believed to be a solid silver cane, discovered the truth. He had dropped the cane from his carriage, and the wheels had run it over… revealing the shining copper core underneath.
As you can imagine, he wasn’t happy and hired thugs to beat some sense into the lad. As luck would have it, the night they came for him, he was in the company of one of his sisters’ many friends. From his vantage point in the stables he could see the men approach, which gave Finnigan an advantage.
He sneaked into the family’s silversmithing workshop and grabbed as much of the merchandise as he could carry.
It was easily enough for him to barter a passage on a merchant ship heading south and, having worked his way round some of Europe’s finest ladies of noble birth, helping himself to the odd trinket he’s sure they won’t miss, Finnigan continues to ply his trade in silver.
To that, this Pirate of St Piran has since added a fine appreciation for gold. So watch out, ladies, if you like to display your pretty baubles for, the moment your husband turns his back, Finnigan might try to persuade you to part with more than you bargained for. Don’t say we didn’t warn you…
It was an unusual start in life. Cassandra was born into a troupe of wandering minstrels who scraped a living by travelling all over the Continent, performing for whoever would pay or feed them.
On one particularly fateful day the troupe pitched camp just outside a coastal village in Brittany and unknown to Cassandra, a very unfortunate set of circumstances were about to turn her world upside down. Following an altercation with the owner of the village’s hostelry who refused to pay them for entertaining his customers, the landlord and his wife were both taken with a fever. Their wine stocks inexplicably turned sour and their chickens stopped laying. The villagers immediately turned their suspicions on the exotic troupe, accusing them of witchcraft and putting the evil eye on these poor unfortunate souls.
It then wasn't long before an angry mob burst into the travellers’ camp just as they were packing up to leave and brutally hanged every one of them… or so they thought. Everyone except Cassandra, who had taken quite a shine to a member of the crew of a pirate ship that, was anchored nearby. Fortunately for her she was just saying her fond farewells to him when the attack took place. Witnessing the aftermath of the tragedy that had befallen her lifelong companions, Cassandra was easily convinced by the pirate that he should spirit her away to hide on-board the ship until they set sail.
A few hours’ refuge turned into a day and a night; and a week and a year or longer. Cassandra blossomed among her new family, the Pirates of St Piran. Her entertainment skills had made her fearless so she learned to sail, shoot and swordfight remarkably quickly. But what they really appreciated was her musical talent. There’s nothing a pirate likes than a good shanty, and Cassandra teaches them all the tunes they could wish for.
“I, Daniel ˜The Pirate’ Avery, grew up on the streets of London an’ worked in a tavern until I set off to see the world. I joined a carnival and travelled around all England, learning the tricks of the trade, after which I set off to ply my trade in the grand houses and bustling marketplaces in hotter climes.
"Having reached Constantinople to the east and the Canaries to the west, my attentions turned to Cornwall and in particular, the islands of Scilly. There, barrels of rum were fathomed, wenches plundered, and mead swigged.
"From my Cornish base, I set out on numerous quests at sea, hunting for treasure, wrestling with sharks and battling storms on the sapphire seas, crewing for Captain Pender. On the islands the folks grew to know me well for my adventures in smugglers’ caves or burying rum on the beaches.
"But one wench in particular caught my eye. With the Excise men closing in on my activities we two fled the Island and fell in with a lively band of Pirates, The Pirates of St Piran.
"While some seemed scared of her – and apparently with good cause – she and I were soon as one, although this was not to last! I quickly returned to my old ways, no longer bound to her restrictions. I can now be found in your local Tavern with me tankard full of ale - chasing Wenches, Harlots, Serving Maids, Wives, Sisters, Daughters, and Grandmothers and best you hide your pets too as all that chasing makes me hungry. You best keep an eye out cos Danny the Pirate just made port. Arrrrrr!!!!
Mazie Carmen Kneebone
I was born in Gulval near Penzance. My parents had a farm and at 15 I ran away with my father’s farmhand, James. We went to London to seek our fortune. I was disowned by my family and times were hard but James worked in the docks and I had a job in a tavern on Thameside. Then the Press gang came looking for men for the Navy and they took James.
In the tavern I had heard many tales of men jumping ship and joining pirates. I thought it was the sort of thing James would do so I decided to see if I could join the pirates. I had to wait sometime but eventually heard that there were some in the tavern. I went home, cut off my hair and dressed in the boy’s clothes I had collected.
The pirates had a tender moored at the bottom of the steps below the tavern. I waited at the bottom of the steps for them. I was so scared. Finally the pirates came at dusk. There was one pirate who was especially terrifying and he shouted at me to get out of the way. I was almost too frightened to speak but managed to ask if I could join them on their ship. Several of the men laughed, one even asked where my parents were. I told them I didn't have any. The big and scary pirate said they could do with someone to do the dirty jobs as they had lost several hands in a recent battle. The rest weren't too keen and said that the Captain wouldn't like it but he could throw me overboard and no one would miss me.
I convinced them I was serious and they said they would be sailing in two hours, if I had collected my things together, to meet them in time to sail. Once on board ship I became the Cook's skivvy. I was careful at all times to hide the fact that I was a woman but some of the female pirates questioned me and realised I was a woman. Luckily they put me under their protection.
There were battles with Navy ships and the fighting was very frightening. I learned to hide my fear and tend to the wounded, doing everything that I was asked to do. In time I was accepted and allowed to stay on board ship.
I am still searching for James.
Mad Mary Peg
She's The barmaid from Hell and all breakages will be paid for, in blood if necessary. Mary was born aboard a pirate ship after her mother was captured and forced to become the Captains woman. The Pirate captain allowed them to live aboard the ship believing that Mary was his daughter.
She was taken captive and at the mercy of the buccaneers until she used all her charm and persuasive ways to gain the interest and protection of the captain. Indeed, things turned out so well that she lived and worked quite happily at sea for the next 30 years alongside her fellow pirates, until her ship was sunk in a sea battle against a far superior Navel vessel hell bent on the destruction of all pirates. Miraculously was the only surviver and she swam ashore. Making her living as best she could working in a tavern called The Mermaid Inn hoping to persuade anothe ship to take her on.
Unfortunately, this may take some time as she always insists on bein accompanied by her constant companion, Nora who is a large black rat.
Rapscallion Roger Rook
Born 5 July 1670 to an unknown father and a mother of deeply questionable morals, Roger reached the age of 14 years and decided he was old enough to leave behind a miserable life, and sought to change his fortunes.
Driven by a passion for all things nautical – a life next to the Thames was the reason for that – he decided to make his way to Plymouth. On his arrival, a severe shortage of money and food forced him into a job sweeping floors for a local cooper. This soon led to links with the local hostelries in which he quickly became a familiar face.
After numerous visits to the local taverns and many a shenanigan later, he earned the nickname “Rapscallion” which stuck with him from then on. On his regular merry outings he heard frequent tales of life at sea, something which he had lost sight of since his arrival. Eventually he chose to go west, in search of the nautical life once more.
En route to Falmouth – a choice made for him rather than by him – Roger rested overnight at the Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor. After a heavy night on the grog he overheard two wreckers talking about their pending foray on the morrow. An easy way to get rich quick, thought Rapscallion, who followed the pair to Mevagissey. The wreckers' plan was to take a ship the following night and store the spoils back at the Inn. From what Roger could glean, this was something of a regular occurrence.
Without their kno wledge, he followed the wrecking crew up to the cliff top. "I need to get closer," he thought to himself, stumbling forward just as the wreckers uncovered their lamps!
Briefly blinded by the intense light, Roger lost his footing and fell. All he could recall later were the pain, darkness... and silence.
He opened his eyes to dim light, a throbbing skull and a familiar smell... grog.
In a very unusual act of pity, the two fellows had found Rapscallion and taken him to their local haunt, that notorious den of pirates called The Mermaid Inn.
There, Rapscallion made the acquaintance of Tobias Judge and Steeleye Nic Palmer, two infamous members of a crew known internationally as the Pirates of St. Piran. He seemed like a good fit for the crew and, having explained rum-barrel construction duties aboard and the ways of pirate life, Roger thought, "Huzzah! An even quicker way to get rich." So with them he has stayed to this day, relishing a life at sea as a loyal member of the crew.
Having started his life on a narrow boat on the Thames, Edgy took to piracy like a duck to canals. He spent 15 years learning the â€˜trade’ of smuggling and was fortunate enough to win his own boat, The Black Swan, in a game of liar dice. He insists to this day it was an honest game, but who could miss that twinkle in his eye?
As the captain of The Black Swan, Edgy sailed the Thames from Lechlade to London, smuggling brandy and rum and selling it to the rich lords and squires who owned the estates through which he sailed, all the while managing to keep one step ahead of the King’s Men. â€˜I was asked to carry a cargo for a wealthy squire with no questions asked,’ he recalls, â€˜but was captured by the customs men and before I knew it, I found myself in Newgate prison. My crime was not what I would call serious, but it was enough for me to be transported on a prison ship to South Australia.
Fortunately ther e was a bad storm in the Channel so I was released from my shackles to help crew the ship. While climbing the rigging, I could see the shore not more than a league hence. Knowing a terrible fate might await me in the new lands; I took a chance and dived into the crashing waves.
I was a strong swimmer, but the storm was among the fiercest I had ever witnessed. I bound myself with rope to a piece of flotsam and lost consciousness. When I came to, I was still bound to the wood – but could feel the sun on my back. I had made it to shore, and had travelled quite some distance for, as I soon discovered, I was on the south-west coast, near the famous port of Mevagissey. Once fully recovered, I met Swillin’ Billy Flynn who, having heard of my adventure, invited me to join the Pirates of St Piran.’
"I was one of a family of 12 but tired of having to share everything with my siblings, and dreamed of being independent.
That’s why I ran away to the nearby harbour at Charlestown. When I arrived I saw a ship and ran towards it, climbed up a loose rope and jumped on board.
I quickly ran down to the lower deck and hid behind some barrels of rum.
"After hiding for a while, I decided to see if I could get an idea of where we were headed. I soon realised that I was on a pirate ship but luckily the pirates decided I could stay and entertain them as part of the ship’s shanty singing gang, "the wailing crew".
Aggie 'The Sly Dog' Haynes
I was born to a wench who had a love affair with a pirate. The sea and pirates were in my blood. I grew up in poverty and eventually became a maid for a wealthy landowner. But the sea was calling. After years of being a skivvy to my employer waiting on him hand and foot I finally rebelled, I ran him through, stole his money and ran away to become a pirate.
I wanted the wealth, the freedom and the revenge. I was soon Nicknamed "the
sly dog" due to my two faced and cunning nature. I can reel you in with my friendly ways yet happily stab you in the back at the same time. Anyone who tries to control me, beware as this is a dangerous thing to do. For the last that tried ended up meeting my cutlass.
Born the daughter of the infamous highwayman George Keene, Lusty Payne grew up among the thieves and
where she learned the tricks of her trade.
Many a time would she accompany her father on his heists using her charms and angelic voice to lure patrons to their
Life was good with much si
nging, drinking and frolicking among the bars and taverns
verything changed when
in the dead of night
in the care of the Pirates of St
with nothing more then his highwayman coat. Lusty Payne became known for her
with a needle fixing
and clothing with unworldly ability (
she is willing to ink the needl
e for tattoos if necessary
and the price is right
). Lusty now sails with the Pirates hoping to find the answers to her father
s disappearance and to avenge him.