Canada's History

Mak­ing waves

- Johnny Depp · Captain Jack · Captain Jack · Treasure Island, FL · Nova Scotia · Austria · Atlantic Ocean · Canada · Liverpool · Liverpool · Quebec · France · Robert Newton

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.

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