GENTLE MAIDS ASHORE
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.