Cutlasses and crossbones. Parrots and peg legs. Yo ho ho! and a bottle of rum. Just saying the word “pirate” calls to mind swarthy swashbucklers, buried treasure, and walking the plank.
While younger generations might consider Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Carib
bean franchise the quintessential corsair, for me no one beats Robert Newton’s portrayal of Long John Silver in the 1950 version of Treasure Island.
I saw the movie on TV back in the seventies, and, as a Nova Scotia lad who woke up every morning to the grey waters of the Northumberland Strait, Newton’s depiction of the literary antihero struck a chord; in my imagination, I was Jim Hawkins, seeing the skull-andcrossbones banner rising on the horizon.
Little did I realize at the time that buccaneers had indeed once plied the waters of Atlantic Canada — and that many were actually pirates for hire. These scallywags even carried an air of respectability. They were privateers, and they enjoyed official sanction to raid enemy ships during times of war — so long as they shared a portion of the plunder with their sponsors.
In this issue, Nova Scotia author Dean Jobb explores the lucrative privateering trade that flourished in Atlantic Canada during the age of sail. As he explains, the War of 1812 was especially profitable for these fierce freebooters; many American merchant ships fell victim to privateers operating out of hotbeds of piracy like Liverpool, Nova Scotia.
Elsewhere in this issue, we explore the legend of La Corriveau, a ghastly spectre that figures prominently in Quebec folklore. Recent evidence reveals that the banshee was based on a real-life figure in New France.
We also recall the photographic legacy of a former The Beaver magazine photographer whose promising career was cut short by tragedy.
And, we feature a poignant personal essay on the life of Benjamin Chee Chee — a talented Ojibwa artist whose unique and groundbreaking style inspired new generations of artists. Sadly, Chee Chee lived his life like a shooting star — briefly blazing through the art world before his flame was tragically extinquished.