Set Sail Trust

Pirates & Privateers

Brian Delboy was down on his luck. He looked around at his crew and despaired. ‘Dangerous Brian’ he was known as in the pirating world – what a joke!

He looked again at his scruffy and despondent men and thought of a conversation he had had in the tavern the week before.

“Listen here me hearties- I’ve an idea – one last chance for us to lay up boat- loads of money for our old age!”

The crew of the ‘Deadly Bladderwrack’ grunted – more ideas! They stayed slumped on deck, taking no notice. Dangerous Brian tried once more:

“Tomorrow I’m going to get me a Letter from Mark! One-eyed Jack says if we got one of these we can pirate any ships we want!”

The crew looked up, all ears (those that had them) – this was a new one!

Peg Leg Pete guffawed, “A letter from… Cap’n – where you get one of those? Anyhows – you can’t read!”

“The Admiralty” snapped Brian.

There was a sharp intake of breath – The Admiralty! The headquarters of the Royal Navy – the sworn enemy of all pirates!
The crew looked at Brian with new respect.

Early next morning, Dangerous Brian presented himself at the door to the Admiralty. “Avaast me hearty – now who do I see about this letter from Mark?”

The Admiralty doorman looked him up and down slowly and then rather reluctantly pointed to his left. “The Letter of Marque office is at the end of that corridor – knock on the door and wait. Mr Smith will call you in’”

To keep his spirits up Brian stomped loudly down the corridor in his best piratical fashion – but he knocked politely on the door. “Come in!”

Brian pushed open the door and saw a little man in a severe black suit standing beside an enormous desk. Dangerous Brian puffed out his chest and thrust a dirty bag full of dubloons and pieces of eight towards Mr Smith. “Now matey, there’s me money, where’s me letter from Mark?!”

Mr Smith, somewhat taken aback, bowed in the politest of fashions and pointed to a chair. “Do sit down Mr…”

“Dangerous Brian is me name.” said Brian as he slumped into the seat.

“Well, Mr. Brian – there are one or two things we need to talk about before I accept your money. Let me explain. A Letter of Marque is given by the King. It allows private individuals to make war on his enemies on his behalf, during the present conflict. It means Mr. Brian that you will be acting as a member of his Majesty’s forces and fighting for the King.”

Brian looked blank.

“I take it Mr. Brian – that you are – um – a pirate?”

“Slap me vitals Smithy – of course I am! Now where’s me letter? I’m itching to get stuck into them defenceless merchant ships. I mean, begging your pardon Smithy – the Kings enemies!”

“Quite so, Mr. Brian- but if I could just ask you a few questions…. your boat and crew…..? Past experience?”

Brian gave him a lurid and detailed account of his highly suspect career sparing none of the gory details. He was determined to impress.
After about 15 minutes, Mr. Smith, looking slightly sick, gestured him to stop.

“Thank you Mr. Brian – I think I have all we need. We shall be in touch.”

Brian rose out of the chair, gave a cheery ‘bye bye’ to Mr Smith, threw open the door (almost knocking over a tall, well dressed figure waiting outside) and stomped off. Mr. Smith greeted this next visitor with a low bow. “Captain Tupper from Guernsey? – a pleasure to meet you at last sir.”

“The pleasure is all mine Mr. Smith. Now, I understand that you have my application for a Letter of Marque – but if I may just confirm the details with you?”

Mr. Smith sat behind his desk as Captain Tupper consulted his portfolio.

“I understand that I am only entitled to attack ships of the King’s enemies and when they are taken they will be condemned as ‘prizes’ and sold – their cargo too of course. I understand that any profit will be shared amongst the myself as the Captain and my crew – not equally of course!”

“Indeed not ‘ said Mr. Smith – quite shocked at the idea. “But I must congratulate you Captain Tupper, you seem remarkably well informed.”

“Indeed sir, a number of we Guernseymen have some experience in this privateering business. In fact I myself have already been of some service to admirals Torrington and Russell before the recent battle of Barfleur.”

Mr. Smith jumped up from behind the desk. “Excellent, excellent! You have your financial surety there I see – so I will have my office draw up your Letter of Marque immediately.”

He went to open the door, but Captain Tupper hesitated. :Forgive me, but that very disreputable gentleman – though I hesitate to use such a term – who left as I came in, surely you are not considering him for a Letter of Marque?”

Mr. Smith looked a bit sheepish “Well he is very enthusiastic and he does have certain skills – and His Majesty needs all the help he can get…..”

Tupper looked at him sternly: “A pirate as a privateer! In the King’s service! What is the world coming to!”

Should Dangerous Brian get his ‘Letter from Mark’? What do you think?

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