Sunday, 6 September 2009

Introduction to Bimshaw, the Pirate 1918

Real Facts Told in the Story of "Bimshaw, the Pirate"

This introductory letter appeared in the November 1918 issue of "The American Boy" magazine along with the first instalment of the serial fiction Bimshaw, the Pirate by A. Hyatt Verrill.
Digitized by Doug Frizzle, September 2009.

THE STORY of Bimshaw, the Pirate, is by no means pure fiction. Nearly all the incidents in the story actually occurred and many of the characters really existed. The sack of Margarita, and other places, was carried out much as described in the tale; the destruction of Nevis is an historical fact and one may still see the ruins of the old town beneath the sea, and Bimshaw, Hawkins, Grommet Legs and others were living:, well known characters in the old buccaneering days.
Mr. Verrill, the author, who is familiar to many of THE AMERICAN BOY readers, has lived and traveled for nearly thirty years in the West Indies and South America and on his travels has gathered much interesting information and many little known facts, some of which he has woven into this story of bygone days when pirates and freebooters roved the Spanish Main and the "Jolly Roger" was the terror of all who sailed the Caribbean Sea.
The house, in which Bimshaw and Brant lived, after settling down and abandoning the trade of pirates, still stands and the author has frequently stopped therein. It is a massive structure of stone on a little hill overlooking a charming bay, and from its gallery one may look far across the blue Caribbean with the hazy outlines of the islands in the distance. The cocoanut trees, under which the Noseless pirate was buried, still wave their nodding heads above the buildings which are surrounded by a thick wall and a moat, as though designed to withstand a siege. Under the buildings are numerous vaults and underground storerooms in which, perchance, old Bimshaw stored some of his booty, while the balustrade to the front steps is formed of ancient musket barrels, — truly a fitting residence for a retired pirate chieftain.
The islands, on which the pirates stored their treasure, have also been visited by Mr. Verrill and on one occasion he camped for several weeks' on the little Key described in the story. Here the remains of ancient pirates' forts, houses and cisterns are still standing, cut from the solid rock, and there are also numerous caves which bear evidences of former occupancy and, no doubt, at one time served as hiding places for pirates’ loot.
The incident of the whalers, and their clever capture of the mutineers, was an actual occurrence, and a full account of the deed was found by Mr. Verrill in an old whalers' log book in a Massachusetts town once famous as a whaling port.
Bimshaw himself was also an historical character, but slightly altered in the story, and many of the descendants of the slaves still live in Barbados. "In the bloody days of Cromwell," says Mr. Verrill, "Scotch and Irish prisoners were taken and were sold to the Barbados planters as slaves for 1500 pounds of sugar apiece. As these people wore kilts and had bare knees they were nicknamed 'red legs' and their lot was most pitiable. Some, like Bimshaw's parents, were bought by planters who secretly were in sympathy with their cause and were well treated; but the majority were branded like cattle and were treated far more cruelly than the negro slaves of the islands."

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.