In the late sixteenth century, a young man gathering scraps of destruction from the docks thought about whether he would ever leave Faversham, in the ward of Kent — the most sizzling place in the whole United Kingdom. It was a muddy spot of little significance to anybody except gang members. Its docks were a shelter for bootleggers, pirates and other such nefarious people. And out of those slums grew a forgotten pirate named John Ward, whose fantasies would one day work out as expected, however maybe not in the way he had thought; he would grow to be Jack Birdy, the most fearsome pirate on the planet, and towards the end of his life, Yusuf Reis, a contrite Muslim who helped the poor and needy. He was rich beyond any man’s fantasies, spending the remaining years of his life in his Tunisian castle.
The incredible Captain Jack Birdy, once sung about by every balladeer in England, may have everything except been overlooked. Yet his memory remains as the soul behind the anecdotal character, Captain Jack Sparrow, played by Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
However, the question is, who was Johnny Ward, the kid who was scrounging through the angling docks of Faversham? Who was John Ward, the British Naval officer? Who was Captain John Ward, the pirate supported by the crown of England? Who was Captain Jack Birdy, the pirate turned “pirate spy” by that same crown? Lastly, who was Yusuf Reis, once Captain Jack Birdy, previously Captain John Ward, who safeguarded tons of Spanish Jews and Muslims escaping the Moriscos and Conversos removal of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?
These were all one man. With such a variety of characters wrapped in one, the stories of his undertakings are exponentially more energizing than anything a Hollywood film could catch.
What follows is a recorded performance of William Lithgow’s second visit to Tunis, as a visitor of Captain Jack Ward, five years prior to his passing. A percentage of the dialog is verbatim from historical record. Each point of interest has been carefully examined for an exact depiction. It is a performance, yet a verifiably established one, no less. In spite of the fact that this starts towards the end of Captain Jack’s life, it is ideally the start of your enthusiasm for this fabulous man; fictionalized in Hollywood, slandered in Christendom and generally overlooked in the Muslim world. This is, however, one of numerous stories about him, finally coming out from history, longing to be told.
— Anon.Dos (@anondos_) April 28, 2015
“You see, mate. I have grown fond of a tiny little birdy, savvy? Oh dear me. What’s her name and should I warn her. No, you dinghy rat! A wee little birdy, Little birdy? Captain Jack, do you mean a Sparrow?” –The Total Discourse of the Rare Adventures and Painful Peregrinations of long Nineteen Years Travels from Scotland.
The old man chuckled, not having heard himself addressed as ‘Captain Jack’ in what seemed to be many a lifetime spent. For now, he was simply Yusuf Reis, a nobleman from Tunis who had wealth beyond any Englishman’s dreams, and was a husband to Jessamine the Sicilian who was, like him, a convert from Christendom.
“No… Ummm… Chicks… Chicks? Yes, Chicks!” –The Total Discourse of the Rare Adventures and Painful Peregrinations of long Nineteen Years Travels from Scotland.
The zany old man, once a great pirate and commander at sea, albeit the zany one back then was now just a tired silhouette of what he once was. He seemed happy though, as he lavishly entertained his guest, none other than William Lithgow, son of James and not a pirate, most definitely not a Turk, but a Scotsman and a vagabond, yearning to sojourn an endless trajectory. He wrote in many accounts that he rummaged his way, by land and sea, from Scotland to the Levant and now to Africa.
“I drink water like an arse, I am shoed like a horse, I have a coat like a fool, and a head like an owl!” –The Total Discourse of the Rare Adventures and Painful Peregrinations of long Nineteen Years Travels from Scotland.
Commander Jack was a famous boozer; crafty, pitiless and would clown around. Yet now, water and unfermented nectar were all Captain Jack would drink. The loyal Turk drinks neither malt beverage, nor wine, nor fervent spirits of any sort. Yet, he did not require beverage to be generally as frantic as usual. ‘Shoed like a horse’ was in reference to the Turk’s shoes, which are studded with iron. “It is a dreadful sight, I must say, keeping in mind that you discover yourself under one,” speaking of his layer of clothing. Captain Jack dependably wore an Englishman’s cover, but then he was wearing the cover of a Turk. This senseless, lavish and vain layer made him seem different.
Image Source: Google Image – A still from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean.
The first news of Jack and Sir Francis Verney was documented in 1610, when the Venetian Ambassador to England, Macantonio Correr, wrote the following invective to the Doge and Senate on December 23rd:
“There is confirmation of the news that the pirate Ward and Sir Francis Verney, also an Englishman – but – of the noblest blood, have become Turks, to the great indignation of the whole nation.” –The Total Discourse of the Rare Adventures and Painful Peregrinations of long Nineteen Years Travels from Scotland.
Nevertheless, Captain Jack turned Turk to jeer King James I, who would not pardon him, and to obtain asylum with the King of Tunis, Usman Dey. Yet, now the man was adherent to these ways and finding comfort in them. He was refined and lazy in his old age and married to a noblewoman of Palermo, to the shock of every sea dog who ever heard his name. Captain Jack, married? Captain Jack was a Lord of Tunis, living in a palace of the finest varieties of marble and alabaster, and no longer a scourge of the sea. He was what the most madcap of jesters could not dream up, a freebooter and a saint.
Image Source: Wikipedia – Capture of the Pirate Blackbeard, 1718 — depicting the battle between Blackbeard and Lt. Maynard in Ocracoke Bay.
“You know, Will. Five years ago to this day I became Muslim in this very citadel, in the Djemat El-Kabir you see over there. That was your choice, Captain Jack, and I will not say it does not vex me. For Christ be the Savior of the world and I feel your heart knows this, as does every gentleman in his core. Mate, the innards of a man are known only to God and the fish that ate them. What I have seen on the high seas, the wars between Pope and Crown, and how they could give each other quarter but could afford me no pardon. I want none from them, I waited for Captain Jack as he repeatedly bowed and prostrated like a Turk. Looking around at the splendor of the Sultans, I marveled at how they had not yet taken the world from end to end. The thought of supping with the nobles and elite of Tunis made me pang with hunger. They were to have yet another lavish party for me as they did thrice before. I could not tire from their scrumptious wheat middling, succulent roasts and glistening fruits, the likes of which I have never seen. As my mind immersed in a leg of lamb, Captain Jack emerged with a grin and a strange glow. Come, Will. Supper will be served shortly. This is not going to be like the party Yusuf Dey had for Simon the Dancer last year is it? That is not something to be a rib tickling about, mate. What happened to Simon Danseker is of no coziness to me or my men, but it was a debt paid. Simon would have had us all hangin’ from the yardarm and feeding’ the fish. He chose his way, savvy? Aye, Captain. Pardon the jest.
As intriguing as this was, and as I was possibly the first person to get true details regarding his journeys in the Caribbean, for some reason I could not get over his obsession with the little birds I had witnessed in the aviary only a few hours before. We approached the gate and as Captain Jack’s companions, all once Christians, now turned Muslims, drew the bridge for us to enter and greeted us with much merriment, the Captain turned to me with the smirk of that fiend whom I thought was all but forgotten.
He said shall I tell you about the Pirates of the Caribbean.” –The Total Discourse of the Rare Adventures and Painful Peregrinations of long Nineteen Years Travels from Scotland.
SOURCES: Privateer Dragons, Belief Net, Belief Net City of Brass, Wikipedia, Grand Strategy, Belief Net Captain Jack Sparrow, 9GAG, Inside Hollywood, Buzz Feed, Snippits & Slappits, Examiner, Maniac Muslim, Tumblr, Regional Post, Reddit, Islamic Board, Acid Cow, Takusahrisau, Slightly Warped, Yahoo Answers, Wikipedia Jack Ward, Contemplator