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Saturday, March 10, 2012


You came second, I came third, middle.

So... you were always there 5 years older, cooler, locked in. You had the devil in your eye at times, your own sense of humour. My first day freshman year Brother Shannon (the one you almost gave a stroke to when you corrected him in history class) with a wry smile telling me "Ah yes, Brian, he was a special one." It wasn't until later when you were gone that I noticed the sadness that was always there in your eyes too.

Chicks dug you-you had your own style, interesting women appreciate that. Though you never looked completely comfortable in the tight collars and neckties that the times demanded. Years later, looking back at photos I realized we looked Irish, not like the English mods we imitated. The hair never laying quite-so always a wave or a curl out of place, necktie slightly askew, a bit rougher around the edges perhaps. More at home running through the woods like savages than posing for pictures all suited up.
I always appreciated  the way you didn't treat me like the idiot younger brother that I was, nor my friends either. So many of things I  value in life I got from you not from parents or teachers or friends. History, birds, reggae, cars, politics, science fiction- things to this day I love. I hope you would be proud to know that I tell people I am who I am because of you, especially when they wonder why I am interested in so many things. Sean is like that too, Brian.
I loved you for taking me to that concert at Wollman Rink in Central Park, (John Sebastian!?!) What I really loved was that you made me feel that you wanted to be there with me, not that you took me because none of your friends were around. Remember too, as we left the venue, there was guy with a stolen carton of LP's who worked for Island Records. It was Traffic's new release “John Barleycorn Must Die” and was selling them for a buck. I'll never forget that you turned to me and asked “Are these guys any good?” I said yes and you bought the record and became a fan. I was surprised firstly that you hadn't heard of Traffic already and absolutely stunned when you asked for my opinion and followed it. I can still remember like it was yesterday you bringing home the soundtrack to The Harder They Come after you had seen the film in New York. We played it until we wore it out, and its replacement too. I already had heard of Desmond Dekker but had noone to talk about it with until then. You gave me my introduction to Jamaican politics too- Manley, Bustamante, PNP, JLP.
I remember borrowing your jeans because they were flares and none of my friends had them and your SDS jacket with the red fist on the back-no one had one of those for sure!. The MG, the Austin Healey that you almost killed yourself in up in Maine, the yellow Fiat spider that you would turn up in and actually let me drive! I mean rugby, Brian? Who the heck was playing rugby in the US in 1970?

The way you could relate to any other person you encountered, complete strangers regardless of age or sex or colour or class I counted that for a lot in you. You could also tell an asshole to fuck off if it was needed, too, but I rarely ever saw you angry.

I remember you telling me about seeing Lightning Hopkins giving guitar tips to people backstage and urging me to do the same, and well, I did it. I saw Buddy Guy and Jr. Wells at the Bottom Line and waited until after their set went over and introduced myself and bought them each a drink at the bar, and they just chatted with me as if I was somebody too. Amazing. I recall being flattered when you told me to come down to Soho where you and Allen Ginsburg and others would meet with the latest Indian guru, the one that liked cognac (was it Remy or Hennessy?) and teach those hippies how to play guitar properly.
Mom and Dad couldn't deal with you Brian, you were too free. They were from a different time, a time where blending in and toeing the line was a goal in life. They loved you though, I am sure of that. They just couldn't fully understand or accept. I don't think our other brothers could either.

When Antoinette and I went to live in Jamaica, I wished you had come with us. Her family has a farm, way up in the Blue Mountains where the air is sweet. You would have been safe there, lived a clean, healthy life, gotten fit, learned new birds and seen ones you already knew that come for the winter's visit. I regret still not sending for you after we got settled.
After we returned o New York and were living at 23rd Street, and me having to go find you in the East Village, hoping, that you're ok. Finding you sad, we had lunch on St Marks Place. Did you know it was Mom asked me to look for you sometimes?
Weeks later on I brought you home for dinner, for a shower, for some cash, but I will always regret not making you stay. At least for a little while. I was worried what my new wife would say, though now I know her better and I know she loved you too. She still shakes her head when she remembers how you used to tickle her feet. I know now I should have made you stay. At least for a little while.
Because just as you left us all, Sean came. You would have loved him and he would have loved you. Like I do.

Sir Henry Morgan - Pirate or Patriot?
By Donald Callum

Arrrrrghhh! Shiver me timbers!

Everybody and his brother’s cousin knows that Henry Morgan was a pirate or more correctly, a privateer, but not many know he was a patriot too.
There were differences between pirates or buccaneers, and privateers. Pirates were “loose cannon” (pun intended), in that they owed allegiance only to themselves and their comrades and their looting and pillaging was done strictly for their own benefit.
Privateers were raiders, usually merchantmen that were given a guise of legality by a letters of marque, or, lettre de course, in French(giving us the word “corsair”). These documents were issued by governments to vessels allowing them to attack and capture enemy vessels and bring them before admiralty courts for condemnation and sale, thereby disrupting their enemies’ sea trade. This practice dated back to at least the 1500’s.
The word ‘buccaneer’ itself comes to us as an Anglicisation of the French use of a Taino word. Got that?
Please let me try to explain: The Tainos used wooden barbecues called “buccans” to smoke manatee meat on the beaches. These “buccans” became “boucans” (pronounced: boo-con) in French and those hunters in Hispaniola who practiced smoking beef and pork, were called “boucaniers”(boo-con-ee-ayr). When the Spanish chased them from what is now Haiti they fled to Tortuga and joined English, French and Dutch sailors attacking Spanish shipping through the Windward passage.
Now back to Morgan. Henry was descended from an old Welsh family of warriors called Morgan who owned estates around present-day Cardiff. He was born in
1635 in Llanrumney (in Welsh, Llanrhymny). Young Henry was said to be better with a lance than with a book so a life of action was early on indicated.
Henry did not reach the West Indies as an indentured servant as has been long-rumoured but was in fact a junior officer in Penn and Venables’ expedition sent by Cromwell to the Caribbean to damage the Spanish hegemony in the region.
This expedition was unsuccessful in capturing Havana in Cuba, and then Santo Domingo in Hispaniola. Fearful of the wrath of Cromwell the Lord Protector if they returned from this very expensive sortie with nothing to show, Penn and Venables attacked the lightly garrisoned island of Jamaica which having no gold, silver, or jewels was used as a provision depot for the returning Spanish treasure fleets.
By 1660 with the monarchy restored, Henry’s uncle was sent out to be the Governor of Jamaica. Henry who was still in Barbados followed his uncle to Jamaica where he was already famous from his exploits with Penn and Venables, married his uncle’s eldest daughter and two of her sisters married his closest friends.
Morgan apprenticed at sea one might say under Commodore Christopher Mings, sailing as one of his captains as they attacked and looted Santiago de Cuba, and a couple of years later in 1663 down the Mexican coast attacking Campeche’s two forts and coming away with 14 Spanish ships as prizes.
Hollywood glamourises pirate sea battles but the truth is these encounters were costly and therefore largely avoided. Most of Morgan and other buccaneers’ successes came on land. In 1663, Henry Morgan the leader of a small fleet of 6 ships that set sail to attack the Spanish Main and did not return until 18 months had past. Morgan must have possessed great leadership skills because time and again he rose to the head of joint efforts involving disparate individuals, possibility due to his background as a soldier. This expedition left Port Royal and headed to New Spain first to the Yucatan and down along the Central American coast landing at Frontera. Morgan’s force marched 50 miles to attack the town of Villahermosa only to find that after capturing and looting the town their own ships had been taken by the Spanish. This forced them to capture 2 Spanish ships
and several coastal canoes to carry them back against the currents to regroup at the Yucatan. They then set out again down the Central American coastline to what is now Nicaragua and again inland to surprise the wealthy town of Granada which was taken with the assistance of local Indian tribes. In 1668, Morgan sailed with ten vessels to Cow Island off the coast of Hispaniola (modern Haiti). Here the Oxford, a warship sent out for the defense of Jamaica by the British government, found the French privateer ship Le Cerf Volant. The British master of a ship from Virginia had accused the French vessel of piracy so the Cerf Volant was arrested and condemned as a prize by the Jamaica Court of Admiralty. After the Oxford was blown up (in an explosion said to have killed 250 people) while Morgan dined in the great cabin, the Cerf Volant ultimately became his flagship, under the new name of Satisfaction. After cruising east along the coast of Hispaniola and attacking coastal towns along the way, Morgan turned south to sail across the Caribbean again, making for Maracaibo in the Gulf of Venezuela. This he took, together with the more southerly town of Gibraltar. On their return journey, the privateers were bottled up at the lake of Maracaibo by several large Spanish warships and a reinforced fort. Morgan had to use great ingenuity to escape and doing so added to his treasure yet again. In 1670 he met off modern-day Haiti with his captains and with their 1800 men decided to attack Panama, the legendary city of the Indies. They landed at Chagres and had to fight their way through the jungle first before reaching the first of three fortifications. Remember this was attempted by the legendary Sir Francis Drake who failed miserably. Morgan succeeded in capturing Panama, during the siege the city caught fire and was burned to the ground. Morgan and his comrades returned to Port Royal with hundreds of slaves and chests of gold and silver and jewels. As happened often in Europe during the 17th century, politics had taken a turn back in England, attacking Spanish ships and cities became for a time an embarrassment for the English government and Henry Morgan and his protector, the Governor, were summoned home, but not punished. After three years
England’s attitude toward Spain again changed and once again Morgan was sent to relieve the threat against Jamaica. Morgan at the age of 45, returned as Lieutenant Governor organized the island’s defenses and survived political treachery, whilst expanding his estates and their value. He also still enjoyed the company of his former colleagues a bit too much in the rum bars of Port Royal and his once admirable physique became bloated and his pallor yellowed. Morgan was said to have been faithful to his wife from the day they were married, but they were never able to have children He died on the 25th of August 1688. For many decades, Henry Morgan’s name meant only the name of a romantic "pirate" of yore, but there are recent signs of a re-evaluation by scholars. As John Weston asserts Morgan is being looked at “as one of Britain's most successful military strategists and as a man with the leadership qualities of an Alexander. He gained the loyalty of the buccaneers, who followed him without question, and the respect of kings and princes”. P.S. As I finished putting this piece together, there came news reports in the media about an amazing discovery near the mouth of the Chagres River in Panama. It appears an archaeological team from Texas State University who had been researching Morgan’s lost ships for the Panamanian government, have retrieved 6 iron 17th century cannons from the wreck of a ship they feel might be Morgan’s flagship, the Satisfaction. There are crates and boxes within the perimeter of the remains of the ship’s hull and so it appears this episode of Caribbean History may soon have much new evidence to fill in the 300-year-old story. The company that sells Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum is helping to fund the research for publicity only as all artifacts will become the property of the government of Panama for display at the Patronato Panama Viejo.