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Famous Pirates from Bristol

Updated on April 1, 2013

Pirates from Bristol

Blackbeard, the most famous pirate from Bristol
Blackbeard, the most famous pirate from Bristol

Cannon being raised


Why are pirates called pirates? Because they ‘are’. Good joke yes, but why did they ‘are’ and what did pirates of the past do and who were they? Well coming from the west of England I can see the joke as most of the country folk round here ‘ar’ as they speak.Being that the port of Bristol was home to some well known pirates it is obvious to me that the West Country dialect was one that most pirates would have used. Take Blackbeard for example. Born c 1680 in Redland Bristol this pirate became the scourge of the western Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean. Re capturing a ship from the French, the Concorde, and renaming it the Queen Anne’s Revenge, his part in pirate history assured. It is not known how many vessels Blackbeard captured during his exploits, but a database compiled by museum researchers currently contains over 45 prizes which can be directly attributed to Blackbeard’s activities. Blackbeard was eventually tracked down to Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina by the Royal Navy and killed in a brief, but bloody battle on 22 November 1718.

Woodes Rogers

Another Pirate with Bristol connections was Woodes Rogers. Woodes Rogers was born around 1679. In the beginning of his career, Rogers was just an ordinary seaman and merchant. During the period between 1708 and 1711 he led a privateering expedition with two ships, the "Duke" and the "Duchess". Authorized by a group of Bristol merchants, Woodes' crew were supposed to harass the Spanish colonies throughout the coasts of Pacific. During the trip, in 1709, Rogers found and rescued Alexander Selkirk, sailor from Scotland who had been marooned there for 4 years. His personality and adventures later inspired Daniel Defoe to write famous novel, "Robinson Crusoe”. . Generally, the whole trip was very successful, and the privateers brought to England many values and one big prize ship. Rogers gained reputation and the English government appointed him to a much more dangerous task. In 1717 Rogers was officially appointed as the royal governor of the Bahamas. That region of the Caribbean was totally overwhelmed by pirates. The local governors were corrupted. They were paid well to turn blink-eye to the pirate's actions. Without any real authorities, the pirates massively gathered there and made their private heaven, doing everything they liked. In the following year, when Rogers arrived in New Providence, there were around 2000 pirates in Nassau and other local towns. Rogers was faced with serious problem to establish well-organized government and to force the pirates to surrender. Rogers had all the support, monetary and military from England. His main strategy was to offer the king's pardon to all pirates who would stop their activities immediately. Although a great number of pirates took amnesty, there were a dozen of the pirates who didn't think it was a good idea for them. Rogers even recruited from among those pardoned, because they knew the way of the pirates. Soon after, almost all sea-robbers in the area, were caught, sentenced, hanged or just killed in the battle. Rogers became their biggest enemy. All pirates feared and hated him. Some of them would just avoid the Bahamas and neighboring colonies at any cost.

Jolly Roger

The Jolly Roger was first used by the pirate Calico Jack
The Jolly Roger was first used by the pirate Calico Jack

John Rackham

Calico Jack was only a moderately successful pirate, but his charisma made him a legend. Born John Rackham he soon earned the nickname Calico from his flamboyant patterned clothing made from Indian calico. Starting as quartermaster on the pirate ship Treasure Neptune, Jack took over from its captain Charles Vane when he refused to plunder a French ship. Operating in the Caribbean Calico Jack soon built himself a reputation as a womanizing, well liked character. It was his love for two women in particular that Jack will be remembered for, Anne Bonny and Mary Read. It started when Calico Jack first stole Anne's heart, and together, they stole a ship and sailed between Haiti and Bermuda. He and Anne bore a child, but left it in Cuba so they could continue pirating. While looting a ship he noticed on the ships crew log a name he remembered: Mark Read. He signed Mark up to his ship only to see his Anne becoming more and more attached to this young lad. It turned out that Mark Read was really MARY Read and the whole matter was put right when it was found out Anne was just happy to have another woman on board. To have woman aboard a pirate ship went against the pirate code as woman were seen as unlucky. So Jack stood out from the other pirates. The other claim to fame Calico Jack had been as the inventor of the pirate flag the skull and crossbones. Before then each pirate operated under his own flag. Despite his charisma and luck with the ladies, Calico Jack was hunted down by Woodes Rogers and with his two female pirates tried and sentenced. The last words Anne Bonny said to Jack were “if you had fought like a man, you wouldn’t be hanged like a dog’.


Pirates in fiction

Treasure Island

With its links to piracy it is not surprising that Robert Louis Stevenson set some of Treasure Island in Bristol. In fact it is in Bristol we first meet long John Silver. With his West Country accent, peg leg and parrot it is Silver that gave us some of the most recognizable popular features of a pirate.

Captain Hook

Captain Hook the popular villain in Peter Pan
Captain Hook the popular villain in Peter Pan

Captain Pugwash

More fictional pirates

Peter Pan,
Captain Hook was a nasty character who lost his arm to a crocodile. In Never land, the lost boys have to share an island with him and his fellow pirates. But Peter Pan makes Hook walk the plank, and the crocodile is waiting.

The Pirates of Penzance

In The Pirates of Penzance the main character Frederic was as a child apprenticed to a band of tenderhearted, orphaned pirates by his nurse who, being hard of hearing, had mistaken her master's instructions to apprentice the boy to a pilot. Frederic, upon completing his 21st year, rejoices that he has fulfilled his indentures and is now free to return to respectable society. But it turns out that he was born on February 29 in leap year, and he remains apprenticed to the pirates until his 21st birthday. By the end of the opera, the pirates, a Major General who knows nothing of military strategy, his large family of beautiful but unwed daughters, and the timid constabulary all contribute to a cacophony that can be silenced only by Queen Victoria's name.

Captain Pugwash

 Captain Pugwash with a goatee beard and nasal voice captained the Black Pig and famously found no treasure at all. However he was a well loved children’s character.


Captain Jack Sparrow

Captain Jack Sparrow, played by Johnny Depp, is the star of the Pirates of the Caribbean films.  The character is thought to be inspired by Calico Jack.
Captain Jack Sparrow, played by Johnny Depp, is the star of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. The character is thought to be inspired by Calico Jack.


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    • profile image

      Lee Cloak 

      5 years ago

      very interesting and fun hub, great info, thanks!

    • Mystique1957 profile image


      10 years ago from Caracas-Venezuela

      Yarrr! Me mate Jayjay! Thought I forget ye? I´ll be damned by the seven seas if I did, me mate! Great thingy ye share here.Luved yer arrticle... Rrrated up and awesome!

      Parlay Blessings fer ye and yerr crew, darrling!

      Skipper Al

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks angela i'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I'll put a link to yours.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      10 years ago from United States

      Yes, I would love if you made a tag in your hub for mine. I actually enjoyed yours so much, that I ended up tagging this one in the conclusion of my hub!

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Bristol England

      Boo I'm from the gashead side of town-LOL glad you read the hub and realise I don't know much about football

    • BristolBoy profile image


      10 years ago from Bristol

      Never like the term Pirates with a Bristol connection - makes me think to much of Rovers (Im City!).

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks 2patricias for the comment, I'll look into finding the site you mentioned, thanks for the tip

    • 2patricias profile image


      10 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      Ahoy! That is a great hub. I think there is a website called something like 'talk like a pirate' - you might want to put a link on the very bottom of your hub. (We try not to put links further up because we think they lure readers away).

      Anyway, this is a very original and entertaining hub. thanks.

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks 2uesday, captain pugwash is certainly a face never to be forgot

    • 2uesday profile image


      10 years ago

      This is a very entertaining hub jayjay, it was enjoyable to read and had interesting videos about pirates too. I've not seen Captain Pugwash or heard the tune for years.Thank you.

    • Jan Sherwood profile image

      Jan Sherwood 

      10 years ago from Bristol, United Kingdom

      Very nice hub - I am a big fan of the Blackadder series. I am also a fellow Bristolian - alright me babber? :-)

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Bristol England

      Thank you for the comments guys I glad you enjoyed the hub, I enjoyed writing it

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      10 years ago from London, UK

      A lovely hub and very amusing to read. Thank you.

    • scarytaff profile image

      Derek James 

      10 years ago from South Wales

      Very nice hub, jayjay. It brought back memories of sailing out of Bristol for Bristol Steam Navigation in the 60's. I think that company was run by pirates.

    • suziecat7 profile image


      10 years ago from Asheville, NC

      This is a wonderful pirate Hub. I got a kick out of the Captain Pugwash video.


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