Bringing the past to life

Colin Wilson is the governor.

That might come as news to some in
the UK, but for Cayman Islands residents, Mr. Wilson’s gregarious nature and
way with a dukedom have been a familiar part of Pirates Week celebrations on
and off for many a year – and he is back in 2010.

“I remember one year when it was
decided that the committee would bring in a professional group to perform the
pirates scenario. They were very good, except they didn’t have the pirates’
landing, which is the most colourful aspect of it.

“Anyway, I was standing there in
all my regalia, waiting for these people to capture me. There was a guy
standing next to me who had hardly anything on, and the pirates came up to us
and asked ‘which one is the governor?’ 
So I said, ‘he is’ and they captured him instead – and he went along
with it, too. So they never actually captured the governor. I was there dressed
in all these feathers and the whole thing – we had a good laugh about that,”
said Mr. Wilson.


Dampening expectations

On another occasion, the governor
was on the small island in Hog Sty Bay when a party of pirates came to capture
him by boat. It was only supposed to hold around six people, but ten people
ended up in it.

“I could see from the back where I
was, very low down, that water was starting to come in. I began yelling but
they thought I was wanting them to go faster. We got about two-thirds of the
way in – and sank.

“There was no television in those
days and no people – and nobody actually had a camera handy to take any
pictures. People were falling about; they thought it was the best landing
they’d ever seen. It was hilarious – but how on earth there were no cameramen
here I can’t believe it. That was a very funny experience,” said the governor,
still chuckling at the memory after some 20 years.


Many memories

Joan Wilson has also been involved
with Pirates Week since the outset and has many memories both of Cayman and of
the festival that continues the heritage for new generations.

“My family on both sides were the
first settlers on the island, the Watlers and the Boddens – I don’t think they
were pirates! The Boddens lived in George Town and the Watlers lived in the
prospect area so I don’t know how they met – in my day there was only two bars.
One where the fishermen come in at the bay and the other right on Shedden Road,
Captain Ben’s bar,” she recalls.

When Pirates Week first started,
the whole island was excited to get involved with the festival.

“Everybody turned out dressed as
pirates for the first one and it was just fabulous. Colin wrote the script for
the Trial of the Pirates. All the districts coming in with their cultural
floats dressed up and doing traditional things, plus the schoolchildren dressed
as young pirates singing and participating – it was beautiful.

“I missed that Pirates Week parade
because I was watching this little boy chasing crabs along the ironshore,” she
explained – indeed, that experience inspired the prolific writer to write one
of her best-loved poems.


Bringing people together

Fundamentally, she noted, Pirates
Week is all about bringing people together, no matter what age and background.
It’s a family-friendly celebration of Cayman and its culture.

“The only part that has pirates is
the invasion and then the trial banishes them and the rest is a beautiful
carnival with the emphasis on heritage. The big excitement is the arrival of
the pirates and then their capture. Meanwhile, the entertainment goes on with
food, dancing and games – for everyone.”


Arrr… which one be the governor?
Photo: Basia Pioro McGuire.

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