With Michael Macauley and friends
Well hello, and a very warm welcome to you as you join me in my ponderings and peregrinations and the willing suspension of disbelief. Yes, occasionally you will accompany me through a hole in the fabric of history to enter a past world of wonder, drama, piracy, laughter, mystery, the occult, witchcraft, betrayal, revenge, incongruity, time travel, and sudden death, (well, not always all that sudden, what with the crows…)
Who am I? Michael Macauley I’m called, a well worn (but still standing) humble wordsmith and imagineer. My purpose with these weekly missives is to entertain you, provide you with a momentary escape from this world too full of weeping, regale you with some of the delights and dangers of the late eighteenth century, and introduce you gently to the colourful cast of ‘Dangerous Chimes’, our tale of the events in the town of Goldcaster and the valley of Summerdale when the pirates came calling in September 1783.
I shall enjoy sharing with you brief extracts from the book and from other work already in progress, and offer up some anecdotes that may be of interest to such a well presented and intelligent audience. More will be revealed each week, subject to global warming catastrophes, government collapse, or perhaps official assassination, given the expression of some of my views in certain quarters…)
I post to you today from Tadger’s End Farm, a favourite Macauley family destination which is set in a delightful hamlet at Henchman’s Creek on the River Swyve estuary in the valley of Hunters Combe in Devon. This picturesque spot was named after the pirate captain Black Jack Tadger, who was extracted from his ill-gotten retirement here to hang for three tides at Execution Dock in Wapping, clad in chains covered in sewage infested seaweed and crawling with hungry crabs. Not the best way to go…’
This Jacobean farmhouse is the home of my cantankerous friend, Aldric Pendragon, and his inaptly named but devoted Irish servant, Francis Phineas Flattery. Here also are to be found the two cats, Mrs.Tanquery (a cat with an interestingly raunchy past) and the Suffragen Bishop of Birmingham (so called because he is riddled with righteousness to an episcopalian degree. Keeping order in the environs are Aldric’s protective geese, Dagda, Morrigan, and High Anxiety.
At our three storey principal abode, christened by my offspring, ‘Macauley Towers’, I have the undaunted support of the ‘Management’, my long suffering wife, and occasionally am also assisted by my sometime Adjutant and Aide de Camp, Captain Mac, who only looks rather sinister on particularly angst filled days… But we humans are but staff existing to serve the feline head of our residence, Mr Tibbs, the Guv’nor, a master of the purring demand, friendly enough, but rather over determined when it comes to ensuring that everyone knows who is really in charge. Mr Tibbs regards any current working file as the spot on which to best place himself so as to supervise and participate in any paperwork.
Today allow me also to introduce you to Dangerous Chimes, an only recently recorded episode in the life and adventures of Jasper de Quincey Scabbard, Knight Baronet, Pirate, and Captain of the heavily armed brigantine, the Black Leopard.
With the American War of Independence concluded life as a pirate is becoming increasingly difficult for Jasper as British and French fleets are more effectively protecting their shipping and territories. Now an English squadron is scouring the seas for those of Jasper’s profession and his name is high on their hit list.
With buccaneering opportunities few, and determined to avoid capture and execution and save his crew, Sir Jasper has selected what he believes to be a rich and easy target to provide sufficient plunder to round off his career. A normally shrewd strategist and tactician, and an extremely intelligent and rational representative of the Age of Enlightenment, he ignores talk of superstitions and witchcraft in his research. And so, sadly for you Sir J., this project is not going to be quite the walkover you had hoped for…
Summerdale is a remote valley of complacent contentment lying between the sea and the mountains in the north west of England. It mainly consists of lush farmland bounded by woods with the unremittingly quaint small harbour town of Goldcaster nestling under the hills. But the only outside contact is by difficult journey to the south through dense forest. Before help can arrive Jasper thinks he has time to sack the town, plunder the settlements in the valley, and capture the five gold covered bells from the church of St. Jocelyn Without.
His plan is to melt off the gold in the town forge, cast it into ingots, and so secure the future for himself and his men. Besides his eccentric crew, which includes the Quartermaster Luther Speke (who has his own agenda), Scabbard has an aged parrot, Tantamount, who has an inexhaustible fund of apt and often disconcerting quotations.
But as the ship is bearing its ominous crew ever nearer to their target some of those aboard have doubts about the venture and are worried about rumoured possible paranormal problems in the area, and the First Mate Rathbone would sooner be heading for the Caribbean flesh pots.
Meanwhile, in Goldcaster Town seventeen year old Elisabeth Jane Trundle is yearning for a more interesting life. She is about to get one…
Thank you for joining me today. Next week we shall be examining an interesting eighteenth century newspaper cutting and find Samuel Johnson and James Boswell in apparently dire straits. I look forward to your company.