Archive for 08/20/2011

Neil Waugh –

When Captain William Kidd, the notorious New England pirate — or misunderstood and maligned patriot if you prefer — was on his way to his fateful rendezvous with New York Governor Richard Bellomont, the High Court of the Admiralty and, ultimately, the execution dock, he dropped anchor off Gardiner’s Island.

After two days, John Gardiner rowed out to this mystery sloop to “enquire what she was.”

On board, he met Kidd. And after softening him up with a gift of muslin and Bengali fabric for the missus and the purchase of six sheep and a barrel of cider, Gardiner agreed to land “a chest, a box of gold, a bungle of quilts and four bales of goods” for the famous buccaneer.

Later, two bags of silver were added to the stash which was buried in a ravine on Gardiner’s.

More than anything it was John Gardiner’s “narrative” of Kidd’s pretty transparent attempt to hide his booty from the authorities, sworn on July 17, 1699, that earned the good captain the noose — although there was a lot of British parliamentary politics at play too.

Kidd insisted the whole thing was a stitch up “sworn by perjured and wicked persons” and he was simply acting as a loyal privateer — essentially a pirate with a government license called a “letter of marque.”

It didn’t do him any good. He was hanged on May 23, 1701, his body dipped in tar and “gibbeted” above the Thames River, as a warning to other pirates — or unfortunate fellows caught in political cross-fires.

Some 312 years later, give or take a few days, and I’m riding in Captain Ken Rafferty’s boat, skimming the ruffled surface of Gardiner’s Bay, making for a gray mound on the horizon called Fort Tyler,  but known by the locals as “The Ruins”.

To our right —hardly visible in the morning haze —  is Captain Kidd’s treasure island, still in the possession of the Gardiner family, thanks to a royal patent from colonial times.

Back in the 1930s, when Bror von Blixen (of the legendary Tanganyika Guides) ran the hunting lease, Ernest Hemingway used to come to Gardiner’s to shoot Canada geese and released pheasants.

Full story…