The Honorary Crew of Talk Like A Pirate Day

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While the Pirate Guys are glad t' welcome any and all to partake in the growing tradition of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, a handful o' special fans have managed to carve out a special place in our scurvy hearts (an' believe us, we have the scars t' show for it). Fer them - the few, the proud, the truly insane - we've decided t'bestow the honor o' Honorary Crew Members of Talk Like A Pirate Day.*

* And no, we're not takin' applications. We knows 'em when we sees 'em, an' that's that. What, you expected fair play? In th' immortal words o' Johnny Depp: "Uhhh ... pirates?"

The Official Talk Like A Pirate Day Birthday Boy

Harold the Horrible

Meet Harold the Horrible, born on 9-19-1919, which can't help but make him the Official Talk Like A Pirate Day Birthday Boy. The photo was shot at the 2009 Portland (Ore.) Pirate Festival, where he celebrated his birthday with thousands of other pirate fans, who gave him a booming Happy Birthday song and dance and a cheering crowd. Happiest o' birthdays to ye, mate, and may ye have many more!

The official ship's chaplain

Red Robin

Photography copyright (c) 2006 by Gareth Easton Photography.
Used by kind permission

Rev. Dr. "Red Robin" Hill

(and chaplain's assistant, Mrs McTavish, the virtual e-parrot)

2006: Red Robin strikes again!
And gets good press for TLAPD while he's at it. Way t' go, lad!

Every ship needs a chaplain, an' the Good Ship Festerin' Boil be no exception. So we were delighted t'hear from a real, live, honest-to-Him man o' th' cloth, the Rev. Dr. Robin Hill (a.k.a. “Red Robin”), minister to the Gladsmuir and Longniddry Parish Churches, East Lothian, Scotland an' a great fan o' International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Not only that, but the Reverand shared with us a sermon he's prepared for ITLAPD:

International Talk Like a Pirate Day
Sunday 19th September 2004

Readings: I Chronicles 17:16-22
Galatians 2:19-21
Luke 5:27-32

They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Arr, me hearties! Gather ye roun’, for this here’s a story worthy o’ the tellin’ - a story o’ callous abandon, dark despair an’ miraculous hope. Aye, an’ all ’pon the high seas.

Our tale, it do begin in the year o’ our Lord seventeen hunner an’ twenty five in the city o’ London: a fine an’ mirthsome place, an’ that I’m sure ye will agree. It were in that noble capital, in the reign o’ ol’ King George, that one John Newton were born - an’ born to a life o’ seafarin’ to boot.

Now little John Newton he saw some hardship in his young life, losin’ his mother as he did while still a nipper o’ seven short summers. But the lad were made o’ stern, seafarin’ stuff: the son o’ a merchant commander, he weresoon stridin’ the decks wi’ his father, the good salt breeze awash in his nostrils.

This Newton, he grew up fast. Despite only two years o’ formal schoolin’ on land, it were no time until he were a skilled hand aboard ship, lookin’ likely to make a fine livin’ for his sel’, plyin’ a watery trade all across the foamy main.

But treachery! Arr, treachery were afoot, an’ the unfortunate sailor boy were precious little equipped for the facin’ o’ it. While yet a fresh-faced youth, what should befall John but a harsh press-gangin’ by the gentlemen o’ the Royal Navy. Afore he could holler “Avast!”, yet had they dragged him into service, ’gainst both will an’ common decency.

Wicked degradation ensued, for John as for so many others o’ that benighted generation. Thrown on to the British man-o’-war, HMS Harwich, off he sped into uncertain mists, to suffer a terrible spell o’ cruelty.

Ee, it be hard e’en to picture in the mind’s eye how John kept his sanity. Indeed, mateys, there came the sad day when in port he did cry “Enough!” an’ ran off , intent ’pon desertion. Alas, an’ alack, his freedom were nought but short-lived, as a heavy brigade o’ burly Marines did set upon ’im an’ drag ’im back for a grim appointment wi’ the cat. Can’t ye just hear them nine accursed tails a-lashin’ to his pain an’ detriment?

Duly chastened, the demoted common seaman John Newton set sail once more, though his fortunes they did come to change. He espied an openin’ ’pon The Greyhound, a ship engaged in the vile trade o’ slavery. ’Fore long, he found his sel’ in a slave “factory” on the Plantain Isles off the coast o’ Sierra Leone.

Here he might have gained fortune - wealth beyond all human imaginin’. Yet once more did John find lady luck a-scowlin’ wi’ malicious intent. The factory’s master made the innocent incomer subservient to the point o’ bein’ little but a slave his sel’ - arr, an’ for two whole years an’ all. Only in seventeen hunner an’ forty eight did the beleaguered captive find his release, bein’ rescued by a sea captain o’ his father’s ken.

At last! Freedom came his way, yet - cruel irony o’ ironies - what did John go on to do, but take to a slave ship! The lad had learned not a jot from his entrapment an’ subsequent emancipation. No, sir! Instead o’ takin’ to honest endeavour to earn a crust, he did choose to ply his filthy trade in humankind, all the whiles allowin’ the gross indignity o’ fellow human bein’s there sufferin’ below decks. ’Twere shameful, an’ that’s a fact, friends.

But to be sure, John Newton’s come-uppance were not far distant. On the fateful night o’ the twenty first o’ March in seventeen hunner an’ forty eight, his life would change as swift as a greased porpoise. Voyagin’ from the tropical splendour o’ Brazil to Newfoundland’s chilly coast, John had many poor enslaved souls aboard his precarious vessel. She hit a storm o’ such ferocity that all hopeful thought seemed but futility itsel’. All the bailin’ an’ pumpin’ what John Newton could muster were insufficient to the task. Surely scores o’ lives would be lost, wi’ silent corpses descendin’ to the gloom o’ Davey Jones’s icy locker.

In the depths o’ despair did John Newton cry out, an’ that right earnestly. Seekin’ in his panic the mercy o’ God Almighty, he were amazed to find the howler a-blowin’ itsel’ out, to the pleasure o’ every man jack of ’em aboard. ’Twere a miracle o’ sorts, he reasoned. Divine intervention on a grand scale. Arr.

That night did John Newton come to faith (or, perchance, faith did come to him). Yet ’tis truly a thing o’ near unfathomable strangeness that e’en in the throes o’ his new-found religion, yet did he stay his course ’pon his foul trade in humanity, traffickin’ yet more slaves ’twixt the continents as though common commodities fit only for the buyin’ an’ sellin’. Misery. Misery. Thrice misery.

Maybe ’tis true what some folks say, as he committed his sel’ to a more humane treatment o’ his livin’ cargo - though that were about the limit o’ his consideration. For years to come did he serve ’board slave ships at the rank o’ cap’n.

Then, in the year o’ seventeen hunner an’ fifty four, did Cap’n Newton take port in fair St Kitts, where he ran across a mariner by name o’ Alexander Clunie, a sailor raised in ol’ Caledonia (home o’ many a bekilted adventurer, an’ no mistakin’). Clunie were a pious an’ honourable man who befriended John, helpin’ him to understand his Christian confession in depth - as though in an awesome light (e’en the light o’ a new dawn).

The comradeship o’ Clunie made its mark, causin’ a great turnin’ aroun’ in Newton’s life, an’ a realisation that the grace o’ God be wider than all the waters o’ the seven seas. Just as Jesus did call sinners like Levi (the hated exciseman) into his merry company o’ followers, so too could The Almighty come right close to the wayward John an’ bring him to a new an’ unexpected life o’ true forgiven-ness an’ humble service. For surely do St Luke relate to us the words o’ our Lord: “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

So then, me hearties, the time had come, once an’ for all, for a change o’ tack in the journeyin’ o’ bold John Newton. After prayin’ that he might leave the slave trade firmly in his wake, did he indeed find new portholes ’o opportunity openin’ afore ’im. Ere long he were playin’ the unlikely role o’ the land lubber, workin’ in a goodly job at the beauteous port o’ Liverpool, mindin’ the tides as would sweep in from Erin’s emerald isle.

Life away from the blue an’ briney were a mixed blessin’ for this son o’ the sea. While work were good an’ the livin’ not insubstantial, oft-times did John kick his heels in rank boredom. Turnin’ idleness to good advantage, did he choose to learn the Classics, becomin’ proficient in Latin, Hebrew an’ Greek, all the whiles growin’ in faith, an’ in wisdom too.

Wi’ his newfound book-learnin’, John were ready for a fresh moorin’ in some other harbour, an’ soon he felt a call to the ministry o’ the Church o’ England. After much to an’ fro wi’ high-falootin’ bishops o’ the Episcopal See (his evangelical fervour bein’ frowned upon by the painted an’ powdered lackies o’ the Establishment) did John Newton at last become curate o’ Olney in land-locked Buckinghamshire. A strange place for a man o’ the heavin’ main, ’tis clear, yet the good sheep o’ the parish warmed to their new shepherd o’ the flock.

’Twere there that serendipity did break forth into a wide an’ toothy grin. In Olney, a ready helpmate should come to John’s aid in the unlikely shape o’ one William Cowper. This poet o’ some standin’ came to bide in the parish in seventeen hunner an’ sixty seven. Fallin’ into camaraderie as quick as spit, the two men got to pennin’ some lines an’. Afore ye would know it, did they churn out hymns by the bucketload, with the partnership musterin’ in three shor’ years some 348 sacred songs (280 o’ them by John his sel’).

Among this godly an’ goodly selection were a hymn what spoke o’ the journey o’ faith undertaken by a certain sailor-cum-captive-cum-slavetrader-cum-minister - a hymn what would touch many a heart in its honesty, an’ become a favourite o’ sanctuary an’ poop deck alike. Set to a right bonny Scots melody, which itself had travelled far, this song did speak o’ divine love strong enough to set anchored souls a-coursin’ sure an’ stedfast o’er the ocean o’ life. Its first verse (resoundin’ wi’ autobiographical zeal) were to become perchance the most famed in all o’ world hymnody:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see.

So shipmates, that be the tale o’ one John Newton, which I trust ye have savoured well for your betterment. But what, I hear ye cry, o’ the lad John Newton in his later years? What befell him after his Olney days was past an’ gone?

Ah, surely that be a story in its sel’, as John he were called in seventeen hunner an’ seventy nine to minister back in his home patch, takin’ the pulpit o’ St Mary’s Woolnoth in dear ol’ London town, by the banks o’ the brown an’ filthy Thames. An’ who there did hear his preachin’ week by week, a-learnin’ from his homiletical orations? None other than William Wilberforce, that redoubtable hero o’ the faith, scourge o’ the slave trade an’ abolitionist extraordinaire. How fittin’ that the transformed John Newton should influence this great reformer, doubtless encouragin’ him in his life’s work o’ justice an’ peace for all humanity. Praise be!

When John Newton at last weighed anchor an’ cast off for a better shore on the twenty-first day o’ December eighteen hunner an’ seven, he bequeathed to this earthly realm a timeless memorial in song: aye, a testament to his life o’ inveterate sin, but far more a reminder o’ boundless, gracious redemption.

So then, master singers o’ the choir, clear yer gullets! Players o’ the band, whet yer whistles! Come lads and lasses all: join us in a rousin’ an’ heartfelt rendition o’ that beloved hymn, as we worship God in the singin’ o’ Amazin’ grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!


Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, Who called me here below,
Shall be forever mine.


Copyright © 2004 by Robin Hill. The above may be freely used in acts of worship, but must not otherwise be republished or reproduced, either in whole or in part, without the copyright holder’s prior permission.

The author gratefully acknowledges the following sources:

Armstrong, C.: The amazingly graced life of John Newton;

Cyber Hymnal:

Magnusson, M.: Chambers Biographical Dictionary; Edinburgh: Chambers (1990)

Rogers, A.: Amazing grace: the story of John Newton;

Wilson-Dickson, A.: The Story of Christian Music; Oxford: Lion (1992)

The author may be contacted at:

The official ship's jeweler

Sid Stevens

Sid Stevens

Sid Stevens, owner and master craftsmen at Sid Stevens Jewelers in Albany, Oregon (Team Pirate's home port) shows off the handsome brass medallion he created for the winner of our 2006 Buccaneer Bachelor contest.

The ship's signalman:

Peter Ansoff, who earned the position by sending us this:

signal flags

... with the note:

Most Excellent Wench,

I should respectfully wish to apply for the billet of Signalman in your crew. The attached photo, taken on September 19th last year in front of my house, will display my technique. Please note the creative use of the substitute pennants on the portside pole.

Very Resp'y

Peter Ansoff

(Treat the Webwench nice-like and ye never know what ye'll get).

Translation for the landlubbers:

The flags are those of the International Code of Signals (a whit
anachronistic, I grant). The ones on the starb'd pole are:


Which of course reads "YOHO."

The first two on the portside pole are


The third and fourth are the second and third substitute pennants,
respectively. The meaning of a substitute is "repeat the Xth flag in the
hoist." Thus, the second sub repeats the second flag (ROMEO), the third sub
repeats the third flag (which is the second sub, which in turn repeats the
second flag again). Thus, the meaning of the entire hoist is:


Or "ARRR."

The 5th flag is the answer pennant -- t'will do until my wife makes me a
fourth substitute!


The official ship's team:

The Hampstead & Westminster Pirates

These bold lasses play field hockey in and around the greater London area, sportin' the colors o' Talk Like A Pirate Day (that would be black and white, with a liberal sprinklin' o' skulls an' such). From the looks o' their photos, they be hard players an' hard drinkers (although the pictures we've seen show more o' the latter than the former).

Showin' the colors

Showin' the colors (that's our Web address below the skull-an'hockey-sticks!)

Hoistin' a few

The lasses refresh themselves after a match - or before?

Strategy and beer

Workin' on their strategy. With beer.

In full regalia

When the playin's done, the playin' commences. With more beer. Lasses after our own hearts, these Pirates be!

The Official Dogs of Talk Like A Pirate Day

Official TLAPD dogs

Owner Kathy Groschupf christens the Rover, the proud vessel o' Shiver Me Timbers (left) an' Swashbuckler (right), the Official Dogs O' Talk Like A Pirate Day

Kathy sent us the sad news that Swashbuckler died of lymphoma in August 2004. "Buckler" gave me what most dogs give their people, his love. But I don't think I have experienced anyone or anything that has given me more love than did "Buckler."

2005 update: Shiver Me Timbers has a new pal:

Pirate dogs

"Thought I'd let you know I have a new crew mate named Hearty Buccaneer. That is short for "Avast, Me Hearty Buccaneer!" She is no replacement for my brother, Swashbuckler, and no scurvy seadog, but she is a mighty fine pirate wench. Her mother is Swashbuckler's sister, so she looks like Swashbuckler. She was wondering if she could join me and Swashbuckler as an "Official Pirate Dog." We hear Kathy talking about pirates and Cap'n Slappy all the time, but especially on September 19."

2006: New photos of Shiver Me Timbers and Hearty Buccaneer

The official ship's Mom

Quasi-official ITLAPD Web sites around the world*

* One per country. If ye've got a site that ye think lives up t' th' spirit o' International Talk Like A Pirate Day, get in touch.

... an' we can't fergit our ol' pal an' faithful correspondent ...

Cap'n Sir Nigel Blackheart, Scourge o' the Seven Seas

We're not sure what his "official" capacity is, but he's made himself part o' the legend.