The most notorious pirate of them all came from Bristol. Edward Teach was born in the Redcliffe area of what was the England’s second largest city in about 1680. Initially he was a steady, respectable sort of chap who, in keeping with his name, entered the teaching profession. However, in 1700 he went through a mid-life crisis which upset his friends and family because he was only twenty so it meant he would barely reach forty before he snuffed it.
The mid-life crisis manifested itself in this manner…He started advocating to his pupils that they grow long beards like him, smoke copious amounts of tobacco, drink gallons of rum and bed numerous buxom wenches. What made this all the more shocking to early-18th century Bristolians was that he was teaching in an all girls’ school at the time.
Edward Teach was dismissed from his post and immediately looked into making a career from being a ruthless and bloodthirsty pirate but one that remained on land in Bristol because his mum was reliant upon him to collect her pension every Monday. Teach changed his name to Blackbeard to capitalise upon his long, luxurious growth of chin hair. To this he attached fuses that he set alight whenever he boarded vessels. It was for this reason that he was sacked from his next job as lock keeper on the Avon & Kennet Canal. Blackbeard then opened a refreshments stall at St. Nicholas Market, but Trading Standards closed him down for selling pirate coffees.
Blackbeard then detached himself from the pursuit of a legitimate job as the careers officer showed him that he only had one job that was suitable for him on his file and that firm wouldn’t be requiring his services for another 169 years because Bristol Rovers hadn’t even been invented yet. Thereupon, Blackbeard started forcibly spreading the pirate ethos. For instance, he deliberately tripped Bristol’s Lord Mayor as he opened the doors of the market to the crowds to herald the start of the January sales so that he could witness thousands walking the plank.
In 1703, he embarked on his greatest mission up to that juncture. He declared that he would replace the Union Jack with the Jolly Roger throughout the land. One councillor in Bristol, William Torpid, was denounced for agreeing that he would prefer the Jolly Roger because he had fond recollections of visiting a brothel in Anchor Road in his youth when he was under the influence of laughing gas.
Blackbeard’s most audacious coup was to replace the Union Jack flag that flew above Buckingham Palace with the ‘Skull and Crossbones’. However, the press and the public misunderstood and thought it was official confirmation that Queen Anne was suffering from anorexia. It was speculated that the flying of these flags on the palace roof would signify these events:
- The Welsh Dragon – the Queen’s mother-in-law is in residence.
- The Welsh Dragon at half-mast – the Queen’s mother-in-law has completely recovered from a serious bout of influenza.
- Three Lions – Lord Bath is visiting.
- The Cross of St. George – The angry residents of Crew’s Hole Road are visiting to protest about all the pot holes.
- The Stars and Stripes – Famous erstwhile prisoners who’d done time for theft are visiting.
- No Flag At All – Famous ex-prisoners who’d done time for theft have just left.
In the event no further incidents occurred and it wasn’t until 1917 that something other than the national flag was displayed above Buck House. That was when the Union Jack appeared with lots of holes in. It transpired that no deeper meaning could be read into this it had simply been a case of the Red Baron flying overhead.
Blackbeard had always been a little hard of hearing and the budget of 1711 led to him swiftly leaving his native Bristol never to return. He heard that the Chancellor was going to impose a heavy tax on beards for the first time. The pirate had taken to the high seas before it could be explained to him that the tax was on beers.
Blackbeard plied his nefarious trade in the seas around the Caribbean. During his reign of terror there he was responsible for murdering thousands of people – many without their permission. He also married a dozen wives in a six month period in 1719 without once applying for a decree nisi. This was known as his Honeymoon Period. But at the height of his powers and influence he suddenly died. His exploits had gone to his head and he attached a Catherine Wheel to his beard. Upon lighting it he fell overboard and drowned, his body having become stuck on the rudder. The only consolation was that his vessel, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, then completed the fastest ever crossing of the Pacific Ocean.