1. The Jolly Roger
The Jolly Roger, the pirate flag, gets its name from the flag that was used before it. It was plain red and was known in French as “jolie rouge” (which means “pretty red”). Eventually this became Jolly Roger, probably due to pirates slurring their words a lot.
2. Female pirates
Pirates weren’t just dudes – there were plenty of female pirates too! Two of the most famous were Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who both spent some of their pirating disguised as men.
3. Pirates and parrots
Pirates really did sometimes have parrots – if the opportunity came to steal one, they’d go for it, as a parrot was a lot more entertaining than anything else available in those pre-TV days. Nobody ever thinks about how boring it must have been sailing around everywhere between fights. A parrot was pretty, colourful and entertaining – very much the iPad of its day.
4. Pirates helped science
Charles Darwin, who first came up with the idea of evolution, was inspired by a pirate. He read the diaries of the pirate William Dampier, who had made really impressive notes and drawings about all the unusual animals, birds and plants he saw on his travels.
5. Treasure maps were fictional
A lot of the sayings and customs we think about when we hear of pirates came from one book. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson invented the ideas of pirates saying “Matey”, treasure maps with X marking the spot, singing “Yo ho ho” and giving each other the Black Spot.
Blackbeard was a real person. His real name was Edward Teach, and he got his nickname for the obvious reason of his giant beard. He would weave ropes and fuses into it and light them on fire when looting anywhere, in order to look scarier and make the people he was attacking think he was a demon.
Eyepatches might have been real, and sometimes worn by pirates who had both eyes intact! It’s thought that with all the going up and down, from below deck to out in the sun, keeping one eye covered would help adjust to the different light levels. There’s only one pirate who definitely wore an eyepatch though, Rahmah ibn Jabir al-Jalahimah, who lost his eye in battle.Next draw what’s in a Treasure Chest!