Mary Read and Anne Bonny were two of the most infamous women pirates of the 18th century who sailed with Calico Jack Rackham. When they were, along with Calico Jack, captured, they both pleaded pregnancy so being saved from hanging. Anne Bonny famously toldCalico Jack, "Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hanged like a dog!" shortly before he was hanged. The following story has nothing whatsoever to do with historical fact!
In the days when pirates sailed the Spanish Main a story was told about Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
It happened like this. Both Anne and Mary had been left behind in Kingston Jamaica by accident. The ship had sailed while they were sleeping off a hangover. The women were friends, as much as pirates ever could be friends with each other and having taken coffee and broken their fast they soon discovered the ship had left them behind.
"No matter," Mary told Anne, "I know a thing or two about a ship we can use to our profit."
She left word around Kingston that 'the cat wants to sail' and took Anne to a small covert cavern that opened out onto the sea. Hidden safely within this cavern was a small ship called the Salty Cat with six small cannon either side and three masts with goodly sails. Anne looked the small fleet ship over and approved it. The ship was faster than Calico Jack's Revenge too. She was built with a stable hull but a skinny prow that would cleave the waters and give her speed. They prepared the ship for sail and as they did so, women started to arrive. All of them dressed like men and armed to the teeth. They were the crew of the Salty Cat and before long the small ship took up her anchor and was rowed out to the open sea. The sails were set and bellied out, the prow lifted slightly and the ship darted forward like a horse in a race.
They did not follow the route of the Revenge but took a different route towards St Lucia. Near the islands ships would pass laden with goods for Europe. Sometimes for the Northern most states of the Americas. Often for Spain. Mary and Anne intended to steal the cargo and sell it on themselves, but they did not know what was to happen or they might have stayed in bed that morning.
It happened that as the Salty Cat was some two days out of Jamaica they came upon an island. This surprised them somewhat as the map showed no island at all. Still, they stopped to explore, for extra food was always good to get and if there was fresh water they would stock up on that too. It happened as they were moving through the trees upon the island that something darted above them sending them sprawling for cover in the brush. The something was large enough to cast a shadow and made a strange noise as it passed over them. Only as they got to their feet did they begin to guess what the thing might be. The pirates agreed that it was some kind of bird, or perhaps a flying animal of some kind. Still, they continued along their way until the land seemed to fall away into a valley. As they stood entranced by the lush green of the plants in the valley, one of the women cried out and pointed with her pistol.
There, gliding over the valley was a large pig with huge wings. These were stretched out, the pinions spread like fingers to take advantage of the warm air rising from the valley. As the women watched, three more of these strange creatures joined the first, circling on their great wings over the valley.
"By God! A pig might indeed fly," Mary observed with a slow grin on her face.
"If we could catch one, we could make our money, don't you think?" Anne asked with a grin.
"If we could catch all four of those we could definitely make our money, my dear!" Mary replied.
The question remained as to how they might achieve this feat. Fifi was for wounding them so that they might be caught, but this was met with derision. If the animals were damaged they wouldn't make their money. A male and a female should be caught, Bridget thought. That way they might breed them and make their money. That seemed a great idea, but still they did not know how. It would be easy, Maracaibo Maria declared.
"Make a net big enough for them and we'll have them quick as catching a man drunk," she said.
They made their net. It was wide and long. It took time even with the entire landing party at it. Three women went in search of fresh water and pig food of some kind. Maracaibo Maria set up the net and covered it with debris from the forest floor. On top of the debris, they placed nuts, carrots and the like. They gathered ropes and made cages for the animals, while Anne, Maracaibo Maria and four others hid themselves and waited. It did not take long. The animals were curious if nothing else and landed folding their great wings neatly along their sides, the tips curving up slightly above their tails. They smelled the food and came quickly to it making a melodious oink. The pirates let the pigs eat for a little while before suddenly releasing the weights that hauled the net upwards around the pigs. The pigs struggled, oinking piteously, but to no benefit. The net held them firm. Now the pirates came out of their hiding places and pounced on the porkers perfidiously. They tied up the animals gently binding their wings and took them to the cages on the beach. With fresh water and their unusual cargo, the Salty Cat set sail again and with a good breeze they made the coast of St Lucia within the week.
A large galleon appeared heading for Panama and the Salty Cat gave chase. The galleon opened her gun ports, but the Salty Cat was a quick, trim little ship and she sailed between the cannonballs, firing her own guns at the galleon. When she was close enough, she fired a series of shots over the bows of the galleon and the ship signalled a surrender. Mary and Anne did not for a moment trust the surrender. Anne went aboard with a party of twenty women and demanded the captain make himself known. The captain, seeing Anne Bonny, blanched and drawing his sword, broke it over his knee. His officers followed and their crew offered to give the women a good time in return for their surrender. Anne laughed at that and shot the bo'sun in the thigh to teach them a lesson in manners. They took a chest full of gold doubloons meant for the army at Panama, some rum and whisky. Also much ammunition and rifles. This done, they had the men strip and then put into the brig with much amusement from the women. The Salty Cat was tied behind the galleon and five women were left on the Salty Cat to care for the pigs and the booty. Then the galleon, a great prize was sailed away towards Maracaibo.
Two days out of Maracaibo, the women put the men in jolly boats with only their clothes on and two barrels of fresh water in each boat, for as Mary Read observed,
"We are not monsters, nor are we the Navy."
This done, the galleon and the Salty Cat were sailed for Jamaica. The spoils were shared along the way and the women were soon within a day's sail of Jamaica. At this point, all the booty was transferred to the Salty Cat and she was sailed to her secret cove by Mary and four other women. The galleon was sailed into Kingston harbour from where gunpowder was packed into the hold at the centre of the ship. Now Anne waited for Mary to give her a sign that the sale of the ship was under way. Mary did better than that, claiming that the ship had been found abandoned and been salvaged by her crew. The British government paid up and at night, under cover of the dark, the Salty Cat sailed alongside the galleon and took off her crew. Anne lit a fuse and the women set the sails for Tortuga letting out a huge cheer as the galleon exploded. They did not go to Tortuga, but turned and sailed for St Vincent where indeed they made a lot of money betting that pigs could fly. After some time, they settled down to breed their pigs until one morning, bored of farming released the pigs and set off on the Salty Cat for Kingston again. Along the way they met up with Calico Jack and the rest is truly history.