If you’ve ever wondered where some of the legendary tales about “Pirates of the Caribbean” came from you don’t need to look much further than Jamaica. Several areas of the island have a rich and compelling history of pirate activity. Treasure Beach on Jamaica’s quiet south coast is one of those areas.
Although it would be intriguing to imagine that Treasure Beach was named after tales of pirate treasures, unfortunately the area formerly known as Pedro was renamed Treasure Beach in the 1930’s when a Canadian built a hotel there called the Treasure Beach Hotel. After that, the name stuck and became a generic name for the area of all four bays located there.
The most notorious pirate to hit the shores of Treasure Beach was William Rackham, also known as Calico Jack. It is said that while in the area he would sail out from the beach, pillage and ransack passing ships and then return to the safety of the shore. Calico Jack was most active towards the end of the golden age of piracy and is most remembered for designing the Jolly Roger flag – an image of a skull with crossed swords. This design contributed to the popular modern-day design of the skull and crossbones. He was also known to be the only pirate with two female crew members.
Rackham had a short run as a pirate and was eventually captured and tried in Spanish Town, Jamaica. He was then hanged near Port Royal, an area in Jamaica that is infamous with pirate history. To this day there is a tiny cay off the coast of Port Royal called Rackham Cay which was formerly known as Deadman’s Cay. There is also a particular area in Treasure Beach called Billy’s Bay which was named in honor of William Rackham. It seems that Calico Jack definitely left his mark on Jamaica before he was put to death.
During the second half of the 17th century Jamaica was a pirate’s haven, where Port Royal was known as the headquarters for piracy, smuggling and debauchery.
Another of the most infamous figures during that time was buccaneer and pirate, Henry Morgan. He is known as one of the most ruthless and notorious pirates to have ever reached Port Royal, Jamaica. Leading several historical attacks on places such as Cuba, Panama and South America, he became very rich and influential during his reign, eventually obtaining a great deal of land in Jamaica. Henry Morgan was considered one of the most successful pirates ever. He went on to be knighted in 1674 by King Charles and served as Jamaica’s lieutenant governor for a spell before retiring peacefully, and is now memorialized on labels of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum.
There is no shortage of intriguing tales of piracy in Jamaica and although some stories are embellished, the factual history that exists in Jamaica is nothing short of fascinating.
(“The Black Swan (1942).” Photo by Insomnia Cured Here. Is licensed under CC BY 2.0)