4/24/11 La La Land – The Bonney Bunch

I guess Bonney’s namesake should be explained, for those who don’t already know.

Anne Bonney (also spelled “Bonny”) was a woman pirate who was active in the 1700’s. She was born in County Cork in Ireland (where some of my Irish half hails from, coincidentally!), the illegitimate daughter of an attorney and a serving maid. According to the few remaining accounts, she was a redhead who would have been considered “a fine catch” if it weren’t for her temper and willfullness. One source claims she stabbed another serving girl with a knife at age 13, though the reasons for the altercation are not given. Another states that she was disowned by her father for refusing any of the pre-picked suitors he’d arranged for her, and instead eloped with a young and pretty damn penniless sailor named James Bonney.

This is a bit ironic, considering that dear old Dad himself had eloped with the serving maid he’d conceived Anne with and split for the new world, leaving his former wife behind in Ireland. Oh well, no one claimed double standards weren’t alive and well in the 1700’s. I don’t even believe anti-feminists who try to claim we’ve gone completely beyond them today.

Anyway, Anne and James headed for the Bahamas, where they fell in with a pirate’s lair. However, eventually James turned out to be a snitch taking government bribes (there were ransoms for turning in pirates.) Like most people I know, Anne found narcs and provocateurs to be repugnant cowards, and ditched this loser, hooking up with a pirate named Calico Jack Rackham instead. She joined his crew, wore mens’  clothing, and sailed the Caribbean preying on Spanish galleons off the coasts of Cuba and Hispaniola. (I suppose the Spaniard in me shouldn’t laugh, but would anyway, and the Taino/Ciboney in the blood would absolutely encourage it.) Anne and Calico Jack conceived of a son while in Cuba, but left him with friends there and returned to the seas.

Among the crew of the Vanity, Anne Bonney also struck up a friendship with another female pirate named Mary Read, who had as fierce a reputation as Anne Bonney did. (hmmm—excuse to get another rat so I can do another write up? 😉 ) At least one source I read suggested the two were lovers as well, though I couldn’t say with certainty. Mary Read was known to have taken a male lover from amongst the crew and had once killed a man who had threatened him to a duel. Either way, Anne and Mary were reputed to be among the most fierce and bloodthirsty fighters in Calico Jack’s crew. On the fateful night in October of 1720, when the British Navy finally did ambush and capture the crew, Anne and Mary (and some sources state one unidentified male pirate) were the ones who stood their ground and fought to the last. Why? The rest of the crew was apparently shitface drunk down below. Anne and Mary called for assistance to no avail. This dropping of the ball led to Anne’s famous last words to Calico Jack before his hanging (and possibly one of the harshest dumpings in history?) “Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hang’d like a dog.”

Anne and Mary  “pleaded their bellies” before the court to receive a stay of execution until after giving birth. (I do not know if they were actually pregnant.) Mary Read died of an illness in prison of an illness, but no record remains of Anne Bonney’s death. It’s unknown if she escaped or was reprieved, but hey, if speculation’s your thing, that’s what the internet is for!



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