Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Captain Jack...From 'Birdy' to 'Sparrow'


It's time for a little history lesson...well, kind of.

I've always been intrigued by those traditional scoundrels on the high seas...from the Barbary Corsairs to the "Golden Age of Piracy" in the Caribbean.

The legendary pirate Captain Jack Birdy, once sung about by every balladeer in England, might have all but been forgotten, yet his memory remains as the spirit behind the fictional character Captain Jack Sparrow played by Johnny Depp in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film franchise.


In the late 16th century a young boy collecting scraps of wreckage from the docks wondered if he’d ever leave Faversham, a haven for smugglers and pirates and other such unsavory folk. That boy was John Ward, whose dreams would one day come true, though perhaps not in the way he had wanted; he would become Jack Birdy, the most fearsome pirate in the world, and towards the end of his life, Yusuf Reis, penitent Muslim, wealthy beyond any man’s dreams, spending the remainder of his life in his Tunisian palace.


Here are the facts:

- His real name was Captain Jack Ward and he was also known as Jack Birdy.

- He was on the run from the Catholic church when he converted to Islam in the late 16th Century.

- His entire crew also converted to Islam with him.

- Captain Jack Birdy was obsessed with little birds during his time in Tunisia (where he fled). So much that the locals would call him Jack Asfur, asfur being Arabic for sparrow. This is where the name Captain Jack Sparrow comes from.

- His Muslim name was Yusuf Reis

- He was married to another renegade from Christendom who also converted to Islam, Jessimina the Sicilian.

- Whilst Captain Jack Birdy was known as a great drunkard, he stopped drinking alcohol when he converted to Islam.

- He was instrumental in rescuing thousands of Spanish Jews and Muslims fleeing their expulsion from their lands in the 16th and 17th centuries.

This article contains more information --> John Ward. The Prince of Pirates

Pirate Utopias: Moorish Corsairs & European Renegadoes

Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates

The World Atlas of Pirates: Treasures and Treachery on the Seven Seas--in Maps, Tall Tales, and Pictures




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