Every year on 19th September, the world is invited to celebrate Talk like a Pirate Day and there is no better place to do it than North Devon! Not only was North Devon the base for several of the world’s most fearsome pirates, but traditionally, pirates had a West Country accent, something you’ll find in abundance here in North Devon!
While a lot of what we hear pirates say has been immortalised by Hollywood, the vast majority of the names synonymous with piracy were actually from the west country. Of course, there were pirates from all over the world, but several of the British pirates hailed from Devon, Bristol, Cornwall and Dorset, which is likely why the West Country accent is often associated with pirates on screen.
It isn’t just the accent that is associated with pirates, the whole of the south west coast was integral to piracy, with its many coves providing plenty of places to smuggle and hide ships and other stolen treasures. It was also on an international trading route, marking it for pirates around the world. The fearsome Barbary Pirates in particular were prevalent in the area.
Did you know that Devon was one of the most popular targets for pirates for around three centuries? Many pirates used Lundy Island, just off the coast as a base as it gave them easy access to various shipping routes through the Bristol Channel. One of the most famous pirates from this age was William de Marisco or William Marsh. He was born in the 1200s and was the unofficial owner of Lundy Island for a time. The castle that can be found on the island was built under his orders and is known as Marisco today. Among other things, William de Marisco and his associates would attack and plunder ships travelling through the Bristol Channel and would attack the coastline of Devon. He did get his comeuppance in the end, becoming one of the first people to be hung, drawn and quartered, a popular punishment handed out by the monarchy.
In 1242, Henry III, who was on the throne at the time, sent an army to invade Lundy Island and capture Marisco. He and 16 others were taken to the Tower of London where they were tried for treason.
He wasn’t the only one who set up camp on Lundy Island to carry out his nefarious deeds. Several pirates throughout the ages lived there and caused problems all the way through to the reign of Elizabeth I.
You can find out more about North Devon’s pirate history by visiting the museum in Appledore and taking the ferry or helicopter over to Lundy Island. How many pirate terms can you link back to west country slang? Let us know, you can get in touch with us on Twitter and Facebook.