“Ahoy me hearties, where be them blasted buccaneers?”
Once upon a time the answer may well have come back:
“Why Tobago Cap’n, Tobago. They’re all holed up in that evil island of Tobago”
For at one time the Caribbean was pirate central, and at its epi-centre stood Trinidad and, in particular, Tobago.
No other island in the Caribbean had such an unsettled, highly conflicted past. Fought over by the Dutch, the English and the French – Tobago changed hands over thirty times – reflecting the ceaseless European turbulence back then. I reckon perhaps this lack of stability and the presence of trade-able wealth likely provided perfect conditions for lawlessness.
And a glance at the navigation chart reveals an unwholesome swash-buckle of piratical nomenclature; names like Galleon Passage, Englishman’s Bay, Bloody Bay, Man of War Bay, and Pirates Bay. For ever since Columbus’s ‘discovery’ of Trinidad and Tobago, this part of the world has seen the consignment of vast ship loads of riches back to the Old World. First it was Incan gold departing the Spanish Main, then sugar, rum, and cocoa. A successful interception of one or two of these heavy laden merchantmen could bring instant wealth to a crew with a swift barky and a willingness to spill blood.
For most of the 17th and 18th centuries Trinidad and Tobago became a haven for those archetype pirates, so famous in popular culture. Edward Teach, a.k.a. “Blackbeard”, raided the coasts and the shipping of these islands. Sir Henry Morgan sailed these waters, as did Anne Bonny and her friend Mary Read. Both were notorious lady pirates, as villainous and bloodthirsty as Captain Hook.
But what’s left to see of this fabulous piratical past – not much apart from the names on the chart. This largely accounts for my blank photo leading this story – although not quite. I could have included some photos of some of the fortifications that still exist around Tobago (yep lots more canons).... ‘cept I lost our camera – left it on a Tobagan bus seat. Bugger!
“Sixteen men on a dead man’s chest, yo ho ho and a bottle or rum!”
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