January 17, 2011

Gather 'round, ye scurvy dogs

Pirate expert John Horrigan will present a program next
month at the Londonderry Leach Library.
Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- From Barbary pirates to swarthy swashbucklers, Londonderry residents need not sail the seven seas to learn a thing or two about the pirating legacy.
On Feb. 10, New England folklorist and Watertown, Mass., resident John Horrigan will bring his informative program,
 “Ahoy Pirates!” to the Londonderry Leach Library.
“For centuries piracy has impacted national economies as privateers and pirates — some commissioned clandestinely by governments and monarchies — brutally preyed upon defenseless cargo ships and then absconded with their plunder,” Horrigan said during a phone interview this week. “Some of these treasures were never recovered.”
A lifelong history buff and self-professed “student of the odd side of history,” Horrigan said he’s more than once been referred to as “a time traveler
 traveling without a license.” In the course of his research on shipwrecks and maritime disasters, the lore of the pirate soon became entrenched in his knowledge. 

“Piracy has been around for 1,500 years,” Horrigan said, though he noted interest in the topic has recently experienced a resurgence following the success of Johnny Depp’s popular “Pirates of the Caribbean” film series, a phenomenon that’s led to many requested appearances at New England college campuses. 
During next month’s program, Horrigan will transport listeners to the high seas to explore the history of pirates and privateers through paintings, portraits and maps. 
Beginning with the Golden Age of Piracy, he promised to progress through the centuries to the contemporary pirates who lurk off the coast of Somalia today. 
“In history, piracy was often sanctioned by the government,” Horrigan noted. “Some pirates were classy, but others were ruthless. They took lives.” 
Other notes of interest include the notorious “Pirate Code,” pirate myths and lore, buried treasure and brief biographies of a dozen or so of history’s most wellknown plunderers, like Captain Kidd, Redbeard, Calico Jack and, perhaps the most famous pirate of all, Blackbeard. 
“He fit our archetypical image of a seafaring pirate,” Horrigan said. “By placing lit firecrackers in his hair, he lived up to his reputation.” 
What many don’t realize, Horrigan added, is that the piracy profession wasn’t limited to males, noting the fascinating lives of famed pirates Ann Bonny and Mary Read. 
“There were many, many great female pirates throughout history,” Horrigan said, noting that both of the aforementioned pirates ultimately evaded the death penalty upon capture by claiming pregnancy. 
Horrigan’s presentation, “Ahoy, Pirates!” will take place at the library on Thursday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, and will be held in the library’s lower-level meeting room. Light refreshments will be served. 

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