Local Pirate Gets A TV Show
Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. --H.L. Mencken, Prejudices: First Series
That pretty much sums up Southport’s very own Gentleman Pirate, Stede Bonnet. In 1717 the well-to-do planter and retired Army major left his home, wife (legend and contemporary accounts blame her nagging for his turn to a life of crime), children, land holdings, and fortune in Barbados, raised the black flag, and commenced to plundering shipping along the east coast of North America. But he wasn’t very good at it.
His story is told in some detail in a couple of posts on the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources website. He began his piratical career in an unusual way for a pirate, but perfectly logical for a wealthy businessman; he bought and outfitted a ship and hired a crew. We can only imagine the help wanted ad. He was apparently better at Human Resources than Acquisitions, as his crew found him a totally inept seafarer, but managed to have quite a bit of success despite this.
His success caught the eye of the legendary Blackbeard and Bonnet’s ship joined forces with the legendary pirate. Before long, Blackbeard came to the same conclusion about Bonnet’s captaining abilities and he was taken aboard Blackbeard’s ship as a “guest” while another pirate was assigned charge of Bonnet’s ship, The Revenge.
When Blackbeard set up housekeeping in Bath and won clemency from North Carolina’s governor, the two parted ways. Bonnet too sought clemency, but before the paperwork was signed, he found that Blackbeard had abandoned The Revenge, re-named her the “Royal James,” and took to pirating again.
Captain Bonnet’s misadventures ended right in Southport when his ship, crew and himself were captured by a British Navy officer from South Carolina. The location is marked with a monument on Bonnet’s Creek, just passed Oakdale Cemetery on the left as you head out Moore Street towards the ferries. His story is also told in brief on a State historic marker visible as you leave the Southport-Fort Fisher Ferry landing headed into Southport. He was hanged from the neck until dead in Charleston on December 10, 1718.
Bonnet’s short career earned him the nickname “The Gentleman Pirate” at the time, but today, 300 years later, it has earned him a comedy series on HBO Max. According to a press release from WarnerMedia, Taika Waititi (director of “Thor: Ragnarok” and one of the directors of the Disney+ hit “The Mandalorian” series) will direct the pilot and serve as the series’ Executive Producer. Filming is set to began as soon as Waititi’s current project, “Thor: Love and Thunder,” wraps up. No word as of yet on the shooting location, though we are crossing our fingers the authenticity of Southport can draw the project to our area.
Want to learn more about Southport’s Gentleman Pirate in the meantime? Why not take a trip to the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport? The Museum has recently re-opened with new cleaning protocols and social distancing guidelines and the staff would be thrilled to share the area’s piratical and other nautical history. See our story on page ## to find out more about the museum and its re-opening.