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Many thanks to The Old Dyke for this (true) story! Mixed Moss

Coincidentally, her site also mentions two other women who appear in Tom's songs; Grace Darling and Mary Rogers

PS: (01 06) My old friend and bandmate Duncan McFarlane has just staggered me by telling me about this song, which he wrote 18 months before I finished mine - though I started scribbling about 3 years ago. Neither of us had any idea the other was onto the same story - having come across Mary from two totally different sources!

I am a maid both brave and brawn

Of independent mind

The coquettes dance, the coy romance

For these I had no time

My sole desire in man’s attire

To sail a Man o' War

And scorn the path to home and hearth

Of gentle maids ashore


But lately on the long night watch

Beneath the velvet sky

The stench of battle stops my throat

And slaughter slurs my eye

The scars upon my weathered skin

Seem ugly cruel and sore

My thoughts return to hearth and home

And gentle maids ashore


It was not but three days gone by

We stole a captive crew

This comely lad he’s caught my eye

And pierced my heart full through

He smiles at me but does he see

A buccaneer or more? Surely

He'd prefer the tender care

Of gentle maids ashore?


Last night upon the leeward rail

He slipped and fell askew

And in my haste I caught his waist

And straightaway I knew

A form so fine and firm as mine

It flushed me to the core

And thus 'tis why my dreams imply

Gentle maids ashore



Ann Bonney and Mary Read (all from The Old Dyke Website)

Born around 1697, in County Cork, Ann was taken by her father to his plantation near Charleston in North Carolina. Always wayward and uncontrollable, she excelled in the unwomanly sports of shooting and fencing, and was not afraid of using her fists. She left her father's house to marry a seafarer; William Bonney, and lived him in New Providence (now Nassau) a notorious haven for pirates. But William disappointed his wife by becoming a spy for the Crown, and she began a liaison with a real buccaneer Jack Rackham, known as "Calico Jack."

Bonney divorced her by the traditional means of "selling" her in the marketplace, where she was "bought" by Calico Jack, to sail together in his ship "The Revenge" flying the Jolly Roger. Always wearing male attire at sea, Ann fought with gun and blade alongside the crew when capturing and boarding their prizes. Not one for strict fidelity, she took a fancy to a young shipmate, only to discover he was yet another woman disguised as a man... Mary Read.

Mary had been a soldier in the British Army, serving in Flanders during the Spanish War of the Succession. She left off her disguise to marry a fellow soldier, but after his death re-enlisted as a man, in a regiment bound for the West Indies. The boat was taken by "The Revenge" and Mary found herself in New Providence where she took ship with Calico Jack and caught Ann Bonney's eye.

However "The Revenge" was captured by a naval English Man O' War in 1720. The crew was taken to Jamaica where they were tried for piracy, found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged. However, Ann and Mary both escaped execution by "pleading their bellies" a ruse not uncommon with women prisoners to ensure a stay of execution. Later Ann was reprieved, and seemingly turned over a new leaf for no more records of them appear in history. Mary too vanishes, though some references say she died of a miscarriage also in 1720.