"Säbelmensur", Gemälde von Georg Mühlberg (1863-1925)
Talk Like a Pirate Day
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!"
The traditional definition of a "swashbuckler" is as ‘a swaggering bravo or ruffian; a noisy braggadocio’, someone who ‘swashed his buckle’. To ‘swash’, in the sixteenth century, was to dash or strike something violently, while a ‘buckler’ was a small round shield, carried by a handle at the back. So a swashbuckler was literally one who made a loud noise by striking his own or his opponent’s shield with his sword.
"Fifteen men on the dead man's chest—
...Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest—
...Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!"
September 19th is "Talk Like a Pirate Day"! And if you prefer to drink like a pirate, rum would be the historically accurate choice.
Some of the many other names for rum are Nelson's blood, kill-devil, demon water, pirate's drink, navy neaters, and Barbados water. A version of rum from Newfoundland is referred to by the name screech, while some low-grade West Indies rums are called tafia.
The alcoholic beverage most associated with pirates is rum. Rum has a long association with the British and American navies as a primary liquor ration.
Rum would often be the downfall of many pirate crews. Unlike military and merchant ships where some kind of controlling authority oversaw the amount of rum being consumed, this was not the case on many a pirate ship. There are several accounts of pirate ships easily being boarded because the ship's crew was too drunk to fight.
Besides the dance's namesake, several notable pirates, privateers and swashbucklers hail from Scotland, including the infamous Captain Kidd.
The traditional definition of a "swashbuckler" as it appears by the Oxford English Dictionary is as ‘a swaggering bravo or ruffian; a noisy braggadocio’, someone who ‘swashed his buckle’. To ‘swash’, in the sixteenth century, was to dash or strike something violently, while a ‘buckler’ was a small round shield, carried by a handle at the back. So a swashbuckler was literally one who made a loud noise by striking his own or his opponent’s shield with his sword.
Captain William Kidd (1645 -1701) was a Scottish sailor who was tried and executed for piracy after returning from a voyage to the Indian Ocean. Some modern historians deem his piratical reputation unjust, as there is evidence that Kidd acted only as a privateer. Kidd's fame springs largely from the sensational circumstances of his questioning before the English Parliament and the ensuing trial.
The belief that Kidd had left buried treasure contributed considerably to the growth of his legend. This belief made its contributions to literature in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Gold-Bug," Washington Irving's "The Devil and Tom Walker," Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" and Nelson DeMille's "Plum Island."
For more about the ongoing search for Captain Kidd's legendary treasure and a find of a silver ingot in 2015 believed to part of this booty from the wreck of his ship, Adventure Galley, click the 1902 illustration by Howard Pyle of "The True Captain Kidd" which appeared in Harper's Monthly magazine.
To see the dance performed by the Mountain View Class, RSCDS San Francisco Branch, see below.